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Title: Wintering at Mentone
Author: Chambers, William
Language: English
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------------------------------------------------------------------------

                          Transcriber’s Note:

This version of the text cannot represent certain typographical effects.
Italics are delimited with the ‘_’ character as _italic_. A single
instance of superscripted characters is denoted as ‘2^{me}’.

Footnotes have been repositioned to follow the paragraph where they are
referenced.

The only textual issue of note is the repeated appearance of ‘at any
rate’ as ‘at anyrate’.

[Illustration]

                          WINTERING AT MENTONE

                                   BY

                            WILLIAM CHAMBERS

[Illustration: UNDER THE OLIVE TREES]


                                 LONDON

                 W. & R. CHAMBERS, 47 PATERNOSTER ROW,
                       AND HIGH STREET, EDINBURGH

                                  1870



                                PREFACE.

                               ----------


With health impaired by a strain of three laborious years as LORD
PROVOST of Edinburgh—and more particularly enfeebled by a malarious
fever caught in the course of making explorations with a view to
sanitary improvements in the older part of the city—I sought a
restorative by a visit to Mentone (or Menton, as the French prefer to
call it), in the winter of 1868-69. The object of my visit was gained;
but having been so indiscreet as to enter on a new term of office, in
the hope of helping to carry forward the city improvements, in which I
might be excused for taking some special interest, my health again
unfortunately suffered, for which and other reasons I resigned my post,
and again proceeded to Mentone; this time making a longer sojourn, with
corresponding advantage, in the winter of 1869–70. A result of these
efforts to secure the benefits of sunshine along with perfect
tranquillity on the shores of the Mediterranean, is the present small
work, the preparation of which furnished a degree of amusement when far
from home and accustomed pursuits. If it aid in directing attention to a
subject of importance to many—the hygienic value of passing the winter
in the south of France—I shall be satisfied. The book is of course
non-medical, and will not supersede the necessity of consulting
professional advisers.

                                                               W. C.

      GLENORMISTON, _May 1870_.



                         WINTERING AT MENTONE.



                               CHAPTER I.


When autumn has drawn to a close, and unmistakable symptoms of winter
are making their appearance, the swallows are seen to wing their way
from England, and betake themselves to the sunny regions on the shores
of the Mediterranean; thence returning to their northern haunts when
nature is reviving under the genial influence of spring. The example set
by these sagacious birds is not unworthy of being followed when
circumstances call for and permit an escape from the cold, the fogs, the
rain, and sleety drizzle of a protracted winter.

Without undervaluing the comforts of an English fireside, when frost
dims the window-pane with its beautiful efflorescence, I am on the whole
disposed to think that health is best secured by a reasonable amount of
outdoor exercise in the sunshine; but that enjoyment is unfortunately
denied on anything like a salutary scale to those who are enfeebled by
pulmonary or bronchial affections or by advancing years, in any part of
the British Islands. No doubt, much may be done to avert the evil
influences of winter, by means of warm and well-ventilated rooms, having
windows facing the south, in a sheltered and airy neighbourhood. Various
places can be pointed out in the south of England recommendable as
winter and spring resorts for invalids—none, perhaps, better and more
agreeable than the Undercliff in the Isle of Wight; but there is this to
be said of the whole of them—that they less or more participate in the
humidity and variableness of our British climate. By no contrivance can
we get rid of a certain dampness in the atmosphere. Inside the best
constructed and best warmed dwelling, we still breathe the outer air,
however much it may be qualified; and as regards persons of delicate
constitution, who require a light and dry atmosphere, this may prove a
serious objection. Cold, damp weather is, in short, the great enemy to
health, and when we recollect that in all our large seats of population
the cold and the damp are aggravated by a smokiness in the general
atmosphere—to say nothing of sudden changes of temperature and other
unsanitary conditions—the malignant influences of winter are greatly
intensified.

Invalids who propose wintering abroad will, of course, consult their
medical adviser with a view to selecting a locality suited as far as
possible to their respective cases. With such counsels I do not
interfere. The persons in whom I take a more special interest, or at
least to whom I can speak more freely, are those who, advanced in life,
stand in need of a remission of ordinary pursuits, along with that
salutary re-invigoration of constitution which may be brought about by a
change from a cold and moist to a dry and buoyant atmosphere—from a
peculiarly variable, to a comparatively steady, climate—from a cloudy to
a brilliant sky—from dinginess to sunshine. As to how many are swept
away by refraining from taking a step of this kind, let the
authoritative statistics concerning the mortality of the late severe
winter testify.

When any man on the shady side of middle life has the fortitude to look
around to note the number of his old and valued friends, he is shocked
to find how meagre is the list. One after another has disappeared, from
no other perceptible cause than that their physical powers, originally
vigorous, had succumbed in the feverish, and we might almost say,
insane, battle of life. Too long and too diligently have they stuck to
their professional pursuits, or been fascinated by the allurements of
society, taking relaxation only by fits and starts, and seemingly under
the impression that they have still a long career before them. Having
realised a fair competence, they might very well ask themselves why they
should continue to toil, to speculate, and to rack their brains, when a
life of comparative ease and reflection would in all respects be more
becoming. This is exactly the question, however, which they never put.
The upshot is well known. Through sundry real or imaginary
entanglements, their day of safety is past. A cold, foggy, drizzly
November finishes them; and at about two o’clock on a wintry afternoon,
they are, in all the pomp of hearse and carriages, decorously conducted
to the burying-ground. That is why people advanced in life have so few
old acquaintances about them. They had forgot that Death is always busy
laying about him with his scythe, and that the art of long living
consists pretty much in knowing how to keep out of his way.

A celebrated French writer on hygiene has a theory that dying at
anything under a hundred years of age is all a mistake—that it is
people’s own blame, or the blame of their progenitors, if they die
earlier. Far be it from me to dispute the accuracy of this very cheering
though somewhat irreverent theory. I would allow a handsome discount of
ten per cent., and take ninety as a fair age to attain to. The method of
living till ninety, however, is either not understood or very slightly
acted on. Lord Brougham was acquainted with it. He saw there was a knack
in giving fair-play to the system by means of an annual restorative.
Every year he went off at the right time to Cannes; cheating alike the
winter and the grave-digger as long as flesh and blood could do so.
Other individuals, making the necessary sacrifices, now adopt a similar
policy. They leave and return to England with the swallows; by which not
unpleasant contrivance they spin out their lives, if not to ninety,
still to something considerably beyond what, to all appearance, was to
be their allotted span.

In contemplating a residence abroad for four or five months, it is, as
just hinted, all important to go to an appropriate place. Besides
consulting medical advisers, it might be well to peruse the well-known
work on _Climate_ by Sir James Clark, and also the singularly
comprehensive and entertaining work of Dr J. Henry Bennet, entitled a
_Winter and Spring on the Shores of the Mediterranean_. In his own
person, this ingenious author exemplifies the benefit of stopping in
time, and taking a long annual relaxation in a genial climate. He tells
us that five-and-twenty years devoted to a laborious profession, and the
harassing cares which pursue a hard-worked London physician, broke down
his vital powers. In 1859, he became consumptive, and strove in vain to
arrest the progress of disease. The choice was either retirement, with
the faint hope of restoration to health, or within twelve months Kensal
Green Cemetery. He chose wisely to relinquish a large and lucrative
practice, and to take the chance of benefiting by a residence in a
climate suited to his special condition. His book may be described as an
exhaustive research in quest of such southern climates as may be best
adapted to the assuagement of certain bodily complaints, including
general debility. He describes his visits to various parts of France,
Italy, and Spain, bordering on the Mediterranean, to Corsica, Sicily,
and also to Algeria; his narrative being everywhere interspersed with
such a variety of anecdote and adventure, as well as of remarks on the
vegetation, natural history, and geography of the countries visited, as
gives it an interest to the general reader.

Summing up, he says, the health regions may be divided into three
sections. First, the mild and dry, in which are comprehended the Western
Riviera, and the east and south-east coasts of Spain; second, the mild
and moist, to which belong Corsica, Sicily, and Algeria; and third, the
west coast of Italy, which appears to occupy, meteorologically as well
as geologically, an intermediate position. It may be safely concluded
that no person from Great Britain who seeks merely for an agreeable
winter resort, would from choice go to a place reputably moist. We have
plenty moisture at home, and do not need to search for it abroad. What
we want is, a mild dry atmosphere, with as much sunshine and scope for
outdoor exercise, without recourse to greatcoats, as can possibly be
procured within a reasonable distance, and which abounds in the
attributes of civilisation. As may be learned from Dr Bennet, latitude
is not all in all. This original inquirer says very candidly that ‘five
degrees of south latitude do not make up in climate-questions for want
of protection from north winds.’ It might be added that, besides
protection from cold winds, we also need good house accommodation; for
without that, the best climate in the world can be of no use to
visitors. There is another important circumstance, and that is, the
discomfort of a voyage on a sea so capricious in its moods as the
Mediterranean; for which reason alone, we may leave Algiers out of
present consideration.

The doctor has evidently a high notion of Corsica as a health-resort;
but there again is the drawback of a sea-voyage. Coming to the mainland,
he speaks approvingly of San Remo, which lies about twenty miles to the
eastward of Mentone. There, I can say something from experience. On
visiting it in January 1869, I found it a dirty, old-fashioned Italian
town, which had not even got the length of gas-lighting, though some
improvements were going on. Further, it had no public promenade along
the beach, and that I hold to be indispensable in any health-resort of
the English. Nice has a long and handsome promenade of this description.
Cannes has likewise high claims on account of its amenities—so high that
it is entitled to be spoken of as by far the most aristocratic and
expensive of the continental winter resorts.

From the configuration of the coast, Hyères, Cannes, and Nice lie
farther south than Mentone, but that advantage is more than
counterbalanced by the superior shelter from cold winds enjoyed by
Mentone; for, as has been observed, a full exposure to the south, along
with shelter on the north, is worth several degrees of latitude. After
all, Mentone can modestly boast of being situated in latitude 43° 45´
N., or upwards of twelve degrees south of Edinburgh. It may be deemed a
conclusive proof of Dr Bennet’s appreciation of Mentone, when we know
that among all the Mediterranean health-resorts he has chosen it for his
habitual winter residence; and that, after ten years, he has to outward
appearance overcome the malady which drove him abruptly to this species
of exile. My own experiences, poor in comparison, point to Mentone as a
place, all things considered, where any one not encumbered with
expectations as to social intercourse, and not fastidious on a few
points which will be particularised, may advantageously pass the more
dreary months of winter. It is, however, not what this or that one says
of a place, but the unerring testimony of Nature, as demonstrated in the
contour and vegetation of the district, which decides its character. So
far, as will be shewn, Mentone is highly favoured, and Art, under
considerate direction, is alone needed to complete its recommendations.
Unfortunately, the journey thither will to many be a serious objection
as regards not only distance but expense. The easiest way it can be
performed may prove too fatiguing for some invalids, but taken
leisurely, there is nothing in it to deter persons who are able to bear
railway travelling.

There were times, not long ago, when travelling through France was
tedious and painful. Those were the days of diligences and passports,
and many other things that were very disagreeable. In the present day,
such has been the material and social progress of the country, that
travellers will find matters not greatly different from what prevails in
England. There are railways in all directions; the hotels are frequently
on a scale of great splendour; at very nearly the whole of them on the
main routes English is spoken; and everywhere visitors are treated with
marked civility. We all know what Paris has latterly become--the finest
town in the world, an attraction to strangers from all parts of the
earth. So lately as twelve years since, the railway from Paris was not
pushed beyond Marseilles. There it long remained, and to those who
wanted to get on farther, there was no help for it but to take the
diligence, or hire a carriage specially for the purpose. I can remember
hiring a _voiture_ with a pair of horses to go on to Nice, and of being
nearly three days on the journey, including stoppages of two nights, one
of those nights being spent at Frejus, in one of the worst and dearest
hotels I ever set foot in. Now all this is changed; there is a railway
from Marseilles by way of Toulon, Cannes, Nice, and Monaco to
Mentone—the trains going several times night and day to suit the
convenience of travellers. There are likewise telegraphic wires the
whole way, by which messages can be sent in advance to bespeak
accommodation at hotels along the line of route.

In making their way southwards, there are many who drive on hurriedly,
never stopping night or day, as if under a vow to get to their journey’s
end in the least possible time. My plan is to stop a night, or, it may
be, two nights and a day, here and there, for which there are several
good opportunities—as, for example, at Paris, Dijon, Lyons, Avignon,
Marseilles, and Nice. The only drawback on these stoppages is the
annoyance experienced at the stations as concerns luggage. After getting
your ticket, you have to see your luggage weighed, paying for the same a
small sum; and then on arrival at your destination, some time has to be
spent in a cold _salle_ until the whole of the luggage has been
arranged, and you can claim your own. The way to avoid these wearisome
detentions is to get your luggage registered and sent on by the _grande
vîtesse_, or quick goods-train, to your final destination, be it Nice or
Mentone, where it can be reclaimed. Sending it by the _petite vîtesse_
is cheaper, but as it may not get to the end of its journey by this slow
train for several weeks, the _grande vîtesse_ should by all means be
adopted as preferable. Following this plan, a traveller may take along
with him into the train a portmanteau or carpet-bag sufficiently small
to be accommodated under the seat, also any small bundle to be placed in
the rack overhead. The torment of waiting for luggage is, I observe,
driving the French into the practice of taking cumbersome articles with
them into the trains; and on several occasions I have experienced
personal inconvenience from their expedients. Professedly, dogs are not
permitted to be taken into the carriages; but the rule on this point is
not on all occasions strictly adhered to. Ladies may be seen with
favourite lap-dogs, either carrying them openly, or in small baskets,
without challenge. For such indulgence, much depends on the complaisance
of the guard.

The preferable route from London is by Folkestone and Boulogne, and it
will save trouble if tickets are taken at Charing-Cross station direct
for Paris, getting luggage ticketed accordingly. The steam-boats between
Folkestone and Boulogne, though well managed, are certainly poor in
comparison to what they might and ought to be; but there is nothing
superior in the Channel service, and all we can do in the meantime is to
make the best of them. At the railway terminus at Boulogne there is an
excellent restaurant, where travellers have a choice of refreshments,
tastefully served, and with a composure which pleasantly contrasts with
the hurry and confusion which prevail on the English side of the
Channel. Any one, going or coming, who has occasion to stop for a night
at Boulogne, may be safely recommended to the Hôtel Christol, a
comfortable and well-conducted establishment not far from the railway
terminus. On each of my recent trips, I spent two nights in Paris at the
Grand Hôtel du Louvre; a night at Lyons in the Hôtel de l’Univers (good,
and near the station); and two nights at Marseilles in the Grand Hôtel
du Louvre et de la Paix. The reason why I remained more than a single
night in Marseilles was to note the extraordinary improvements which
have taken place within the last few years. If we except Paris, no city
in France has been so much changed for the better as Marseilles. Its new
streets and boulevards are a sight worth seeing, and so is its new port
of Joliette, constructed at a great cost with much engineering skill.
The most surprising novelty, however, is the system of water-supply,
effected by bringing the waters of the river Durance a distance of sixty
miles by means of tunnels and aqueducts, at an expense of fifty-two
millions of francs. One of the aqueducts, that of Roquefavour, measures
as much as four hundred mètres in length by eighty-two in height—a
gigantic work, creditable to French engineering, which may compare
favourably with some of the grandest of recent undertakings in Great
Britain.

Quitting England towards the end of October, and pursuing the journey
across France to the shores of the Mediterranean, a visible change of
climate usually occurs about half-way between Lyons and Marseilles. We
leave the cloudy northern skies, and get gradually into the serene
sunshine of the south. The sensation of warmth increases during the day,
and at night a lustrous planet shines almost like a moon in the
star-spangled heavens. The vegetable world assumes new forms. The
mulberry-groves remind us of silk-worms and the tasteful industries of
Lyons and St Etienne. Approaching Marseilles, tracts are covered with
almond-trees, which, on our return journey in spring, are seen to clothe
the country with a mantle of delicate purple blossom. Passing onward,
the aloe and prickly pear grow by the wayside, and are planted as
hedges; and we observe that in the fields the small tufted plant
producing the yellow _Immortelles_ (a species of _Helichrysum_) is
cultivated as a branch of husbandry. The railway from Marseilles, though
only a single line, has been a costly and remarkable undertaking, for it
is carried through numerous tunnels and along heavy embankments near the
sea-shore. No doubt, we lose the picturesque scenery of the Estrelles by
this modern method of transit; but yet we are afforded glimpses of many
beautiful valleys and rocky mounts, garnished with fig and orange trees,
these last coming prominently into notice on crossing the Var and
getting into the vicinity of Nice. The olive, first seen as a shrub in
Provence, now attains to the dimensions of a tree, which, planted
profusely on hill-sides, imparts a greenness to the landscape even in
winter.

Nice, ‘the Queen of the Mediterranean,’ has suddenly risen into beauty
and importance. Facing the south, close on the sea-shore, with a fringe
of verdant hills on the north, its situation has raised it to a high
rank as a winter health-resort, and its reputation in this respect has
been augmented by vigorous efforts, public and private, to render it
attractive to strangers. Formerly, visiting the town while it belonged
to Italy, there appeared to be a general stagnation. Great endeavours
had stopped short, and there was obviously much half-done work. In the
hands of the French, a new spirit has been infused into the place.
Streets just begun have been completed, and handsome quays with
boulevards stretch along both sides of the Paillon, over which several
new bridges have been thrown. One of these deserves to be styled
something more than a bridge. It is so broad as to afford space for a
public garden, in the centre of which is erected a statue of Masséna, a
native of whom, as of Garibaldi, the Nizzards are justly proud.
Nominally, the Paillon is a torrent, but it usually is little else than
a bed of dry gravel; the only water in it being a few puddles, in which
numbers of women are seen washing clothes in the ordinary continental
style. The Paillon offers a fair specimen of one of those numerous
torrents in the Riviera that are flooded only on the occasion of snows
melting, or heavy rains falling in the mountains, when, rushing
impetuously down, the tumultuous waters bear all before them.

[Illustration: Promenade des Anglais, looking westward; Jardin Public on
right.]

Looking to its crowds of fashionable loungers, who come to it
professedly for health, but seemingly as much for amusement, Nice may be
styled the continental Brighton. One thing, as at Brighton, has greatly
added to its fascinations. This is the Promenade des Anglais, stretching
a mile along the shore, and forming from morning to night the place of
concourse for throngs of idlers. The spacious promenade for pedestrians
is divided by a row of sub-tropical plants, including specimens of the
pepper-tree and date-palm, from a broad drive, where ladies in the
fantastic dresses of the period, with a taste for fast living and public
exhibition, indulge in driving backwards and forwards with a fury not
usual with their sex in our more sober-minded country. To do them
justice, they leave the lashing of the ponies to the driver, who sits
behind them with a long whip, with which he seems to have much pleasure
in inflicting pain on the poor animals. This species of cruelty meets
with no reprobation from the onlookers; and from the immunity shewn to
the practice, I should infer that in France there is no law repressive
of cruelty to animals. I regretted to observe that these fast young
ladies were generally English. With its promenades, drives, balls,
cercle, Jardin Public, musical band, theatres, shops of various kinds
where every luxury may be obtained, and abundance of street carriages,
Nice offers a choice of attractions, independently of its fine air and
sunshine. Besides the cathedral and numerous other Roman Catholic
churches, the town now possesses an English and a Scotch church, both
handsome new buildings. At kiosks on the Quai Masséna, several Paris
daily newspapers may be purchased. Letters and papers from England are
delivered twice a day, Sunday included. For persons studiously inclined,
there is a large public Bibliothèque supported by the commune, where
books (of course in French literature) may be freely consulted or read
by strangers as well as natives. There are likewise two good circulating
libraries with English books—that of Visconti a really excellent
collection, associated with a capital reading-room. To accommodate the
numerous fashionable visitors, as also the more steady order of winter
sojourners, there are now divers hotels of huge dimensions, and every
succeeding year seems to increase the number. They are for the greater
part situated on the quays overlooking the Paillon, also in the Jardin
Public, and in the terrace-like line of street along the Promenade des
Anglais. The house which after sundry trials I found preferable was the
Hôtel d’Angleterre, in the Jardin Public, kept by M. Steinbrück, who
speaks English and is married to an Englishwoman; both are most vigilant
in attending to the comfort of their guests. All the hotels have
omnibuses which wait the arrival and attend the departure of the trains.

Although Nice is now a French town, the humbler classes remain
essentially Italian of the old Savoy type. The dresses of the women are
picturesque, and their favourite mode of carrying things is to poise
them on the top of the head. The peculiar costumes of the district are
well represented in the wooden mosaics which form a remarkable local
manufacture. I have never returned home from Nice without purchasing
specimens of these beautiful _mosaïques en bois_, at the shop of the
brothers Mignon, in the Rue Paradis. On the last occasion, I received an
interesting account of how they were prepared. The pictorial effects
are, it is said, wholly a result of the varying tints of different kinds
of wood grown in the neighbourhood; all being ingeniously shaped and put
together without any aid from artificial colouring. As the intrinsic
value of the small pieces of wood employed must be insignificant—a
pennyworth probably being wrought up in a mosaic which will sell for a
couple of napoleons—we have here a striking instance of how national
wealth may be increased by exerting artistic ability on materials which
are, of themselves, worthless.

Considering its extent, its numerous attractions, its choice of society,
and its abundance of hotels, _pensions_, and villas and floors to be let
for hire, Nice, as a place of agreeable resort, has a prodigious
advantage over Mentone, which is in a comparatively primitive condition,
with much to be done to bring it up to the Nicean finish. To all its
recommendable qualities, Nice has further added a supply of pure water
led on in pipes from the hilly ground behind; and this is a thing of
first importance. If the public authorities would be but a little more
liberal in their supply of scavengers to scrape and sweep the streets
and by-ways, and to prevent the accumulation of nauseous rubbish on the
shore side of the Promenade, they would merit a tribute of thanks from
every one who makes a sojourn in the town. Granting all that can be said
in admiration of the Queen of the Mediterranean, the question remains as
to its availableness in a matter where health is so intimately
concerned. In its very imposing size and stylish way of living there is,
I fear, something objectionable. Health-seekers ought not as a rule to
care for balls, theatrical representations, or the lavish exhibition of
finery. What they generally want is the re-invigoration of an enfeebled
constitution, through simple and natural agencies. Wherefore, the
sea-side, the rural hamlet, or any other place where, by abandoning
artificialities, Nature has fair-play to strengthen the animal system,
is what is sought after. On this account, as well as on its higher
claims in point of shelter and climate, there is no room to hesitate.
Pleasure-seekers, or those to whom a town-life is indispensable, will
stop at Nice; the less sophisticated will go twenty miles farther, and,
with all its deficiencies, bask in the very garden of the Riviera.

The time of transit from Nice to Mentone by railway is an hour and six
minutes, including stoppages at Villafranca, Monaco, and other places.
It is a cheap, easy journey; but the line is carried through a number of
dark tunnels, and to those who have sufficient time at command, and do
not mind the cost of a carriage and pair of horses, the road forming the
first stage in the Corniche will be preferred. On last, as well as
previous occasion, selecting this famous highway across the
mountains—the Alpes Maritimes, from which is derived the name of the
department—I hired a carriage for the journey. The route is the
commencement of the famous Corniche, which most tourists endeavour to
see at least once in their lives. Until 1806, when it was partially
completed, by order of Bonaparte, there was no other road along this
part of the coast of Italy than the very insufficient pathway, fit only
for mules, which had originally been made by the Romans on subduing the
Ligurians. Snatches of this old Roman road are still in use by the
country-people. It was only the pressing emergencies of the
Revolutionary army under the conqueror of Italy, at the beginning of the
present century, that led to the engineering of the Corniche—a name
significant of a pathway winding its way along a natural precipitous
cornice. On quitting Nice, the road rises along a mountain-side which
commands a magnificent prospect over the valley of the Paillon, dotted
with villas and orange-gardens. By and by, on attaining a great height,
it gets behind the hills, and we lose sight of the sea. In this respect,
the road was devised under the temporary but awkward necessity of
avoiding a cannonade from British ships of war. Now that there are no
longer any fears on this score, a new Corniche as far as Monaco is
partly constructed, and will be a great improvement on the old one;
though it will fail to afford such magnificent views as we now have of
mountain scenery, and will prevent travellers passing through and seeing
the ancient village of Turbia.

On both occasions on which I have passed this way, the weather happened
to be of exceptional brilliance. The season was winter, and the height
attained was two thousand feet, yet the air was mild and balmy, and in
the open carriage, the only shelter required was an umbrella, to avert
the dazzling rays of the sun. On the left were the rugged Alpine peaks
stretching far away in the distance, while on the right we looked down
the precipitous banks, laid out in terraces for vines and
orange-gardens, to the picturesquely peninsulated shores of the
Mediterranean. Midway, on our right, we come in sight of the ancient
town of Eza, perched most picturesquely on the summit of a conical
mount, and which figures in the early history of this singularly
irregular line of coast. A more difficult piece of country for military
manœuvres can scarcely be imagined, for there hardly appears a level
spot in the whole territory; hence we have a pretty good idea of why the
Ligurians so long defied their enemies, and also why the district, in
its quality of Principality of Monaco, should have for such a length of
time maintained an isolated existence. Of the final success of the Roman
invaders we have an interesting memorial at the decayed village of
Turbia, through which the road passes. It consists of the shattered
remains of a colossal monument, erected in honour of Augustus Cæsar.
Occupying a prominent rocky knoll, it is visible from a great distance
at sea. Reaching it by an irregular path through the old village, we
find the ruin surrounded by a wall, to prevent further dilapidation.
What was the original form of the monument is nowhere mentioned. It was
certainly a tall ornamental structure, bearing a gigantic statue of
Augustus in white marble, of which fragments have been discovered. In
the middle ages, the building was altered and enlarged to form a species
of fortress, and thus it remained until it was destroyed by Marshal
Villars, during the wars of Louis XIV. (1705). The present name of the
village is said to be a corruption of Trophæa (_Trophæa Augusti_), but
this is mere conjecture. A few minutes bestowed in a visit to this noted
historical ruin, and in enjoying the outlook seaward, will not be
misspent.

[Illustration: Ruin of Monument at Turbia, viewed from the south.]

At Turbia, we come full in sight of the town of Monaco, perched on a
rocky peninsula jutting into the sea, and still walled all around as it
was in the days when it required to hold out against foreign enemies.
Divided from it on the east by a small port, rises Monte Carlo, a
plateau now noted for its gaming establishment, the only authorised
resort of the kind in the south of Europe. The only other place on the
route calling for a word of observation is Roccabruna, a cluster of
antique buildings, the capital of a commune, jumbled up in a strange
manner with huge brown rocks, that look as if they had been suddenly
arrested on tumbling down the lofty hill behind them. From this we have
a continued descent to Mentone. As we advance, the scene opens, and
turning a corner of the road, we see the place of our destination
stretching along the curve of a beautiful bay, backed by low hills,
covered with evergreens, while behind these rises a semicircular range
of arid mountains, towering several thousand feet high, and forming the
screen from the north, that, constituting Mentone an Undercliff, gives
it that peculiar mildness and dryness of climate for which it has
attained celebrity. A drive for a mile along an avenue of plane-trees,
environed with olive-grounds and villas, brings us to the spot where we
are to spend the winter.



                              CHAPTER II.


The approach downhill from Roccabruna to Mentone offers one of the most
pleasing sights in the Riviera. Before us is the town, skirting the
sea-shore, backed by hills clothed in evergreens of varying tints. On
our right is the wide expanse of the Mediterranean; and in the distance
to the east are seen the headlands of Ventimiglia and Bordighera. It is
a peaceful, secluded scene, and, lying full in the blaze of sunshine,
comes up to our ideas of what is befitting as a resort for those in
quest of health, or who wish to reside for a time away from the turmoil
of the outer world. It is customary to say of Mentone, that here
civilisation ends. We have arrived at the last town in France. Going
farther in this direction, we enter Italy, where, generally speaking,
matters are in a less advanced condition.

The whole of Mentone is comprehended in the curve of a bay, which, from
Cap Martin on the west to Cap Murtola on the east, may measure five to
six miles, by following the line of coast; but the curve is divided near
the centre by a projecting ledge of rocks, on which stands a conspicuous
square bastion or martello tower, forming an outwork of the older part
of the town. The sweep of the shore is therefore broken into two bays,
the western and eastern, a circumstance which imparts a divided
character to the place. As regards the residences of strangers, there
may indeed be said to be two towns, distinctly cut off from each other;
the only channel of communication between them being a confined
thoroughfare amidst old buildings.

So closely do the mountains infringe on the shore of the eastern bay,
that in this quarter there is space on the level ground for only a
single range of hotels, with a roadway in front of them. On the western
bay, the level ground is much broader; it allows space for a public
promenade along the beach, also a succession of hotels and villas, not
very symmetrically arranged, and a long street, in which the chief
business of the town is conducted. Besides this degree of accommodation,
the western bay offers some scope for building in certain lateral
valleys, reaching to the base of the mountains. The valley first crossed
is the Gorbio, and then the Borigo and Carei, the two last mentioned
being the principal. They take their names from the torrents from the
north which empty themselves into the sea—that is to say, when they have
any running water in them, which is not very often the case. The valley
of the Carei is the most spacious, and has already been built on to a
considerable extent on both sides. The thoroughfare on the right bank,
overshadowed with plane-trees, is known as the Route de Turin, and
conducts to the railway station.

The grand thing in the scenery of Mentone is the picturesque hilly
ground behind it. Standing on the bridge which crosses the Borigo at the
entrance to the town, we are presented with an amphitheatre of almost
matchless beauty. In the foreground is a series of round-topped hills,
detached from each other, and mostly laid out as groves of olive,
orange, and lemon trees, interspersed with vine terraces, and dotted
here and there with the cottages of the peasant proprietors. The height
of these hills, or _collines_ as the French call them, is from four
hundred to six hundred feet above the sea-level, an altitude that admits
of our seeing over and immediately beyond them that wonderfully striking
range of peaked limestone mountains towering in fantastic masses, and
prominently relieved against the clear blue sky. The scene is one which
we are never tired looking at, and leaves impressions which no length of
time can obliterate. I have often thought with pleasure on that
singularly picturesque landscape.

As now seen, Mentone is of comparatively recent date. Its reputation as
a resort for health-seekers is only of ten or twelve years’ standing,
and the larger part of its extensions has taken place within that
period. At the end of last century, the town consisted of little more
than a dense cluster of antiquated buildings, covering a conical hill,
which rises from the sea-shore; the whole hemmed in by defensible walls,
with the remains of a castle crowning the summit (since transformed into
a cemetery), and a kind of sea-port claiming protection from the bastion
on the projecting reef. While in this antiquated condition, there was no
road through it fit for wheeled carriages. The only thoroughfare was the
old Roman road, about twelve feet in width, sufficient alone for
foot-passengers or mules, which wound its way as it best could along the
coast—sometimes creeping up hills, at other times diving into ravines,
and when arriving at towns, getting through them by narrow passages,
well guarded at each end by gates. Such was the sole means of
communication along the shore of the Western Riviera till within the
memory of persons still living.

Good reasons for this backward state of things might be found in
political distractions, and more specially in the fact, that the whole
of this part of the coast was for ages so much beset by predatory bands
of Moors or Saracens, that it was advantageous to make every place as
inaccessible as possible. Villages were placed far up the mountains,
with a good outlook to the sea, and were approachable only by scarcely
distinguishable tracks. While the towns were walled, the palazzos of the
gentry adjoining the ancient route resembled the larger kind of
fortified Border keeps, and could be entered only by drawbridges and
strongly barred doors, protected by shot-holes. Several specimens of
these bastel-houses still survive, though in a decayed condition, and
are well worth investigation. The Saracens, however, established
themselves on various parts of the coast; one of their strongholds being
Eza, a small fortified town, already referred to as being seen on the
road from Nice to Mentone. According to tradition, the person chiefly
concerned in expelling these intruders was a noble Genoese, named
Grimaldi, who, for his bravery and public services, received a gift of
the territory of Monaco, in which his descendants afterwards bore rule.
As this event is said to have taken place in the year 980, the House of
Grimaldi must be reckoned one of the very oldest in Europe.

Except as being involved in the wars of the Guelfs and Ghibellines,
little is heard of the Grimaldis for two or three hundred years. They
were known as seigneurs or counts, holding some local sway, but always
under the protection of superior neighbours, to whom they stood in the
relation of vassals. Any one curiously disposed regarding their
intermarriages and ongoings, will get full particulars in the recent
work of Mr Pemberton (_History of Monaco, Past and Present_), also in
the French work of M. Abel Rendu (_Menton et Monaco_); but it is not
easy to burden the memory with the annals of this noble and not always
well-behaved family. But for their instinctively clinging to France,
they would long since have disappeared. By Louis XIII., the family were
raised to the rank of Princes of Monaco, and they were likewise invested
with the Dukedom of Valentenois in the peerage of France. From this
time, they fought in the French wars, and were occasionally employed in
diplomatic missions. At the middle of the seventeenth century, the
principality had the honour of supporting the extravagances of Lewis I.,
a prince who, in his ardent desire to shew off with becoming splendour
as an ambassador, accepted a mission to Rome from the court of France.
We are told that his prodigal outlays led to a system of taxation of
hitherto unexampled severity. The most idiotic of his acts consisted in
causing his carriage-horses to be shod with silver, each shoe fastened
only by a single nail, in order that it might be easily lost, and
ostentatiously replaced. In Anthony, the son of this madcap, the male
line of the Grimaldis terminated. With only daughters to succeed, there
arose a grand family consultation how Louise Hyppolyte, the eldest of
these female heirs, should marry some distinguished personage,
sufficiently rich to discharge certain heavy debts and obligations. If
we could extract any drollery from the history of the Grimaldis, it
would be in the straits to which they were put at this memorable
juncture. In a sense, the girl was put up to auction. It was made
generally known that the highest bidder, with the longest purse and
pedigree, might have her; one thing, however, being stipulated, that he
should sink his own identity, and assume the name and arms of Grimaldi.
After a good deal of looking about and chaffering, Louise Hyppolyte was
assigned to Count de Matignon, whose wealth was pronounced adequate, and
his ancestral rank in no respect impeachable. The marriage took place in
1715, and from it sprung the present family.

[Illustration: The old town of Mentone with Quai Bonaparte, as seen from
Eastern Bay.]

It does not appear that the new branch of the clan Grimaldi was a marked
improvement on the old one. When the revolution of 1789 broke out in
France, it spread to the principality; and so much was Honore III.
disliked for his arbitrary measures, that he had to flee for his life,
leaving his patrimony to its fate, which consisted in being absorbed
into the French republic. Unfortunately, the change of masters produced
only some new varieties of oppression. There was, to be sure, a very
distinct proclamation of liberty and equality; but it was associated
with relentless taxation and conscription, along with an assiduous
search for victims for the guillotine. Recesses in the mountains above
Mentone are pointed out where _suspects_ took refuge in these terrible
times, and to whom food was under great difficulty taken by their
families. With the fall of the Convention in 1793, and the rise of
Bonaparte, the Mentonians experienced a gratifying relief, although the
conscription continued as severe as ever. In the course of Napoleon’s
marvellous military feats in Italy, he visited Mentone; and observing
the imperfect character of the old road along the coast, gave orders to
construct that entirely new carriage-way, the existing Corniche, an
engineering exploit which was the making of Mentone. Previously, the old
road in proceeding eastwards ascended to a vaulted gateway, and was
thence continued in the Rue Longue, a curious narrow passage environed
by tall antique buildings on each side, the exit being by a gateway at
the farther extremity, whence the road descended to the eastern bay. For
this inconvenient thoroughfare, the French engineer substituted an
artificial terrace-road, raised within the sea-margin, and skirting the
backs of the gaunt old houses of the Rue Longue. All who have travelled
along the Corniche, will remember this ingeniously constructed part of
the route, styled the Quai Bonaparte, and how, after getting clear of
the town, it ascends to the Pont St Louis, on the front of the rugged
cliffs which overhang the Mediterranean.

After having been connected with France for more than twenty years, the
principality of Monaco was assigned, by the treaty of Vienna, to its
hereditary claimants, who were to be under the protection of Piedmont.
Delivered up to Honore V., as the reigning Grimaldi was designated, the
unhappy people, to their dismay, soon felt themselves in the grasp of a
rapacious tyrant. Honest, industrious, and confiding, they were willing
to render loyal obedience to the old family; but so far from being
sympathised with, they were viewed as mere objects of the most
uncompromising extortion. What now occurred in the communes of Monaco,
Roccabruna, and Mentone—such being the entire territory—would, if
minutely told, form a history unexampled for despicable selfishness on
the part of the ruling authority. The account given by Pemberton, and
also by local French writers, regarding the fiscal abuses of Honore and
his successor, raises the deepest emotions of compassion. It is painful
even to allude to matters of this kind, and I do so only because a
knowledge of what took place enables us to understand why Mentone has
been absorbed into the French empire. The story—fit to form the subject
of a romance—is also not without interest, as revealing to what lengths
a despotic ruler may go when unchecked by considerations either of mercy
or public policy.

Living at a safe distance in Paris, and governing by deputies, Honore V.
maintained a fair face to the world while issuing ordinance after
ordinance calculated to reduce his patrimonial territory to utter
poverty and ruin. Plausible and refined in manners, his hypocrisy was
equalled only by his intense avarice. What he wanted was money, and that
he was resolved to wring by every available means from his helpless
subjects. He began operations by taking possession of all property
belonging to communes, hospitals, and ecclesiastical establishments, all
of which were in future to depend on his bounty. Next, he imposed duties
on every article entering or going out of the country, or which was
consumed as food. The principal produce consisting of olives, oranges,
lemons, citrons, figs, and grapes, these were all placed under rigorous
surveillance, and subjected to heavy imposts. There had long been
manufactures of oils, essences, perfumes, and confections from one or
other of these fruits, for purposes of export, and the taxes now levied
upon them rendered the trade not worth carrying on. Then were issued
ordinances assigning to the prince an entire monopoly in the manufacture
and sale of linen, gunpowder, pipes, and tobacco. No one dared to
purchase linens for clothing or domestic use, or to be used as sails for
boats and shipping, unless they came from the prince’s factories at such
prices as he was pleased to impose. Following on these arbitrary
measures came the monopoly of selling vermicelli. This was a hard blow
on the poor, but nothing in comparison to the next financial device,
which was a monopoly in the importation of corn, meal, and flour. As it
happened that the territory produced scarcely any cereals, the people
depended on imports, and under this new policy they were placed at the
mercy of a prince who cared not though his subjects should perish of
hunger.

To advantageously carry out this last ordinance, Honore procured the
assistance of a Frenchman named Chappon, with whom he divided profits.
Established as the grand purveyor of corn, Chappon became a terror to
the unfortunate community. At the very outset, there was experienced a
want of mills to grind the imported corn, nor could mills be erected
unless where there was water-power. The valley of the Carei at Mentone
offered this convenience, but its water-privileges were all secured by
olive-mills, and these necessarily had to be bought up. This was
speedily accomplished. The oil-mills were forcibly purchased at certain
prices; but as these prices were never paid, the transaction was nothing
else than a robbery. Possessed of the mills, the next thing was to make
a road to them fit for wheeled carriages. Instead of making the road at
his own cost, Honore obliged the proprietors of land on the right bank
of the Carei to construct a thoroughfare at their own expense, at the
same time mulcting them in sums to keep it up. The road so formed, lined
with plane-trees, is that now known as the Route de Turin. The
construction of such a road was certainly a great improvement; and the
only matter for regret is the injustice of the whole affair. Having set
the mills to work, Chappon imported parcels of damaged or inferior corn,
which, being ground to flour, was sold at such high prices as he was
pleased to impose. This extortion was not enough. It was discovered that
a good profit could be made by a monopoly in baking. The prince now
became baker in general for the principality, and the baking and selling
of bread, except under his authority, were declared to be penal. A cry
of despair—the wail of the poor—sounded through the land. Earnest,
piteous remonstrances were made to Honore. All were unheeded. There was
no earthly tribunal to appeal to. The press of Europe did not hear of,
or at least said nothing of these atrocities. The people, patient and
forbearing, continued to suffer. One can hardly realise the fact, that
within the last quarter of a century a person enjoying the rank of a
Christian sovereign should have been guilty of iniquities like those
here briefly referred to. The bread monopoly proved the worst of all;
for, besides the dearth and bad qualities of the article, excessive
penalties were incurred for attempting to bring even so much as a morsel
into the territory. If a labourer went across the frontier for a day’s
work, and brought back at night a portion of the bread he had had for
his dinner to succour his wife and children, it was taken from him, and
he might think himself well off if he escaped punishment. If a ship, on
arriving at any of the small ports, had bread or biscuits on board, the
whole had to be thrown into the sea, and a fresh supply procured from
the prince’s baker. Driven to extremity, the people ate as little as
possible of what they emphatically called the _pain de douleur_; but
this was met by a new expedient. A register was ordered to be kept of
all the bread which each family purchased, and if the quantity fell
short of a certain standard, they were exposed to a prosecution for
consuming too little.

Things were not yet by any means at their worst. The only fuel used was
old decayed olive and fruit trees, and here was a fresh means of
exaction. An ordinance was issued forbidding any tree to be cut down, or
any branch removed, unless by a special license, which had to be paid
for, amounting to a tax on the fuel used for warmth or the preparation
of victuals. The next form of extortion was to impose a fine on any one
leaving his house after ten o’clock without a lantern. A fine of three
francs was also imposed on every license for a person going out of the
country. Hungered in the article of bread, taxed on their oranges, taxed
on their fuel, and taxed in their clothing, the people as yet were
allowed to eat their own poultry, eggs, and butcher-meat. That was a
great overlook, now to be remedied. A universal census was taken of
oxen, sheep, goats, pigs, and other animals raised for sale or private
consumption, and the amount of stock had to be rigorously accounted for.
A register was kept of all births and deaths of these various animals,
the sex of each being noted. The object aimed at was a tax payable for
every animal slaughtered. If a person wished to kill one of his pigs, he
had to intimate the fact to an officer, who attended to lay on the tax,
and make the appropriate deduction from the recorded stock on hand. Woe
be to any one who ate his own mutton or lamb, without being taxed, even
although the animal should have died or been killed by accident. We may
conclude the list of extortions, by mentioning that, to support the
several monopolies, it was necessary to employ a large staff of
custom-house and other officials. The _douane_ at the frontiers was
remorseless in severity. If a merchant declared the weight of his goods
to be a single pound less than they actually weighed, the whole were
confiscated. By all these and sundry other contrivances—one being a
right to all the scrapings of the streets, for there was nothing too
mean to be appropriated—Honore V. wrung an annual revenue of 320,000
francs from a small population, a large proportion of whom were people
in a humble rank of life. There was folly as well as cruelty in the
exaction, for more than a third of the whole amount levied went to
defray the expenses of collection. Some of his schemes were
disappointing. He attempted to increase his civil list by coining and
putting in circulation five-franc pieces, containing thirty per cent. of
alloy, but as nobody would take his bad money, this proved an
unfortunate financial experiment. He was also rather luckless in his
projects for taxing education. In Mentone, he set up a school to which
children should be sent on paying certain fees, and at the same time it
was declared to be penal to teach children at home. The result was that
the school was deserted, to which melancholy fact is ascribable the
general ignorance of letters among the bulk of the humbler classes past
middle life.

Honore V. died in 1841, carrying with him to the grave the execrations
of all he had misused and misgoverned. Strange to say, the people, from
a hereditary sentiment of loyalty, did not embrace the opportunity of
repudiating the Grimaldis. The heir of the principality was Florestan
I., of whom good hopes were entertained; but he continued the former
extortions and monopolies, adding the obligation, that the crushing of
all the olives in his territory should take place at his own mills,
under excessive penalties. This was little else than a sentence of
annihilation to the olive-growers, and general ruin was in prospect. But
the time had now come when the odious tyranny could be safely thrown
off. The ferment of the revolution in France in 1848 spread to the
principality of Monaco, and by a popular outburst of outraged feeling,
the authority of the prince was denounced and rejected. Florestan
appealed for help to Sardinia, but in vain. He made some overtures at
conciliation. They were treated with derision, and he was ordered to
quit the territory. It says not a little for the character of the
people, that in carrying through their revolution, not a single personal
injury was inflicted. Having rid themselves of the Grimaldis, the
communes of Monaco, Roccabruna, and Mentone declared their political
independence, in which condition, and unmolested, they remained for
twelve years. During this period they did much to restore general
concord and prosperity, and it was at this time that some improvements
were effected in the various towns. Florestan died in 1856, an event
which provoked no public manifestation in favour of the family.
Circumstances had already made it obvious that the communes would need
to unite themselves permanently either with Sardinia or France. On this
point there were protracted negotiations, judiciously conducted by a
patriotic citizen of Mentone, Carlo Trenca, who had been a moving spirit
in promoting the revolution and preventing public excesses. Trenca died
in the course of these public duties. Matters were at length matured,
and in April 1860 the people were left to vote whether they would belong
to Sardinia or France. The choice of the majority was wisely for France;
for by this means the country was incorporated with a nation which,
while advancing its material prosperity, could secure its internal
peace, and protect it against aggression. Charles III., the son and heir
of Florestan, protested against the union. At last, on the 2d of
February 1861, he agreed to a treaty, by which he ceded all his rights
and privileges over Roccabruna and Mentone for the sum of four million
francs, reserving only his sovereignty over Monaco under French
protection.

Since 1861, accordingly, Mentone has in all respects been part and
parcel of France, and participated in its national progress. Monaco
alone, consisting of a patch of territory extending three and a half
miles along the coast, by a width at broadest of one mile, remains a
petty dependent sovereignty under Charles III., who lives part of the
year at Paris, and at other times in his palace in the town of Monaco.
His son and heir-apparent, Charles-Honore, born in 1848, was recently
married to a daughter of the late Duke of Hamilton.

Since it was attached to France, Mentone, with some ground in its
neighbourhood, has been a commune of the Alpes Maritimes, with a mayor
and council for its local administration. So smoothly are its civic
affairs conducted, that one hears little or nothing of them. There is a
Hôtel de Ville, but it is by no means of an obtrusive character. It is
comprehended in the upper floor of a building in a lane which ascends
from the main street towards the cemetery. Adjoining is the office of
the police, an establishment of a very limited nature. The annual
municipal revenue is 120,000 francs, derived principally from an octroi,
or petty duties on articles of consumption brought into the town; and
the expenditure, including outlay on schools and hospitals, is the same
amount. The settled population of Mentone is 6000. Besides the few
sergents de ville who act as street police, there is a small body of
Gendarmerie Impériale, members of which may be seen lounging about in
military costume, but ready to mount and be off on any mission
appropriate to their functions. Though situated on the frontier, Mentone
has no garrison worth mentioning. The only soldiers observable are a
single company of one of the regiments of the line, exhilarated in their
marching by three drummers and a trumpeter. To the credit of the French
army, the soldiers when off duty conduct themselves with great
propriety. They may be seen reading on the seats in the public
promenades, or taking a walk in groups amidst the rural scenery,
circumstances which may be thought to speak well for their character.



                              CHAPTER III.


The railway from Nice to Mentone, forming part of the line from Paris
and Marseilles, terminates at the frontier, where it is to be united to
the line from Genoa. The Italian portion, however, is in a very backward
condition, and to all appearance years may elapse before it is
completed; on which account many travellers for Genoa do not trouble
themselves with the railway so far as it is made, but hire carriages and
horses at Nice for the whole journey. Vehicles with two, four, or
sometimes five horses are seen daily passing southwards through Mentone.
The railway does credit to its constructers. Piercing Cap Martin by a
tunnel, it crosses the several valleys by bridges, holding close by the
hills behind the town. The station, situated on the right bank of the
Carei, and reached by the Route de Turin, is about a quarter of a mile
northwards from the main street. Omnibuses in connection with several
hotels, likewise an omnibus for the general service of the town, and the
diligence for Genoa, attend the arrival of the trains. Visitors
designing to remain for the season can have no difficulty in getting
apartments in any of the hotels having omnibuses, until they look about
them and make a choice of a dwelling.

To help them in their selection, a few general observations may be
offered. Mentone, as has been shewn, is a town in two divisions, locally
known as the East and West Bays. The first thing, accordingly, for a
stranger to do is to make up his mind in which he prefers to reside. The
two bays are very different in character from each other. The East—that
which is farthest away on arriving from Nice—is reputedly the warmest,
and best adapted for invalids with pulmonary or bronchial affections.
Sheltered on the west by the projecting hill on which the old town is
built, and on the east by Cap Murtola, and closely overhung on the north
by the mountains, it is, I believe, the most sunny warm nook in the
whole Riviera. So completely is it enclosed that there is only space in
front for the roadway from the Quai Bonaparte. The hilly ground in the
rear, clothed in olive, orange, and lemon trees, is intersected by the
small and not very accessible valley of Garavan, which imparts its name
to the quarter. Far up, on the bare acclivities, are seen gray,
sun-dried cottages, though who live in them, or how they are reached, no
one can understand. Near at hand, on the lofty cliffs to the east, is
the Corniche road, pursuing its way by the Pont St Louis.

Latterly, to meet the demand for accommodation in this choice quarter, a
number of houses of various kinds have been erected towards the ravine
of St Louis, and it seems likely that every available site will ere long
be occupied with dwellings of a class suitable for visitors. Singularly
favoured in various respects, the East Bay is not without some
drawbacks. If the weather be warm, the locality may be found too close,
and the mosquitoes somewhat troublesome. To go into and return from
town, pedestrians have to pass through a cold windy gorge at the end of
the main street, and the walk by the Quai is not pleasant. The greatest
defect is the want of a good public promenade near the sea-margin. No
doubt visitors can hire a carriage, or they can take the omnibus which
plies to and from the western extremity of the town, and so reach
promenades to their liking; but all that causes trouble, and one prefers
to saunter out at odd times for air and recreation when a pleasant
promenade is readily at hand. This deficiency is said to be in course of
remedy by the formation of a level stretch along the beach, but when it
will be completed is uncertain. With all its drawbacks and limitations,
there is much to fascinate in the East Bay, so quiet, so sunny is it;
and the mind carries away recollections of the pretty shrubberies in
front of one or two of the hotels, where, in mid-winter, you see parties
seated under the elegantly drooping foliage of the pepper-tree, as if
enjoying a cool shade in the heats of summer. To live at this spot is
truly to winter with the swallows, for there, when the season is
propitious, they resort, as if aware that in going farther they would
find few such haunts, till they reach the neighbourhood of the Pyramids.

The West Bay, if less sheltered, is more spacious and airy. Living in
it, you are more in the world—near the shops, cab-stand,
railway-station, reading-room and library, new English church,
post-office, Promenade du Midi, and all the walks and rides in the
lateral valleys. I should say that this quarter is most suitable for
mere health-loungers—those who seek for recreation in open air and
exercise. With a south-eastern or south-western exposure, it is sunny
enough for all ordinary requirements, and is chosen by many invalids for
its amenities, as is observable from the number of persons who are drawn
along the Promenade in Bath-chairs, courting health from the
sea-breezes, tempered by the brilliant sunshine. In the West Bay,
beginning at Carnolles, and extending to the centre of the town, there
are numerous hotels, some pleasantly situated, so as to overlook the
Promenade, and others at the base of the rising grounds. Here, also, are
a variety of villas for hire, and a number of houses specially called
_pensions_, the distinction between which and hotels is not very clear,
so far as concerns the residence of strangers for the season. In all the
hotels, possibly with one or two exceptions, there is a practice of
receiving guests _en pension_—that is to say, they give board and
lodging at so much per day. Whether designated hotels or pensions, these
establishments are for the most part on a scale of considerable
magnitude.

At these establishments no introduction is necessary. All are received
on an equality, no matter what be the nationality or rank in life. Some
houses are resorted to more by German or French visitors than others,
while some are preferred by English and Americans. The charge per day
for each person is usually from ten to twelve francs. For this sum you
have a small bedroom, fit for only one person, breakfast, luncheon, and
dinner, with generally the use of a public drawing-room. Candles,
firewood, and service are paid for separately. The object seems to be to
let as many bedrooms, and as few salons or private sitting-rooms, as
possible; at all events, the charge is made so high for a salon, that
comparatively few indulge in that luxury. The French way of living is
adopted. The meals are served to the guests in the _salle à manger_; but
in the case of breakfast, guests may ordinarily choose their own hour.
In fact, the breakfast, _petit déjeûner_, is a trifle, something to
carry you on till noon, and consists only of tea or coffee with bread
and butter. Luncheon at twelve is the _déjeûner_ proper, and is styled
the _déjeûner à la fourchette_. It is in reality a dinner with different
hot meats and omelettes, but without soup or dessert. Half a bottle of
_vin ordinaire_ is allowed to each person. Dinner, the great meal of the
day, takes place at six o’clock. This is the well-known _table-d’hôte_,
set out in good style. There is the same allowance of vin ordinaire as
at noon, but other wines are supplied to order.

Under the pension system no tea is given in the evening. After dinner,
some go to their bedrooms, others to the drawing-room, for the sake of
music or conversation, or to look over a few old newspapers, for want of
anything better to do. The drawing-room is usually styled a _salon de
lecture_, because it is presumedly a reading-room. A tattered
_Galignani_, a week old, lying on the table, will constitute the room a
salon de lecture. This mode of living in public may be amusing to those
who do not object to racket and noisy talk in several languages. My own
experiences have not been very successful, particularly as regards the
drawing-rooms or sham salons de lecture, where usually some young lady,
with long hair hanging down her back, has, by her frantic performances
on the piano, banished everything like quietude and comfort. What with
one charge or another, the cost of living _en pension_ at Mentone is
rarely under a hundred francs, or four pounds, for each person per week.
In very many cases it will amount to five pounds. Preferring to occupy a
private salon, I submitted to a higher charge. Last season, I procured a
salon and two bedrooms on the first floor at a hotel overlooking the
Promenade at a charge of 105 francs, and for meals served privately 119
francs, for two persons per week. A charge of 10½ francs was made for
service. Wine, fuel, and lights were paid for in addition. The sum-total
was usually about 267 francs, or £10, 14s. per week. These charges were
lower than I had paid the previous year at another hotel, but I do not
scruple to say they were exorbitant, for the _logement_ and _nourriture_
were not worth the money. Like all, however, who capriciously depart
from the plan of eating and drinking in a crowd according to the routine
of the establishment, I ought not perhaps to complain. The table-d’hôte
system is unquestionably the cheapest, and also the best as regards
variety of dishes, wherefore comparatively few attempt the method of
taking meals in their own apartment.

In appearance, the hotels and pensions of Mentone are well built and
substantial, with usually a coating of cement or paint of a light
colour. All the stairs are stone—in one or two instances marble. The
floors are laid with tiles, covered with carpets; the furniture good.
The rooms are arranged in rows along each side of the passages, and
communicate with each other. In one point of view, this is a convenient
arrangement, for it allows any one to occupy two or more apartments _en
suite_; but against it there is the objection that you are separated
possibly from noisy neighbours only by a thin and imperfectly
constructed door (of two leaves); and it is impossible by any precaution
to avert this contingency, for there is a frequent shifting of visitors.
A little annoyed by the vivacity of some neighbours who spoke in German
at about the pitch of their voice, we tried to deaden the sound by
hanging up a railway wrapper over the doorway. For such imperfect
arrangements the hotels of Mentone are not singular. The same thing
prevails at Nice, where, on one occasion, we had to vacate our rooms in
consequence of a lady and gentleman taking lessons in singing in the
next apartment—the pair going through the gamut for hours, one in a
shrill treble, the other in a deep bass voice, and both of course
regardless of the noise they created, or the inconvenience to which they
were putting their neighbours. There is another structural imperfection
which may be experienced in some of the Mentone hotels. It consists in
the fire-places being placed in the outer wall so near the connecting
doors, as not to admit of a party sitting around them in the English
fashion. Besides being awkwardly placed, the fire-places are not
furnished with grates for burning coal. On the occurrence of a stretch
of cold weather, the want of coal-grates is felt to be a serious defect,
for the heat derived from burning wood is very insufficient. The fuel
ordinarily supplied consists of billets of old olive and fig trees, two
and a half francs being charged for a basket which will last a day. I
have known persons who used two baskets in a day, or upwards of four
shillings’ worth of wood. As a kind of favour, during the coldest part
of the season, we were, for a fair consideration, indulged with some
pieces of coal to mix with the wood on the hearth, and in this way
contrived to strengthen the blaze a little.

A few words may be offered respecting the situation of the principal
hotels, beginning at the western entrance to the town. The Hôtel du
Pavilion, on right, at Carnolles; well managed, with a small salon de
lecture; back overlooks the sea; rather distant from the town, and the
roads dirty in bad weather, but situation otherwise pleasant. Hôtel
Splendide, on left after crossing the Borigo; an elegant new house
facing the south; has an outlook to the sea, but this may be interrupted
if buildings be placed on an open piece of ground which is at present
offered for sale. Hôtel de Londres, a smaller house on same side of the
road a little farther on, good, but partially overshadowed by buildings
on south side of the road. Hôtel de Turin on right, with windows to the
south overlooking the Promenade; consists of two houses, one being
styled the Annèxe, but there is a connection between the two by a
covered passage; no salon de lecture, although one of the French
guide-books says there is; only a salle à manger, salons, and bedrooms;
clean; good service; convenient by means of a back entrance from
Promenade; but the noise of the sea troublesome. Hôtel du Parc, a short
way up the Route de Turin; new; overlooks the Carei, but seems much
darkened by rows of tall plane trees. Hôtels du Louvre and Beau Séjour,
at base of hills, facing the south, with orange gardens in front,
reached by the road on left bank of the Carei, also by cross-road from
main street, and situated near the town; good, and away from noise of
the sea; well adapted for invalids; resorted to by Germans and French;
the railway, after crossing the Carei, is carried near the back of these
houses. Hôtel de la Méditerranée, on left or north side of main street,
good, and used by strangers passing through the town; opposite is a
short lane conducting to the Promenade; as the situation is central, it
would be found convenient to reside in this hotel until permanent
quarters were secured. Hôtel d’Orient, new, situated back from north
side of main street near the Cercle; a southern exposure, but shut out
from view of sea. Grand Hôtel de Victoria, a very large splendid house,
frequented by aristocracy, on right or south side of the street; back
windows overlook the sea; and a back entrance communicates with the
Promenade; this house has a lift for benefit of residents on the higher
floors. Hôtel de Paris, same side of the street; best known for its
café, billiard-rooms, and restaurant. Hôtel du Midi fronts the
Promenade, which alone separates it from the beach; noise of sea
troublesome. Hôtel d’Angleterre, formerly called Hôtel de Turin, fronts
Place Napoléon, where travelling carriages arrive and are for hire; back
windows with a broad balcony overlook the sea. In this hotel, which is
at the heart of the town, a lady friend resided during the winter of
1862–63, and greatly enjoyed a seat on the balcony, the fine season
completely remedying a throat complaint. Since that period, the environs
of the house on the side next the sea appear to have deteriorated, being
not only dirty, but noisy, from crowds of boys who frequent the place
for outdoor sports.

The foregoing are the principal hotels in the West Bay, and besides them
I may instance the pensions Hemmelmann, Camous, Miramar, and Bournabat,
overlooking the Promenade, and Imberti, prettily situated in a garden on
left bank of the Borigo. In the East Bay, the hotels standing in a row
near each other, and generally spacious and elegant, are as follow:
Hôtel de la Grande Brétagne; Grand Hôtel de la Paix; Hôtel des Anglais,
frequented by English and Americans (here reside during the season, Dr
J. H. Bennet, and Dr J. Martin, a skilled English dentist); Hôtel des
Iles Britannique; Grand Hôtel. All these, and there may be one or two
others, also some pensions, are on the level ground, entering from the
roadway, and having a southern exposure to the sea. There is a detached
hotel, Hôtel d’Italie, with a good outlook, situated on the hill above,
reached by a flight of steps and sloping drive; the landlady is English;
the only objection to this house is the difficulty of getting up and
down.

[Illustration: Hotels in the East Bay.]

As regards detached villas ready furnished for hire, there is a good
choice in the early part of the season, at rents ranging from fifteen
hundred to five thousand francs. Those occupying them will either have
to bring servants with them or hire them on the spot. Some superior
residences of this kind are situated at Carnolles. One of them in this
quarter, quite palatial in character, is the mansion which belonged to
the Prince of Monaco previous to his expulsion from the commune. There
are several villas of a respectable class on or near the Promenade; a
number equal, if not superior, in appearance are situated in the valley
of the Carei; and some of tasteful architecture have just been erected
at the farther extremity of the Eastern Bay. In general, the villas are
handsome buildings situated in gardens, with gateways for admitting
carriages to drive up to the door. The whole are provided with Venetian
blinds hung outside the windows, by which means the houses may be
effectually shut up at the close of the season. I observed that the
windows of some of the villas have frames covered with fine gauze to
exclude flies and mosquitoes; when a window is opened for air, the gauze
frame takes the place of the glass; a most luxurious piece of furniture
this. Some of the villas are provided with stables and coach-house. The
common practice, however, is to hire carriages and horses from persons
who make a business of lending them. A good carriage, either to open
landau-fashion or to shut up, with driver and pair of horses, the whole
turn-out in good style, may be hired at about 625 francs per month, for
which sum everything is included. In a few instances, a villa
comprehends two distinct dwellings, one in the lower and another in the
upper floor, and having separate entrances. For the most part prettily
furnished in the French style, the villas are not always well provided
with water, nor is their system of drainage very perfect. The whole, I
believe, like most of the hotels and pensions, depend on pump-wells, and
with few exceptions the drainage is into cess-pools. Here we touch on
two weak points in the character of Mentone. I cannot say that I
experienced any inconvenience from either; but things are certainly not
what we should expect in a community which depends, to a great extent,
on its colony of strangers.

Another class of dwellings for hire are floors ready furnished, reached
by common stairs from the public thoroughfares. Houses so laid out in
floors for separate families, are styled _Maisons_—as, for example,
Maison Gastaldy, Maison Ribaud; being so called from the names of their
respective proprietors. Some floors are divided into two dwellings; each
dwelling is designated an _Appartement_, though consisting of several
rooms with kitchen. Many of these floor dwellings are on a respectable
scale; the rent for the season being from 800 to 2000 francs. Service is
not given, and will require to be procured separately, as in the case of
detached residences. An English family of my acquaintance hires a
dwelling of this kind by the year, going and returning annually. Every
year, at the proper season, the family arrives, bringing an English
female domestic, to whom a native servant is added to complete the
establishment. At the end of the season, the dwelling being locked up,
is left to the care of the proprietor till it is again wanted. No plan
of housekeeping can match this for independence and comfort. It is well
suited for families who, for some special reason, require habitually to
winter abroad.

There is still one other class of houses offered for hire, furnished.
These are _Châlets_, or cottages of moderate dimensions, situated amidst
orange and olive groves on the sides of the hills, but to which access
is obtained only by winding pathways fit for pedestrians, or for donkeys
with panniers to bring all necessary provisions. Persons who have a
fancy for ruralising amidst very charming scenery, could find nothing
more suitable than a residence in these secluded spots. Water, I fear,
will prove a difficulty, but that must be looked to.

When several members of a family have to be accommodated, I would
recommend a hired dwelling of some sort, be it a villa, a floor, or a
châlet, not only for the sake of economy, but for that degree of peace
and comfort which is not obtainable even in the best-managed hotel or
pension. In the furniture of houses let for hire, napery and plated
articles for the table are included, and it may lessen anxiety to know
that dinners ready cooked are sent out to order from certain hotels. A
confectioner and _pâtissier_ may be applied to for a like purpose. There
is a keen competition in the profession of the _blanchisseuse_. For
those residing in hired dwellings, the town is well provided with shops
where all things necessary can be procured, which was not the case only
a few years ago; and there is also a market daily for eggs, poultry,
vegetables, and other articles.

The building and furnishing of houses for hire is evidently a great
trade in Mentone. It is a method of employing capital which, being
thought safe, appears to commend itself to French notions. Men of
considerable wealth, who make little show, embark in it. _Propriétaires_
owning villas of an elegant and costly kind, which from their fortune
they would be entitled to reside in, may be heard of as living in an
obscure and economic way in the town. Houses for hire of all kinds are
for the most part let by commission-agents, who have lists for
inspection. Strangers who propose to rent such dwellings, will find it
to their advantage to seek the advice and assistance of Mr T.
Willoughby, a well-known English grocer and wine-merchant settled in the
town, who carries on a business as a house and estate agent, and looks
personally after the condition of every dwelling with which he is
concerned. To facilitate this species of business, he prints a list of
houses and apartments for hire, with a plan of the town shewing where
each is situated. He gives a copy of this useful pamphlet, which is
printed in English, along with all requisite information, gratis. All
English-speaking visitors know Willoughby, who may be considered to be a
kind of commercial adviser-general, and ready on all occasions to help
his countrymen.

The season is said to begin on the 25th October, and terminate on the
25th April, when the heat becomes inconvenient. I observed, however,
that strangers have not fully arrived until the middle of December, and
many depart at the beginning of March. Those who come first have of
course the best choice of accommodation. According to a list published
on the 1st of January 1870, there were 215 English, 41 Americans, 116
Germans, 13 Belgians, 12 Danes and Swedes, 98 French, 21 Dutch, 46
Russians and Poles, and 20 of other nations—total, 582. But as a very
large number of the entries in the list were of husband and wife, or of
families and suite, we cannot estimate the whole at fewer than twelve
hundred adults, and it would be a moderate calculation to set down their
aggregate expenditure during the season at less than £200,000.

There were few with whom I conversed who did not complain of the charges
of the hotel-keepers: one lady was quite excited on the subject,
speaking of the exactions for fuel, lights, and service as something
shameful. High charges are certainly more the rule than the exception,
and may in the fluctuations of fashion help to drive visitors elsewhere.
Nice, however, and other resorts in this quarter, are as dear as
Mentone. The hotel-keepers are not without a plausible excuse. They pay
high rents; they have to maintain an expensive establishment; their
harvest of visitors lasts only six months; two or three bad seasons in
succession might finish them. There is truth in this apology, but I
would counsel them not to rely too greatly upon it. They may with
advantage take into consideration the possibility of lowering the
sum-total of their weekly bills. Rivals have entered the field. The
people of San Remo, as if awakening from a trance, are making a push for
a share of the visitor traffic; and if they render their town attractive
by establishing a good promenade along the sea-margin, and by carrying
out sundry other improvements to meet the fancy of visitors, they may
seriously affect the hotel-keepers as well as the _propriétaires_ of
every French winter-resort. It may be years, as I have said, before the
railway is opened beyond Mentone (for Italy is in a sad state of
impecuniosity, or, more correctly, is suffering from a bad
administrative system, along with a want of credit), but there can be no
doubt that the railway will be completed as far as San Remo some time or
other; and when this event occurs, Cannes, Nice, and Mentone may look
for a degree of competition in their staple dependence which at present
they do not experience. They had better begin revising their tariff.

It will be understood from the foregoing explanations, that furnished
lodgings, in the English sense of the term, do not exist at Mentone.
There are no houses in which you can hire one or two apartments by the
week, and be waited on by the servants of the keeper. That plan of
living is not according to French usage. The tickets hung out of
_Appartement Meublé_, signify a furnished suite of rooms without
service, and where the dwellers are left to their own resources. Those
who wish to be free of the trouble of independent housekeeping, go into
a pension, which suits the gregariousness of the French character. Many
English will feel this deficiency to be an inconvenience. It often
passed through my mind, that lodging-houses on the English system would
answer, and more particularly if that peculiar species of lodging-house
which prevails at Brighton were introduced. There, the lodging-houses
called ‘Mansions’—as, for example, the Belvidere Mansion—are ready to
let apartments and supply food and service at so much a day, each lodger
being served in his own apartment, if he pleases; or they will allow
lodgers to purchase what they require for themselves. Nowhere, in all my
ramblings, have I found any lodging-house system so thoroughly
convenient and agreeable as this, and it would be a great recommendation
to Mentone if it had something of the kind which we could point to.

I may offer another remark. _Propriétaires_ at Mentone confine their
building speculations too exclusively to detached and costly villas, and
to tall houses in the main street. Visitors who wish to hire dwellings
do not all incline to pay a high rent for a villa, or to live over shops
and have windows looking into a dusty street, noisy with traffic. Many
would prefer, if it could be got, a house in a connected row, in a
sheltered and retired situation, with a southern exposure—such as may be
obtained in one of the crescents at Bath, or the famed _Lung’ Arno_ at
Pisa. Instead of setting down villas in all sorts of odd spots, some
facing this way and some that, and often one overshadowing and
interrupting the view of another, how much better would it be for
_propriétaires_ to unite, if at all possible, in erecting a score of
houses not too high, on the plan of a crescent, in some choice
situation, and which houses, while commodious as dwellings, would be
hailed as a tranquil and sunny refuge for invalids.



                              CHAPTER IV.


Something may now be specially said of the climate of Mentone, which as
yet is its sole attraction. The charm of the place is its fine air,
sunshine, and shelter during the winter months, and for these advantages
some petty annoyances may be endured. What will not any one rationally
disposed give for health, or a protraction of existence? A journey of
several days, much expense, an absence of months from home and from
valued friends, possibly professional inconvenience—what is all that
when weighed in the balance against a means of extending one’s length of
days, and making life a pleasure instead of a constant pain and anxiety!
Change of air and scene is in itself a good thing, as is universally
acknowledged; but doubly beneficial to the jaded and the enfeebled by
functional derangement is the substitution of a mild and exhilarating
for an inclement, humid, and depressing winter.

Evidently, large numbers do not need to be stimulated to winter in the
more sunny regions of the south of France. At several places, the
accommodation offered is barely sufficient for the demand. The crowd of
emigrants is of a very varied character. Fashion, ennui, and love of
gaiety seem to send quite as many abroad as absolutely bad health. The
greater proportion of persons, old and young, whom you see frequenting
the promenades, and driving about in open pony phaetons, have nothing
apparently the matter with them. Many of them, doubtless, have come
abroad for a bit of fun, for personal exhibition in a new field, or on
some other frivolous ground, satisfactory to their own conscience. It is
at all events certain that if weakened by bodily infirmity, they act as
if it were otherwise, disregarding alike the laws of health and the
counsels which are offered regarding the peculiar winter climate of the
Riviera.

To a stranger from a northern region, the striking thing about the
climate is, that during the day, while the sun brilliantly shines, there
is a feeling of, and a resemblance to, a fine autumn—say the heat of an
English September; but no sooner does the sun disappear below the
Mediterranean, than we are back in a minute to our old accustomed wintry
sensations. Why the atmosphere does not retain the heat imparted by the
sun’s rays is perfectly obvious. The air is so dry and thin that there
is little medium for retaining the warmth, and the heat generated
escapes in the clear sky overhead. What we have to expect, therefore, by
a winter sojourn in Mentone, is a species of summer while in the direct
rays of the sun, during daylight; and it is our own blame if we suffer
by neglecting the precautions suggested by the chills which settle down
immediately after sunset. It is, however, to be borne in mind, that the
cold of evening and night is only comparative. In an atmosphere so
rarefied, a temperature of 40° to 60° Fahr. feels more chilly than the
same degree of cold in Great Britain. The feelings and discreet
apprehensions are a better warning than a recollection of temperature
according to the scale of the thermometer. In the shade during the day
there is a sensation of bleakness, approaching to that felt at night.
Accordingly, to secure the full benefit of the climate, it is
indispensable to have rooms with less or more of a southern exposure. No
temptation of cheapness must induce the health-seeker to occupy
apartments facing the north, or under the shadow of buildings which
exclude the glow of sunshine. The sun rises earlier and sets later at
Mentone during winter than it does in England, a circumstance favourable
to invalids and outdoor promenaders.

If the weather be good, the sunshine from half-past ten to half-past
three o’clock is delicious, and with the clear sky all nature is joyous.
Sometimes the rays of the sun are so inconvenient, that many persons
walk about under the shelter of white cotton parasols lined with blue or
green, and with hats shrouded in white gauze. It is during such warmth
that the visitors pour forth to ramble along the Promenade, and make
short excursions on foot or on donkeys, or drive about in open
carriages. Those who prefer to remain within doors, throw the windows
open, from floor to ceiling, and so far enjoy the pleasures of fresh
air. The fire, if lit in the morning, is at these times allowed to die
out, and the inmates have the satisfaction of depending exclusively on
the wholesome warmth of the sun. To derive as much benefit as possible
from the open air without bodily exertion, loungers seat themselves on
benches (with backs) commodiously placed for public use on the
Promenade, near the margin of the sea, the surging of which on the
shingle diffuses saline particles in the atmosphere advantageous to some
classes of invalids.

Dr Siordet, an English medical practitioner who has been resident on the
spot for several years, mentions in his small work, _Mentone in its
Medical Aspect_ (1863), that the ‘small daily range of temperature is
one of the most important features of Mentone.’ He instances the
greatest for two years as being 15°·5 Fahr., and that in another year it
was 23°; also stating that the range was least in the colder months. In
the tables which he quotes, the mean temperature of the winter months
for ten years was as follows: November, 54°; December, 49°; January,
48°·75; February, 49°; March, 52°·9. During my stay on both occasions I
hung up a thermometer outside one of the windows, with a southern
exposure, but shaded from the sun, and recorded its indications twice
daily, at eight o’clock morning, and three o’clock afternoon, and these
pretty much corresponded with Dr Siordet’s tables. Frequently, the
temperature ranged from about 40° in the morning to 60° or 65° at from
noon to three o’clock. In November and December the temperature in the
morning was often 58°, and beyond this it did not rise if the day became
overclouded. In our bedrooms without a fire, the temperature in the
mornings, on rising, between seven and eight o’clock, ranged throughout
the winter at from 50° to 60°—commonly at about 54°. With these
generally favourable features in the climate, it has to be emphatically
stated that there are great differences of weather in different winters.
The season of 1868–69 was immensely superior to that of 1869–70, but so
was it everywhere throughout Europe, also on the northern coast of
Africa, and at Malta. Though well sheltered from the northern blasts,
Mentone lies invitingly open to winds from the south, south-east, and
south-west, and these can be cold enough when the Atlantic is encumbered
with icebergs, or when other causes of atmospheric disturbance greatly
lower the temperature of the European continent and African coast.

While the vegetation of the district is a proof that the summers are
hot, and the winters on the whole mild, it is indisputable that the
mildness is sometimes broken in upon by days and weeks of cold weather,
in which few visitors, with any regard to health, venture out. At the
close of 1868 and beginning of 1869, the weather was beautiful; the
_jour de l’an_ as fine as could be desired, and the thoroughfares
crowded with holiday-makers. Let us contrast this state of things with
the weather twelve months afterwards. I quote from my notebook.

‘_Dec. 21._ Dull, overcast, bitterly cold wind; temp. 54°-55°.—_Dec.
22._ There has been a stormy night; sea tempestuous, has destroyed
tramway on the beach; morning dull; the Promenade flooded with
sea-water; temp. 53°-56°; snow on tops of the mountains.—_Dec. 23._
Fine; temp. 53°-65°; many people out looking at the havoc on the
beach.—_Dec. 24._ Fine; temp. 52°-62°.—_Dec. 25._ Dull, cold; temp.
50°-56°; a dismal Christmas Day; few people out; attempted a walk to the
Quai Bonaparte, but driven back by a cold stream of air down the
street.—_Dec. 26._ Dull, overcast, very cold; temp. 43°-41°; could not
venture out on account of the cold wind.—_Dec. 27._ Dull, overcast, very
cold; temp. same as yesterday; did not go out.—_Dec. 28._ Clear but
cold, with wind from south-east; mountain-tops white with snow; walked
out, and saw ice half an inch thick on pools in the Borigo and Carei;
temp. 40°–43°; am told that the temperature during the night has been
down to 26°.—_Dec. 29._ Clear and fine, but a cold wind; temp. 40°–63°;
children breaking the ice on the pools, and carrying pieces away.—_Dec.
30._ Cold but fine; ice still on pools; temp. 42°–43°.—_Dec. 31._ Clear
and fine; sun melting the ice; temp. 45°–55°.—_Jan. 1, 1870._ Dull,
cold, overcast, showers; temp. 39°–47°; minimum temp. by a registering
thermometer, north side of house, said to have been 34°·5; a miserable
_jour de l’an_ for the poor people; few out holiday-making; stalls of
books and toys, and a show of a fat boy at east end of Promenade, shut
up for want of customers; knife-grinder in disgust has left his wheel in
the rain, and retired for consolation to a neighbouring Débit de Vin.’
The extracts need not be continued.

For about a fortnight after New-year’s Day the weather was tolerable;
then, it became cold and frequently wet, until we left Mentone, at the
middle of February, to conclude the season at Nice. If we could have had
proper fires, the cold would have been of no account, for I walked about
almost daily, and sometimes made excursions; the torment consisted in
keeping up a sufficient degree of warmth while confined to the house.
The season was indisputably an impeachment of the reputed climate of
Mentone. The natives, who consider the district a sort of earthly
paradise, were much discomfited—the shopkeepers in despair. The
carriages which used to be open were sometimes seen shut up as closely
as if they had been driving up Regent Street. The keeper of our hotel
(an aged Italian with ear-rings) vehemently declared that he had never
known such bad weather in all his experience—‘_Jamais, jamais, jamais!_’

Our only resource in the cold weather were the wood fires, feebly
supplemented by bits of coal. By all our expedients we could not raise
the temperature of our salon above 63°; the _sensation_ of cold being
several degrees below that point. My fingers were at times too cold to
write, and we were fain to sit with hands and feet close to the
imperfect fire, which it required some dexterity to manage; for any
awkwardness with the tongs, which are mechanically on the sugar-tongs
principle, might have laid the whole in ruin. Yet from these brushes of
cold we suffered no ill effects. There was inconvenience, but not
injury. Cold days now and then, even to the extent of benumbing the
fingers, do no great harm. What kills in England is protracted cold,
accompanied with damp and a thick atmosphere. We experienced no fogs;
the air was comparatively light and dry—so dry as to have a visible
effect on the skin, and to suggest that there was a more than usual
exhalation from the system. The snow and mists never descended below the
tops of the distant mountains. The hills and gardens remained green. The
only damage to vegetation was the blight of exposed exterior branches of
some of the lemon, orange, and other trees. At Nice, as I afterwards
observed, there were similar marks of injury. The frost had not been
general. The low temperature of 32°, or under, occurred principally in
the openings of the valleys, where the pools were operated on by
currents of cold air. Had the frost been severe and extended over the
district, the lemon and citron trees, which are peculiarly delicate,
must have perished. Mingled with the troublesomely cold and wet weather
there were fine June-like days, when all was joyous, as befitted the
ordinary character of a southern winter. What we endured from the
intermittent cold of the season of 1869–70 was not for a moment to be
compared to what was experienced at home. And this is the way to
estimate a wintering at Mentone. We have to think not so much of what we
have enjoyed, as what we have escaped.

Visitors are apt to make mistakes regarding the climate of Mentone.
Expecting too much from it, they neglect the precautions which are
necessary. Dr J. H. Bennet, the principal authority on the climate,
says: ‘It should never be forgotten that in winter the heat is sun-heat,
and that the air, barring its influence, is usually cold. Warm clothes
and woollen outer garments should be used.’ Dr Siordet says on the same
subject: ‘Too much stress has, perhaps, been laid on the excellence of
the climate of Mentone, and the expectations of visitors have thereby
been unduly raised. No greater mistake could be made than to expect here
perpetual sunshine and a perfectly equable temperature; a certain number
of rainy days do occur, as my weather-table shews; a moderate amount of
cold must be anticipated and provided for.’

Dr Edwin Lee in his _Notice of Mentone_ (1862) is less explicit on this
point. Speaking of the infrequency of frost, he says: ‘According to the
account of an influential resident (M. de Montleon), it appears that
during twenty-seven years the thermometer descended only three times
below the freezing-point (in three successive winters).’ No one can
doubt that so low a temperature as 32° is rarely reached. I have never
seen it below 39°. But what visitors have to contend with is not a
particularly low degree of cold according to the thermometer, but an
occasional chilliness and wintry feeling, for which warm clothing is
necessary in the open air, and a good fire becomes desirable within
doors.

The cold which is endured at times in a sitting-room may not be
injurious to health, but it is exceedingly unpleasant, and greatly
poisons the enjoyment of a wintering in the south. It may look like a
heresy to speak with disrespect of wood fires. They answer well enough
for a short time in the morning and evening; but are a poor expedient in
days successively cold, wet, and boisterous. Movable grates with coal
fires should therefore be supplied when wanted on occasions of this
kind. It is perhaps too much to expect that hotel and pension keepers
will voluntarily remedy the deficiency. They have a superstitious
veneration for wood fires, and regard with traditional complacency the
practice of supplying _paniers de bois_ at 2·50—the more the merrier, so
far as their feelings are concerned. Cold weather is to them the opening
of a brisk trade in timber. French visitors who do not know much about
coal, and perhaps have a hatred of it, submit without murmuring to these
venerable usages. The English, as it may be supposed, have their growl,
and look on the whole thing as a downright imposition. It will not
surprise me, therefore, to hear that the 2·50 usage gets into disrepute.
On calling to see some acquaintances at the Hôtel du Pavillon on what
happened to be a cold day, I found a coal fire of proper proportions in
the salon de lecture, which I accepted as a step in the right direction.
As regards those who wish to hire ready-furnished residences, they have
the remedy in their own hands. I would recommend them to procure a few
movable small fire-grates. If they cannot be procured on the spot
(regarding which Willoughby may be consulted), they may be had from
Paris. There is a store for the supply of such things under the arcade
in front of the Palais-Royal. Coal is imported into Mentone, and can be
had in any quantity. It is not Wallsend, but it will do.



                               CHAPTER V.


In a few things the French are a little behind. They have established no
uniform national time. The railways keep Paris time, which may be
learned from a clock exhibited at every station; but provincial towns
have all their own time, and that is somewhat distracting. At Nice, the
hotel and post-office clocks shew both Paris and local time. At Mentone,
time is in a chaotic condition. Some few years ago, according to a
floating tradition, an English clergyman in the town who was punctilious
about time, possessed a watch which was reckoned so great an authority
that people thankfully set their pendules by it. Since this
public-spirited individual quitted the place, time has become
disorganised, and as no one can tell the hour precisely, you may happen
to be too soon or too late at church or at any appointed place of
meeting. No doubt a horologer who deals in jewellery and mosaics has a
clock swinging in his window inviting the confidence of passengers, and
over the entrance of the _Eglise Evangélique_ there is a clock of
respectable appearance, but I never put much faith in their indications.

The want of a good well-accredited town clock is only one of many wants
in Mentone, of which something severe could be said. Let us, however, be
gentle and considerate. It is easy saying ‘they’ should do this, and
‘they’ should do that, but where are ‘they’ to get the money to do all
these fine things? Any one who has been at the helm of civic affairs
knows that scarcely a day passes without the receipt of letters
patriotically pointing out great public works which should be undertaken
for the good of mankind, but never giving the slightest hint where the
money is to come from to execute them. It is an unfortunate thing that
everywhere money is in such urgent requisition, yet so it is. Mentone is
in the position of needing a good deal, in which respect it resembles a
man of small capital newly set up in business with great possibilities
of prosperity. We have seen something of its history. It is an old, very
old town, and should by this time have attained a decent maturity. But
think of what it has come through—held down, starved, taxed, cudgelled,
and brutalised by that ‘noble Genoese’ family which so long maintained
sway over it; think of the difficulty it had to get rid of these rulers;
how sore were its trials until it was taken in hand by the great and
gallant nation with which its fate is now associated; and how short a
time has elapsed since it found itself famous as a winter resort, with
obligations imposed on it which it had no means adequately to discharge.
A consequence of this unforeseen celebrity was that land suddenly rose
to ten or twenty times its former value. Capitalists, local and
cosmopolitan, made a rush to build villas, hotels, pensions, and houses
with shops, without any concerted plan. With the old town clustering on
a height like a bee-hive, nothing could be done. The new edifices spread
themselves westwards, eastwards, anywhere—the only thing that kept them
from falling into utter disorder being the obligation not to encroach on
the great Corniche road, or on the cross-way called the Route de Turin.

In the scramble for sites, all kinds of mean selfishness came
vivaciously into play. Enormous prices were sought for the merest scraps
of ground. The rules of inheritance also stood in the way. In and about
Mentone it is not uncommon for several members of a family to own a
house, a garden, or even a single olive-tree. An inheritance may consist
of but one or two branches. Petty and complicated heritages of this kind
are not easily dealt with. At any offer to purchase, the proverbial
_pretium affectionis_ undergoes a marvellous development. Attempts to
effect improvements on a sweeping scale are everywhere difficult without
the potent statutory spell of ‘compulsory powers;’ here, from the
divisional heritage system, they are scarcely practicable unless central
despotic rule interposes. From one cause or another, the opportunity to
lay out the newer part of Mentone on a symmetrical plan was lost. The
most genial as well as most beautiful spot in the Riviera was
architecturally spoiled. There was no attempt to construct buildings in
harmony with the surrounding scenery—a too common fault everywhere, but
especially to be lamented where Nature has been so prodigal of beauty.
The most conspicuous instance of bad taste has been the setting down of
a square box-like villa, painted a glowing buff colour, on the top of
the pyramidal hill which lies between the valley of the Borigo and
Carei. Go where you will, this eyesore stares you in the face—an
offensive blotch in the midst of a glorious amphitheatre of gray
picturesque mountains. Will the proprietor not take pity on strangers,
and at least tone down the colour of his box? For a tint, he has only to
look behind at the old château which crowns the heights of Ste Agnes.

It will take a week to see Nice. You may walk all over Mentone in a
forenoon, and two or three days will make you fully acquainted with it.
The long main street, named at one end the Rue Victor Emmanuel, and at
the other the Rue St Michel, offers nothing to attract. In winter, the
plane-trees, which line the roadway for a certain distance, are bare. On
our arrival at the beginning of November, the leaves were falling, and
encumbered the thoroughfare, until they were cleared away to be used for
litter to horses and cattle. Some of the houses in the street are of a
huge size; those on the south side throwing those of the north partially
into the shade. The newer parts of the street are provided with side
pavements; in the older parts towards the east, the buildings stand
close to the roadway. Foot-passengers have accordingly to take their
chance of being interrupted by carriages, but no other inconvenience is
experienced, because here the street is laid from side to side with flat
paving-stones, as at Genoa, Naples, and some other Italian cities. In
the eastern or older division, the chief shops and other places of
business, also public offices, are situated. Few of the shops make much
display, and there is little regularity in their appearance; some with
large, others with small windows. It would be unreasonable to expect in
so small a town the variety of Nice. Yet there are evidences of
progress. Those who visited Mentone seven years ago, could have
purchased few of the delicacies which are in constant request by the
English. Now, all that is changed. Wines, biscuits, pickles, sauces,
preserved meats, and other odds and ends, are now supplied as profusely
as at home. There are _tailleurs_ and _tailleuses_ ready for any
equipment. You might be furnished with a Highland kilt if you wanted it.
The town has a carnival in a small way. Previous to the beginning of
Lent, when balls are in the ascendant, there is a glow of ladies’
dresses spangled with gold, fancy costumes, masks, feathers, frippery,
and artificial flowers in the shop-window of the Amarantes, whose
well-known establishment comprehends a store of knick-knacks, where
there is no difficulty in getting rid of money. Speaking of money, there
are two banking-offices in the street, ready at a moment’s notice to
cash your Bank of England or circular notes, at the Paris rate of
exchange.

I should infer there is no police regulation to restrain shop-keepers
from placing goods outside their doors. The side-paths, though often of
scant width, are in sundry places occupied by stalls for the exhibition
of miscellaneous articles—calicoes, fish, poultry, meal, flour, fruit,
and vegetables, with glass cases of combs and cutlery. To all
appearance, any one may set down a stall anywhere, commence to sell
articles by auction, or draw a crowd about him as a tooth-extractor, or
curer of corns. All goes on in public. The pedicurist, a well-dressed
gentlemanly looking personage, takes his stand behind a table and chair.
He lays out his instruments. Harangues the masses as to what he has
done, and what he can do for them. He has cured the most inveterate
corns in all the courts of Europe. He shews a string of eight gold
medals given to him in gratitude by emperors, kings, queens, and
princesses. He has been sent for to Moscow. He has cured corns in the
Kremlin. He points exultingly to a large picture hung on a pole behind
him, representing the members of a royal family, each with a bare foot
on a richly embroidered cushion preparatory to be operated on, and all
of whom he cured one after the other, not a vestige of corn remaining.
And he is prepared this instant to cure the worst possible corn of any
monsieur or mademoiselle present, _sans souffrance_—insists greatly on
that—_oui, messieurs, sans souffrance; certainement sans souffrance_,
for the insignificant charge of _cinquante centimes_! One can scarcely
fail to be diverted with the volubility, the audacity, and the antics of
these wandering charlatans, who remind us of characters inimitably
touched off in the brilliant comedies of Molière.

[Illustration: Promenade du Midi, looking north-eastwards.]

A sea-side health resort without a promenade for loungers along the
beach can expect to do little good. What would Brighton have been
without its Parades? The Promenade des Anglais has in a sense been the
making of Nice. At Mentone, the working out the idea of a promenade was
not thought of till it was too late to do the thing rightly on the
Nicean principle. The villas and houses lining the south side of the
main street were set down in such a way as not to leave a sufficiently
commodious space next the sea, the view from which consists to a great
extent of irregular outs and ins, and backs of dwellings of various
heights. The blunder is irrecoverable. All that has been latterly
effected is a Promenade about forty feet wide, retained by a sloping
sea-wall, extending from the older part of the town on the east to the
Borigo on the west, and forming an unbroken line except at the Carei,
which foot-passengers cross by a wooden bridge. Styled the Promenade du
Midi, because it faces the south, it is on the whole a creditable
effort. It has been strongly represented that ‘they’ should extend the
Promenade to Cap Martin, which is quite practicable, and certainly
desirable, but whether ‘they’—or, to speak more plainly, the
municipality—have means or spirit to undertake so large a public work is
somewhat doubtful. Such as it is, the Promenade is a boon to visitors
who dwell in the West Bay. If the weather be fine, they are out, as has
been said, to enjoy the air and sunshine, also to walk about and
exchange courtesies with acquaintances, to see the fisher-people in
their picturesque costumes drawing their nets ashore, or to lounge on
the seats, and as far as possible think of nothing but the beauty of the
sky, and to be lulled with the ceaseless murmur of the waves.

Walking or driving, visitors prefer the Promenade, so far as it goes,
for a thoroughfare east and west. It is not very well kept, but it is
better than the main street, which one soon gets acquainted with, as it
is the only continuous passage for traffic. At a central part of the
street, where there is a cross entrance to the Promenade du Midi, will
often be seen a mixed throng of loungers of the ouvrier and vetturini
type, through which passengers have to thread their way. This place is
evidently the favourite lounge for town gossip, where there is
frequently something to excite critical remark in connection with the
octroi. At this spot is the receipt of custom for duties on animals
coming into the town for slaughter, and which must go through the
preliminary ceremony of being weighed. One after the other is urged to
walk on to the flat top of a steelyard, level with the ground, and
scarcely distinguishable from the street. What the poor animals cannot
rightly comprehend is the reason for making them stand on a particular
spot and no other. Oxen—great horned beasts of a light dun colour, which
have been driven from distant pasturages—are tolerably docile, and
require little management. They stand stupidly with their heads bowed
down, till the man in the adjoining office records their weight. Pigs—a
dark-skinned race like the Hampshire brocks, but with long legs, and
nearly as nimble as greyhounds—are more difficult to deal with. Disposed
constitutionally to take their own way, they can by no artifice be
persuaded to go or stand quietly on the machine. They move, they
wriggle, they bolt. Then begins the popular merriment. The onlookers
shout with laughter on seeing the abortive manœuvres of the drivers
to bring their charge to a proper sense of obedience. One of the
obstreperous pigs at length darts off in a state of indignation down the
street, with twenty gamins full cry after it—the groups of loungers all
the time frenzied with delight, and one of the _sergents de ville_, a
merry personage who seems to spend his days in chatting and smoking,
evidently relishes the _contre-temps_ with all his accustomed humour.

It may not be thoroughly _comme il faut_ for a visitor to notice such
popular diversions, but then what is he to do? Getting some amusement
from the harangue of a loquacious street charlatan, from the capers of a
long-legged pig scornfully refusing to be weighed, or from the playing
of a monkey on a miniature sham fiddle, seated on the hump of a
peripatetic dromedary—is it not better than having no amusement at all?
Mentone is a dull—a very dull—place. That is its reputation, and I am
not going to deny or qualify the fact. The town has not yet got so far
ahead as to have a regularly constituted system of public
entertainments, such as one has the opportunity to fall back upon for
recreation in Nice, Paris, or London. Nor does private society offer an
equivalent which can with safety be embraced by professed invalids or
the health-seeking sexagenarian. There are few natives with whom
visitors are likely to make an acquaintanceship. Dinner-giving is not
the custom of the place, and if it were, it would perhaps be so much the
worse. We are to keep in mind that it is not very advisable to go out
after sunset, which, in the depth of winter at Mentone, is about
half-past four o’clock. If visitors can make up an agreeable society
among themselves in the house in which they reside, they may be
congratulated. The chances are against their being able to do so, in
consequence of a difference in languages and tastes, as well as from the
peculiarities of hotel usages already referred to. Unless visitors be
specially fortunate, they will have to rely on themselves. The evenings
will probably be dull. You may occupy a neatly-furnished room, provided
with a wood fire, and a lamp on the table—a pair of candles being
useless for reading—and that is what has to be looked forward to. No
callers. The surging of the Mediterranean is heard outside. The moon and
a sparkling planet shine on the waters. It is a beauteous scene, but you
are alone in a strange land. Is it surprising that the heart should
yearn for home, and for the friends whose companionship and sympathy
count for so much in reckoning up the sum of earthly happiness?

Isolation, less or more—a monotony in daily routine—what the world calls
dulness—will have to be submitted to for the recurring hours of
brilliant sunshine, and the possibility of reinvigorating a frame wasted
by functional or organic derangement, or by a too assiduous pursuit of
professional, or it may be needlessly self-imposed duties. What
sacrifices, it has been asked, will not one make for the possibility of
improved health? Curiously enough, many will make no sacrifices
whatever. This I discovered during my last visit, and it is proper to
speak plainly out on the subject. Numbers of people go abroad
professedly for the benefit of their health. They have been advised to
winter in the south of France or Italy, and no doubt they have been
cautioned as to a mode of living suitable for effecting their cure. If
quitting home be a sacrifice, that they make, but it would be hard to
say what other privation they endure. They have probably never been
accustomed to restrain their inclinations, and have lived in a perpetual
holiday humour. Possibly, they are under the strange hallucination that
mere climate is to do everything—that no care on their own part is
necessary. Such is the most charitable view that can be taken of conduct
that could be more frequently explained by a deficiency in self-control,
and a heedless recklessness of consequences. They like gaiety, and will
have it at all hazards. The pleasures of dressing, dancing, and evening
amusements are what they alone greatly care for. Ladies bringing
enormous boxfuls of fashionable attire, wish to shew it off somehow.
Favoured with good looks, liveliness of manners, and a fair stock of
jewellery, it may be possible to become that most envied of women, ‘the
belle of the ball.’ Young gentlemen, however (and some not young), have
also their aptitudes for amusements, which involve a necessity for going
out in the evening.

Parties of twos and threes of this indiscreet order of invalids come to
Mentone. Fun must be had, though the forfeiture of health, and even of
existence, should be the penalty. Here arise some strange reflections as
to wintering in Mentone. Several English medical practitioners reside in
the town during the winter, among whom Dr J. Henry Bennet acts as
consulting physician. It is customary for invalids on arrival to ask
advice regarding their respective complaints from one or other of these
professional gentlemen; but frequently the advice is not strictly
followed, and fatal consequences ensue. The sunshine and azure skies
tempt to take unjustifiable liberties. The more staid order of visitors
of course remain in their hotels in the evening, there finding such
slender means of amusement as these houses afford. Others, indifferent
to what may ensue, and unable to resist temptations, accept invitations
to dancing-parties, although perhaps aware that one of their lungs is
already gone, and that the other is in process of decay. They have come
to Mentone to have that one lung healed, and with care the object might
be accomplished; but how is it possible to resist going to that
delightful party! As well, they say, go into an infirmary at once! These
perverse indiscretions cause the death of several visitors every year.
Such conduct gives fair-play neither to the climate nor to the physician
who is consulted. I was told of a young gentleman of fortune with lungs
very much gone, who, two years ago, contrary to advice, attended a
dancing-party. The result was very abrupt. He dropped down in the room,
was carried out, and died in the passage. In that ‘Dance of Death’ he
had finished the last atom of lung—gaily ended his days in the revelry
of a waltz. Last season, a young lady, considered to be the reigning
beauty, was pointed out as having only one lung, which it was alleged
she was doing all in her power to get rid of. What is the use of
invalids of this stamp coming to Mentone, unless it be for the pleasure
of finishing their career abroad? Dr Bennet, with whom I had some
conversation on the subject of climate and hygiene, spoke despondingly
of these errors, and mentioned a number of cases which proved fatal, but
might have been effectually cured had his professional advice been
followed. But the same thing, I suppose, could be said by all medical
men whatsoever. ‘I _will_ die, and nobody _shall_ save me.’

As a contrast to these instances of thoughtlessness, we have
opportunities of recognising cases in which the utmost care is taken to
derive the fullest possible benefit from the climate. The anxiety shewn
by relatives for the recovery of some young person under their charge is
matter for daily and interesting remark. It may be the case of a boy
affected with phthisis in its early stage—the hope of a family in a
decline. With what solicitude is the pallid youth wheeled out to the
Promenade; there, under the shelter of a white parasol, to breathe the
fine air wafted from the Mediterranean. How, on any symptom of a cold
wind, is his Bath-chair drawn aside to a protecting wall! What means are
taken to amuse him by conversation, and observations on natural
phenomena! How, at the proper hour, the attendant wheels him home, and
remarks made as to the circumstances which amused the passing hours! In
one case of this kind, we took especial interest. It was that of a
French gentleman who day after day brought out his partially paralysed
child to enjoy, and, if possible, benefit by, the animating sunshine.
Towards the end of the season there was a visible improvement in the
languid countenance; and at our departure we ventured to hope that
parental care had not been unblessed or unavailing.

If the irregularities to which I have adverted admit of any excuse, it
will be in the deficiency of rational and available amusement. At Nice,
there is a military band which plays almost daily in the Jardin Public,
much to the gratification of the visitors. There is nothing of this kind
at Mentone, neither, as may be gathered from previous remarks, does
there exist any means of genial or social intercourse on a scale worth
speaking of. The English-speaking population are scattered about among
the hotels and villas, and are generally unknown to each other; while
the obligation of not venturing over the door after dark, if one has any
regard to health, is in itself an insuperable difficulty. In these
circumstances, it would greatly contribute to the pleasure of a winter
sojourn at Mentone were a few mutual friends, with similarity of tastes,
to sojourn at the same establishment. It is pleasant to note that
croquet parties are getting into vogue among the younger class of
visitors. The turf—if there be turf at all—is not what English players
are accustomed to; but if the weather be good, the deficiency is not of
serious import. The introduction of croquet is something, at anyrate,
set agoing in the way of wholesome recreation and companionship. More
may follow.

It is fortunate for invalids that there is good medical attendance at
Mentone, in consequence of English practitioners residing at least for
the season in the place. The fees expected are said to be higher than
what most persons are in the habit of paying at home. On this point, I
am unable to offer any personal experience. I believe napoleon fees are
common, but more is given for special consultations. I cannot say
whether things are conducted on the rigorous business principle which a
lady a few years ago experienced at Nice. A medical practitioner to whom
she gave a sovereign for a piece of advice, said he would call again
next day, which he did, and before leaving said ‘it was proper she
should understand that for every visit he expected a fee of a napoleon.’
The money was paid. If this was a trifle too _exigeant_, we may perhaps
be reminded that the English practitioners have but a limited field of
operation, and further, that they must have been put to the
inconvenience of procuring a diploma from the University of France. Both
at Nice and Mentone there are druggists who dispense medicines according
to the authorised British pharmacopœia, at whose establishments
English assistants are employed. All sorts of patent medicines with
which we are familiar are seen on their counters, but high in price, on
account (as is alleged) of custom-house and octroi duties.

Mentone is pretty nearly destitute of means of intellectual recreation.
What can be furnished in the way of books is not much. Therein lay my
chief privation. There was nothing within doors to fall back upon to
relieve the tedium caused by the absence of accustomed resources; and
doubtless this species of desolation will press heavily on the more
thoughtful class of visitors. At the Hôtel de Ville, there is a
_Bibliothèque Publique_, consisting of a roomful of books in French and
Italian literature, including some old encyclopædias and historical
works, which may be consulted daily by persons studiously disposed.
Strangers have little recourse to this collection of books, for besides
that they are not the kind of works ordinarily wanted, they are not
given out. Let us, however, give credit to the municipality for
maintaining an establishment so meritorious. Not many towns in Great
Britain, of only 6000 inhabitants, keep up a free consulting library for
public use.

For reading, visitors chiefly depend on a circulating library kept by
Papy, a bookseller in a central situation in the main street. The
library consists of a collection of English books, mostly of a light
kind, not particularly new, and of works in other languages; though
limited in point of choice, the library is gladly hailed by visitors as
something better than no library at all. Papy also offers the
attractions of a reading-room, in which will be found copies of the
_Times_, _Standard_, _Illustrated London News_, _Punch_, and
_Galignani_, and several French and German papers. The subscription for
the reading-room is five francs per month, or eight francs for
reading-room and library; and for a longer period, less in proportion.
Papy is a civil fellow; he speaks no English, but here, as elsewhere, a
very little French is sufficient for visitors to procure all they want.
The shop (which is open on Sundays, to accommodate the French and
Germans) is a considerable resort for books and stationery. There is
another bookseller in the town, Giordan, who circulates the Tauchnitz
editions. Near his shop is the photographic establishment of M. Noack,
whose productions are of an unusually high order. Few parties quit
Mentone without carrying away some of his views of the neighbouring
scenery.

Opposite Papy’s, in an open space back from the north side of the
street, stands a handsome building of recent erection, known as the
_Cercle Philharmonique_. This is a club-house partly on the English
plan. It does not aspire to rank with the famed Cercle on the Promenade
des Anglais at Nice, yet is much beyond what might be expected in a
place of such moderate size as Mentone. The building, erected by an
association on shares, is under an administrative committee. It
comprehends a large, splendidly decorated apartment for balls, concerts,
and other entertainments, French and English billiard-rooms, a
reading-room provided with French, English, and German newspapers, a
smoking-room, and what is called a _salon de reunion pour les dames_. In
the large apartment, styled the _grande salle de spectacle et de bal_,
take place balls about Christmas and Carnival time, balls given by the
members of the Cercle to a select number of the visitors, and balls
given by the visitors to residents who have paid them some attention.
Here, also, by means of a small stage at one end of the room, take place
amateur theatricals, for which some Parisian and other ladies who are
annual visitors have a special fancy. The invitation is by private
ticket. Entertainments of this kind are in the afternoon, and are given
for charitable purposes, a voluntary collection being made by which a
few hundred francs are raised for distribution among the poor. (The heat
from artificial lighting, and the crowding, not advantageous for
invalids.) During the day, few persons are seen in the reading or other
rooms.

If the intention of the originators of the Cercle was to accommodate
male visitors in the town, it has signally failed. No means are adopted
to make the character of the establishment known; no one having any
curiosity on the subject knows whom to apply to for information. So far
as the general body of strangers are concerned, the establishment might
as well not exist. Only a few days before quitting Mentone, was I able,
by particular inquiries, to learn anything satisfactory regarding it.
Subscribers, it seems, are admitted to the privileges offered at the
charge of 20 francs for a month, 45 francs for 3 months, and 80 francs
for the season of 6 months. As in most cases, the only thing cared for
is a reading-room, these charges will appear too high, and tend to
exclusion. The stock of newspapers on the table sought after by the
English, appeared to me inferior to what can be seen on much more
moderate terms at Papy’s. The administration is sleepy, and needs
rousing.

Many visitors, invalids in particular, will depend on newspapers ordered
from England. The time of transit of letters from London is two days,
and deliveries are regular. Newspapers, for some incomprehensible
reason, cannot be reckoned on with the same certainty. Frequently, no
paper arrives, and then perhaps two or three come together. Such
irregularities, often complained of, but never redressed, are the
reproach of the French postal system, and it is useless to say any more
about it. There can be no complaint as regards cost of transit. A penny
stamp takes an English newspaper to any part of France.

There is no local newspaper. All that the press produces is a small
weekly sheet, with lists of strangers, advertisements, and some
miscellaneous literary matters. It purports to be issued every Saturday;
things, however, are taken easily. Sometimes it does not appear till
Sunday or Monday, and on one occasion it did not appear till the
succeeding Thursday. Since the opening of the railway, a hawker with a
basket goes daily about calling out the names of Parisian newspapers
which he has for sale. Some of the cheap literary drolleries of Paris
may be obtained at a kiosk in the Place Napoléon.

At all the winter resorts in the Riviera, there are found English
churches, also chapels in connection with the Established or the Free
Church of Scotland. In the East Bay, Mentone, a Church-of-England chapel
has existed for a number of years. More recently, for the accommodation
of residents in the West Bay, a neat and commodious chapel, known as St
John’s, has been erected at the entrance to the Route de Turin. It is
built in the Gothic style, and with the trees about it reminds us of
that usually interesting object, an English parish church. Services are
here frequent throughout the week and on Sundays. The chapel has a good
organ, and also an effective choir, which is aided by the voices of
young ladies who kindly volunteer their assistance. The Free Church of
Scotland has a mission chapel in the Rue Pieta, a narrow cross
thoroughfare. It consists of the first floor of a house on a common
stair, with windows commanding a view of an orange-garden adjoining the
Hôtel de Ville. The situation is central, but not otherwise
satisfactory. Yet here, during the season, a congregation of about fifty
persons, Scotch, English, and American, ordinarily meet on Sundays. The
expenses are defrayed by voluntary contribution at the door in going
out. I attended on several occasions, and it was not without emotion
that I joined in the simple psalmody of ‘The Martyrs,’ while overlooking
gardens blazing with orange-trees and other sub-tropical vegetation.

These chaplaincies are of use, not alone as regards the appointed
services of public worship. The ministers may be said to form a
pastorate to the whole English-speaking community, irrespective of
national distinction. The reputation of Mentone as a health-resort has
reached the United States (where Dr Bennet’s work is, I believe, fully
as well known as in England), and every season numbers of Americans in a
jaded state of health make it a place of abode. I heard of a family who
had come eight successive winters from Philadelphia, every year crossing
and recrossing the Atlantic, as if it were a holiday trip. Last season I
had the honour of becoming acquainted with an American clergyman, of
most apostolic character and appearance, Bishop Whipple of Minnesota,
whose health had been grievously impaired by arduous professional
labours at his distant see, and who here sought for its restoration.
Among the visitors generally, denominational differences are in a great
degree laid aside. When distant from home and friends, and when life is
perhaps felt to be waning, sectarian and other distinctions in a great
measure disappear. The consolations of the Gospel are thankfully
accepted from any kindly disposed administrator. As far as I could
learn, the several ministers are zealous in their sacred calling, and
hold themselves ready to help on any occasion, when their services,
secular or spiritual, are in request. A little incident, which occurred
in the season 1868–69, is worth relating.

It is the custom to hang up in the lobbies of the hotels English-printed
notices of the different chapels, with the names of the officiating
ministers, and hours of divine service. Late one evening, an American
gentleman, with several ladies, drove up to a hotel in Mentone for the
night. They had hired a carriage at Nice to go on to Genoa, only
stopping at certain places on the way. In coming from Nice, one of the
ladies had been taken ill. To proceed in the morning was foreseen to be
impossible. What was to be done? Not one of the party could speak
French, so as to be able to adjust the matter with the voiturier. In
this dilemma, the gentleman, in looking around the lobby, saw the
printed notice about the Free Church: ‘Rev. James Stuart, parish of
Yester, minister.’ ‘Take me to that person,’ he said to the hotel
porter, who spoke a little English. He was conducted accordingly to the
villa Guibert, where Mr Stuart, roused from bed, listened to the painful
story, and heard that there was a written contract, which it would be
necessary for him to see before offering advice. Accompanying his
visitor to the hotel, the contract of hire was examined, and it was at
once obvious that unless the party went forward to their destination,
they must at once pay the whole prescribed fare. In these circumstances,
and the voiturier being inexorable, all that could be recommended was,
that the sick lady should be left in charge of the landlady of the Hôtel
d’Italie, who was an obliging Englishwoman, while the others proceeded
on their journey—a few days’ repose being all that was necessary, and it
would be easy afterwards to go by the diligence. The proposed
arrangement being acceded to, Mr Stuart without delay kindly saw the
lady carefully bestowed, and next morning the party went on their way to
Genoa. It is by such self-sacrificing labours as this, that an English
or Scotch minister stationed on the continent may shew his lively
perception of the precepts which ought to rule the Christian character.
It need hardly be said that, for clergymen so missioned abroad, a
knowledge of French is of exceeding importance.

Besides the chapels above mentioned, there is a French Protestant church
(_Eglise Evangélique_) in the town, ministered to by a much esteemed
pastor—the whole body of Protestant clergy in the place uniting to carry
out objects of common concern. For the accommodation of the Protestant
community, a portion of ground at the public cemetery, on the top of the
hill surmounting the old town, has been specially set apart as a
burying-ground. It is provided with a neat mortuary chapel, to which
bodies are brought shortly after decease, and where they may remain for
any reasonable length of time previous to interment. This fact in itself
may tend to soothe the feelings of those whose relatives chance to die
at Mentone. All is done becomingly according to the usage of the
English, and ordinarily a small party of visitors interested in the
deceased attend in honour of the obsequies. If there be such a thing as
cheerfulness in a burying-ground, it is at the slip of terrace
appropriated as a necropolis some hundreds of feet above the sea-level.
The elevated spot is sunny, secluded, and beautiful. How solemnly is
borne on my remembrance the circumstance of attending the funeral of a
young Englishman from one of the midland counties, who had sunk under a
mortal ailment, and was here interred with the usual service of the
church! His grave occupies the edge of the declivity, and on it rest the
last rays of the sun as it declines in the blue waters of the
Mediterranean.

[Illustration]



                              CHAPTER VI.


With little in the way of public amusement or general intercourse,
Mentone and its neighbourhood offer some subjects of interesting
inquiry. If employment does not come readily to hand, it may possibly be
evoked by looking about. The medieval old town; the character and habits
of the people; excursions on foot or donkey to the mountainous region,
with its decayed castles and sun-baked villages perched thousands of
feet above the sea-level; the picturesque sea-coast, with its caverns
and traditions of Saracenic invasion; the mouldering tokens of Roman
sway—all will yield matter for agreeable exploration. Turbia and Monaco
should be deliberately seen, if not already visited; and so likewise
should Ventimiglia and Bordighera—the latter for the sake of its
palm-trees. I am sorry to say there is no handy local guide-book,
affording that minute explicitness of detail expected from works of this
nature. The native topographers write prettily, and even poetically, of
the surrounding district; a guide-book, however, is not bought for fine
writing, but, like an almanac, is looked to for plain trustworthy facts.
The best of the books of the kind is entitled a _Guide des Etrangers à
Menton_, by M. Pessy; it comprehends a good map, which is at all events
indispensable. In the prevailing state of things, the explorer will have
to rely greatly on his own powers of investigation, assisted, if it
happily may be, by friends well acquainted with this outlying part of
the Alpes Maritimes.

The ever present, and often noisy Mediterranean can scarcely fail to
suggest historic recollections. Around it were clustered all the great
nations of antiquity. It is the sea of the Bible, that on which Paul
encountered misadventures. It is the sea which the Crusaders had to
cross in their delirious expeditions to the Holy Land. Now, in
comparison to the great oceans of modern discovery, it is only a
salt-water lake, yet rich in the legends which undyingly hover about it.
Physically considered, it is curious. Barred out by the Strait of
Gibraltar, the tidal wave of the Atlantic operates but feebly on the
Mediterranean. Residents at Mentone recognise little difference in the
height to which the water flows on the beach. The sea may be twice a day
a few inches higher or lower; but except in the case of winds affecting
it somewhere, and causing it to dash high up on the shore, it has a
monotonous uniformity of appearance. The beach consists of rounded
stones and gravel, not agreeable for being walked on, and on that
species of gray shingle the waves are everlastingly surging. Sometimes
in the calmest days and nights, its roar is most outrageous and trying
to the nerves. Suddenly, when level as a pond, it will assume an angry
aspect, with white breakers in the distance. In short, it is very
whimsical and incomprehensible in its varying moods; and those who
dislike its more placid or its more uproarious proceedings had better
live away from its shores. A distance of a hundred yards, with
intervening trees or houses, will be enough.

As the sea neither ebbs nor flows to a perceptible degree, rocks on the
beach are not periodically uncovered and exposed to the atmosphere, the
consequence being that there is scarcely any marine vegetation—no large
sea-weed, and no sea-like smell. Along the coast from Nice the beach has
a rapid descent to depths ranging from three thousand to five thousand
feet. So abrupt is the declivity that, unless at particular spots,
bathing is somewhat hazardous. We observed preparations for bathing at
Nice, in March; the wheeled machines employed being carefully tethered
by a rope to the shore, lest they should dart down headlong into the
depths. The occasional appearance of sharks adds another danger of which
bathers need to be cautious.

The Mediterranean is said to abound in many species of fish; visitors,
however, see little of them. The kinds which appear at table, and that
very sparingly, are sardines, red mullet, mackerel, tunny, and whitings.
Mentone has a fishing population nestling in the older part of the town,
who with all their toil and patience make but a poor livelihood.
Proceeding to sea in boats at an early hour of the morning, and keeping
within a few miles of the shore, parties of them may be seen from nine
to ten o’clock laboriously drawing in their nets to the beach. The
produce is very insignificant, often not more fish than will fill a
small basket, yielding perhaps three or four francs—sometimes the whole
not worth a single franc. Since the railway opened, a few of the shops
have begun to procure supplies of fish from distant and more productive
quarters, and the selling of fresh oysters brought from the Atlantic
coast, if not from the Channel, has in the winter season become a
considerable trade. Amateur anglers using fishing-rods of cane try to
lure a prey; the Quai Bonaparte, against which the sea is incessantly
dashing, being a favourite spot. On no occasion did I ever see one of
these anglers draw a fish from the water. The sport seemed to consist of
a more than ordinary exercise of hope and patience.

Although hitherto styled a sea-port, Mentone has little pretension to
that character. The few small craft that belong to it are, along with
the fishing-boats, drawn up high and dry at an open space adjoining the
beach. After being in a primitive way delivered of their cargoes—barrels
of wine, for instance, being lowered overboard and floated to dry
land—the vessels are tugged up the ascent to their resting-place by a
windlass, at which men, women, and children lend their assistance. Last
winter, the French government commenced to form a harbour with landing
quays; the first step taken being to lay down a tramway along the beach
for conveyance of blocks of stone from Cap Martin. The tramway was so
insufficiently executed that the greater part was washed away by the
storm on the night of the 21st of December. It was replaced on a better
footing, and the works were begun. Whether they will endure the
impetuous battering of the heavy rolling waves may be gravely doubted.
The spot selected adjoins the old martello tower, which remains
invulnerable on the ledge of rocks in front of that medieval old town of
which it was once the protector.

Possessing in some degree a resemblance to the steep and crowded lanes
of the older parts of Edinburgh, I made this ancient town a kind of
study. Originally walled for defence, it consists, as has been said, of
a dense cluster of tall tenements, rising pile above pile from the
sea-shore to the summit of one of those low hills which stand out in
advance of the higher mountains. From the modern street, forming part of
the thoroughfare of the Corniche, we ascend into this strange mass of
buildings by steep paved lanes, which turn and wind in different
directions, until we reach the top, where, on the site of the ancient
castle, is found the cemetery of the town, from which there is an
extensive prospect over sea and land.

At the foot of the ascent, wheeled carriages are left behind. The lanes,
though dignified with the name of streets, are accessible only to
foot-passengers or donkeys. The principal one is the Rue Longue, noticed
as having been an ancient thoroughfare, protected at each end by a
vaulted gateway and guardhouse. The gates have been long since removed,
leaving free access to all who feel any interest in perambulating the
narrow passage, now sunk into the character of a back street. Being
paved with small rounded stones, with an inclination to a central
gutter, and environed with tall antique buildings, you feel pretty much
as if walking along the bottom of a drain; but there the resemblance
ends, for, to do the inhabitants justice, the road is remarkably clean,
which is more than can be said for some of the pretentious
thoroughfares. The massive tenements, five or six stories in height, are
laid out in separate dwellings, reached by narrow common stairs. In the
lower floor were the shops, consisting of dingy vaults with round-topped
doorways, some down and others up a step, and a good deal of
irregularity throughout. The Quai Bonaparte having drawn away all
general traffic, the Rue Longue has, in a business sense,
correspondingly declined. You see vaults which had been great shops in
their day, sorrowfully shut up, their clumsy old-fashioned doors
dreadfully in want of paint, fastened with queer-looking decayed
padlocks. As, however, there must still be a demand in the crowded
floors above for the essentials of existence, the street is not without
some traces of commerce. When grand concerns disappear, hucksters step
in to occupy the field, just as when some imposing order of forest trees
is swept to destruction, shrubs of various species start beneficently
into existence. In the Rue Longue, accordingly, you will not be
surprised, but rather on the whole gratified, to see a certain class of
dealers—old women selling bread, oranges, and candles, modestly
exhibited on a slip of shelf outside the door, with meal and flour in a
small way in bags inside the threshold, along with possibly cheap cuts
of salt fish in steep to meet demands on Fridays; establishments
purporting to be a _Débit de Vin_; a _Boucherie_, authorised to sell
_bœuf, agneau et de veau au 2^{me} qualité_; or a respectable
middle-aged spinster retailing a miscellany of tapes and other small
wares. Dull and composed even at mid-day, the long Rue has an air of
solitude. There is little stirring. The only sound heard is that of a
shoemaker, who, seated outside his door for the sake of light, is
industriously hammering his leather; besides which spectacle of activity
you will have the satisfaction of observing a wrinkled old crone airing
herself on the outside step of a doorway, and spinning with the
distaff—a picture for your sketch-book, if artistically inclined.

What traditions of historical events and distinguished personages could
be told of the Rue and its surroundings! Some of the houses, the backs
of which overlook the East Bay, and in old times reached down to the
water’s edge, have still a wonderfully aristocratic aspect; and it might
be safely affirmed at a venture that they had been the residence of
dukes and counts in the stirring bygone times. A mansion of this kind,
with tall windows and heavy cornices at the eaves, is pointed out as
having been the dwelling of the Princes of Monaco. It is said to have
been built by Honore II. in the early part of the seventeenth century.
This prince, one of the best of the Grimaldis, rendered himself popular
by causing the reconstruction of the church of St Michael, a puissant
archangel in whom all classes of the Mentonians have ever in their
emergencies placed great confidence; and it is a matter of no little
pride to them that the handsome spire of the church under his invocation
dominates over every other edifice. It is further said of Honore II.
that he erected the martello tower or bastion on the ledge of rocks at
the port. This would place the date of that conspicuous structure at
about 1620. From appearances, I am inclined to think it is of greater
antiquity, and that the prince only caused it to be repaired in the
shape in which it has latterly remained.

[Illustration: Old Martello Tower.]

Wandering through the sinuosities of this ancient town, we are apt to be
destructively inclined. In one sense it would be a pity to tear down
what long ages have spared. To the archæologist, the whole cluster of
buildings is a curiosity which he would consider it a species of
sacrilege to destroy. Sanitary reformers, though not devoid of respect
for antiquity, are forced to be less scrupulous. Knowing the evils that
had ensued in Edinburgh from overcrowding in tall buildings closely
packed together, I thought a clearance here and there would be
pardonable. Archæologists, however, may calm their apprehensions.
Looking to the slow and apathetic way public affairs are conducted in
Mentone, as well as to the general indifference which prevails on
matters of social concern, there is no reason to fear that the visitor
fifty years hence will find any change whatsoever on this clustering old
citadel.

Outside the Rue Longue on the south, where things have a more modern
aspect, there is a street running east and west, now called the Rue
Brea, possessing some good specimens of domestic architecture, dating
from the seventeenth century, if not earlier. A tenement at the west
corner on the south side, bearing traces of frescoes on the walls, is
that in which General Brea was born in 1790, the fact being commemorated
by an inscription on a marble slab over the doorway. Mentone has some
credit in having put up several inscriptions of this nature in memory of
incidents of local or historical interest. Brea was killed in the
streets of Paris on the 24th of June 1848, when fighting in the cause of
order, wherefore the inhabitants honourably acknowledge him as a native.
In the same street, near the middle on the north side, there is a wall
enclosing a piece of ground in which stands a house that had been
temporarily occupied in 1814 by Pope Pius VII., on his return towards
Italy, after a compulsory residence in France. This visit of the pope,
and the circumstance of his having graciously blessed the people at this
spot, are matters carefully recorded on a marble slab inserted in the
wall.

One more incident needs to be recorded concerning the Rue Brea. Here for
a night or two resided General Bonaparte, when, in April 1796, he was,
as commander-in-chief, proceeding with the French army along this
difficult piece of coast to open his famed Italian campaign. The
tenement, marked No. 3, on the north side of the street, is a tall
building, distinguished by a handsome doorway, leading to a spacious,
and what had formerly been a finely ornamented common stair. The stair,
consisting of intermediate landings, is at first of blue slate, and
afterwards of tiles faced with wood. There are two dwellings on each
floor. Eighty years ago, the house on the second floor, entering by the
door on the right hand, was occupied by a M. Pretti, a _négociant_ of
some local importance, and was selected as the most suitable for
accommodating General Bonaparte. At present, there is a decayed look
about the stair, the houses in it having been relinquished by its former
genteel inhabitants, though, still, they have by no means sunk to a
degraded condition. Ringing a bell by a cord which hung at the side of
the door, we were admitted by an aged female domestic through a lobby
into a singularly elegant _salle de réception_, such as could scarcely
have been expected in this back street. It measured upwards of thirty
feet in length by about twenty in breadth, with two windows at each end,
hung with figured lace-curtains. The floor of smooth tiles was carpeted
in front of a sofa, which, like the chairs ranged along the sides of the
apartment, was covered with yellow damask. From the centre of the
ceiling depended a handsome chandelier. The most remarkable feature of
the room were the decorations on the walls, consisting of classic scenes
in raised stucco, disposed in panels, serving the place of pictures.
While noting these particulars, the abbé entered the room, and there
ensued the ceremonial of introduction. Made acquainted with my views,
the abbé proceeded in the first place to say something of the house. The
room in which we were seated was that in which Bonaparte gave his
receptions, and here, during his stay, there was a dance. The small
dingy room adjoining, into which we were conducted, was his _salle à
manger_, and beyond that was his _chambre à coucher_, now forming the
bedroom of the abbé. In one point of view these were small particulars,
but anything which concerns the life of a noted individual is worth
knowing. I considered it rather curious that Napoleon the Great had
dwelt even for a short time in a house on a second floor in a common
stair in Mentone.

In the still more modern street immediately below, forming the roadway
through the town, is a mansion which, by an inscription, we learn was
the residence of the patriotic Carlo Trenca, who, in the course of his
onerous public duties, died in 1854. The example set by the town in this
species of mural commemoration, might, as some will think, be
advantageously followed in places of greater size and importance.

As regards the inhabitants generally, who are crowded into the narrow
passages in the old town, we have, I believe, a proper specimen of the
aborigines—a people illiterate and uninstructed, but from naturally good
dispositions, industrious and well conducted. The older among them are
said to be unable to read, which is not unlikely, considering their past
history; at anyrate, I never saw either book or newspaper in their
hands. Since the expulsion of the Grimaldis, the town has been provided
with schools, at which there is a large attendance of children; but
beyond some efforts of this kind, nothing is attempted to enlighten the
humbler classes. The town possesses no school of arts for the
improvement of mechanics, no lectures on miscellaneous subjects of
interest, no popular concerts, no native newspapers to concentrate and
direct public opinion. The young are suffered to grow to manhood without
intelligent direction. The only provision for their leisure hours is
made by the keepers of cafés and billiard-rooms. This state of things is
not very creditable to the more thoughtful part of the community; and
does not come up to what is frequently represented as the activity of
continental governments in stimulating advancement in arts and science.

The humbler operations of the day-labourers employed on the tramway were
on an awkward, and to us amusingly rude scale; the implements they used
were such as an English navvy would have treated with disdain. In rough
manual operations, things are far behind, and we are painfully reminded
of the fact, that a country may excel in science and the fine arts, and
yet not be acquainted with the use of a shovel and wheelbarrow. The man
who repairs the roadway of the Promenade does so by the slow and painful
process of bringing small basketfuls of shingle on his shoulder from the
beach, thus taking days to perform what, under a more intelligent
system, might be effected in a few hours; and, after all, the thing is
badly done. There is not that amount of knowledge which prescribes
making provision for water to run off to each side; the consequence
being that, after rain, the roadway is in pools.

To make up for the absence of local public spirit, the central
authorities in Paris beneficently prepare and circulate a news-sheet
gratuitously all over France. It is designated the _Moniteur des
Communes_, and resembles a page of a newspaper, closely printed in
columns. Dispersed from the Ministry of the Interior, it is stuck up as
a placard in every commune. Besides scraps of news on such subjects as
the opening of the Suez Canal, the paper contained, when I saw it, a
variety of information regarding movements in commerce and agriculture,
with advices as to the treatment of vines. The thing is really well done
and well meant, but so far as Mentone is concerned, it experiences the
usual fate of all that is given for nothing. Although this sheet is
regularly stuck up at the market-place, no one is ever seen reading
it—not that the people despise the information which is offered, but
because it is not their practice to read anything.

With such an entire absence of wholesome mental exhilaration, it does
not surprise us to see that there is an inordinate number of _Débits de
Vin_, dingy vaults, furnished with deal tables and benches, where the
imbibing of thin potations drawn in jugs from the cask, forms a popular
solace. I am bound, however, to add, that whether from the weakness of
the liquor, or an indisposition to spend, there is little or no external
demonstration of drunkenness. As a whole, the people are sober and
thrifty in their habits. Here, as in other towns in France, intemperance
in tobacco-smoking is greatly more conspicuous than in stupefying
liquors. I see it stated among national statistics that the quantity of
cigars smoked in France during a year, would, if put end to end, go
twice round the globe at the equator. In this monstrous wastefulness,
the female population take no part. It is impossible to over-rate the
painstaking assiduity of the humbler class of women, both old and young.
Their small industrial occupations for a subsistence are most
meritorious. One of their pursuits is the sale of roasted chestnuts, an
article much in request. In one of these female vendors I took some
interest. Verging on eighty years of age, and with a wrinkled
countenance that would have been the delight of Rembrandt, this poor
woman carried on business in a packing-case, which stood on end without
a lid, placed at the termination of the Quai Bonaparte. Here seated in
her box with her chauffer and bag of nuts, and cheerfully chattering to
her customers, or to the _douaniers_ who loiter hereabouts in sky-blue
uniforms, she made a living by her petty merchandise, exemplifying what
may be done under depressing circumstances to rise above a degrading
dependence on charity.

As at Nice, the carrying of articles poised on the top of the head is a
common practice of the women of Mentone. They may be seen coming daily
into the town loaded with baskets of oranges or lemons, or with huge
bundles of sticks for fuel, in some instances their hands being employed
in knitting. As suitable for this kind of drudgery, they wear a
straw-hat, almost flat like a trencher, with a small round space raised
in the middle, on which the load is balanced. These hats, formed by an
ingenious interweaving of straw and cotton, are one of the peculiar
manufactures of the district around. Some hats of a superior quality,
with fanciful trimmings, are becomingly worn by young ladies. Besides
fruits and sticks, bundles of fir-cones are brought into the town for
sale. Of all the toils of the women of Mentone, this is the most severe.
The cones, called here _pommes des pins_, are gathered among the
scattered forests of pines high up on the mountains, and brought down in
bags to be sold for lighting fires. Arrived at the market-place, the
girls sit down patiently with their loads, which are offered at the
price per bag of twelve sous—sixpence for all this excessive labour. I
could not help pitying these females, brown, skinny, and bare-footed,
with faces like leather, who are engaged in these rude occupations; but
painful as is the sight, is not the labour honest? and how much more
distressing is the spectacle of flaunting vice and wretchedness in our
own country?

The want of water led in pipes to the houses, entails another heavy
department of labour on the humbler class of women. In the older part of
Mentone, there are some public fountains, supplied from the hills, and
from these all water has to be carried for domestic purposes. Subject to
this inconvenience, the water so obtained is pure and wholesome, though
yielding a slight limy deposit. In this respect, therefore, the
inhabitants at the centre of the town are better off than the occupants
of hotels and villas, which depend on pump wells. The Hôtel d’Angleterre
has the advantage of being close to the fountain in the Place Napoléon,
and of readily getting water from it. The husbanding of water does not
seem to engage the attention of the authorities. During wet weather,
there is such a profuse and wasteful overflow at the fountain situated
at the end of the Quai Bonaparte, as to suggest that, by proper storage,
supplies could be widely distributed. It is the destiny of every town,
with any regard for health or decency, to have a ‘water question’ forced
some day peremptorily on its attention. Mentone’s day is coming.

The custom of washing clothes in rivulets or pools leads to some
difficulties in the profession of the _blanchisseuse_. It cannot be easy
to wash when there is no water possessing washable qualities. Cheerful
in this as in everything else, the women of Mentone are exemplary in
making the best of things. They will wash clothes in a dub which a dog
would not drink out of. Kneeling in a kind of basket, to keep their
knees from the stones, and using square lumps of white soap streaked
with green, like old Stilton cheese, they cluster in groups around pools
in the Borigo or Carei, and there carry on their operations. The pools
which have settled among the rubbish of the Carei, dirty and offensive
though they be, are the recognised washing-tubs of the town. Around one
favourite gutter, I one day reckoned as many as fifty-two washerwomen,
all kneeling as close to each other as possible, and all using the same
opaque frothy liquid. The sight of these bands of kneeling figures at
the outlet of the Carei, where a pool accumulates, after having served
the like purpose farther up the bed of rubbish, is about as
extraordinary as can be witnessed. How clothes can be cleansed by
washing in such puddles is somewhat incomprehensible. Persons knowing on
the subject ascribe all to the force of soap, and the detergent power of
fine air and sunshine in drying. The explanation is not very
satisfactory.

In this as in other toilsome occupations, the women of Mentone exhibit a
spirit of ceaseless and uncomplaining industry. Be the weather cold or
hot, there they are at their work. When frost put a film of ice on the
pools, they still continued their labours. Poor as the females evidently
are, they shew uncommon skill in the patching and mending of clothes.
The needle must be in frequent requisition, for nowhere is there to be
seen a ragged garment on man or woman. It does not detract from the
ingenuity of the needlewomen to say that, in patching, they do not
concern themselves greatly as to harmony of colour. A light patch on a
dark ground, or dark on a light ground, red upon blue, or any other
incongruity as it may happen, answers every required purpose. A square
patch of bright green on the back of a fisherman’s gray jacket, shews a
fine indifference to public opinion, and is rather amusing than
otherwise. The grand thing evidently is to overcome raggedness, no
matter about colour, and the design is fully realised. By the mending
process, garments of all sorts, masculine or feminine, are spun out to a
respectable longevity—that is to say, as long as they will hold decently
together. This thriftiness, I think, speaks well for the character of
the humbler classes. There is poverty, but no squalor. The only
unpleasing feature is street-begging. In all quarters we were beset by
mendicants. Public begging is doubtless forbidden, but where there is no
comprehensive method of succouring the necessitous, and no proper
police, how is it to be prevented? The feeling we had about it was, that
the _sergents de ville_ benevolently winked at the practice. However
this may be, the letting loose of beggars on the _Colonie des Étrangers_
is not a very discreet procedure; neither is it very commendable to take
so little trouble to enforce cleanliness in some of the highways and
by-ways.

These blemishes, along with certain excesses in tobacco-smoking (which
must drain the not over-enriched pocket of many a sou), and some
carousing in a mild way in _Cafés_ and _Débits de Vin_, constitute the
leading social defects. An absence of crime of a serious, or it might
almost be said of any, kind must be deemed a favourable characteristic.
In this respect the surrounding district, whether nominally French or
Italian, differs greatly from those southern parts of Italy which were
colonised by Greeks. The ancient Ligurians, a brave but docile Celtic
race, have left their impress on the inhabitants of the Riviera. All
strangers concur in speaking well of their honesty, sobriety, and
industry. The late Rev. Dr Robert Lee, who spent a season at St Dalmas
di Tenda, and afterwards gave an account of his experiences, compliments
them highly for these and other good qualities. In conversing with the
abbé who occupies the house in the Rue Brea in which Bonaparte resided,
I learned that the more odious vices common in our large (and some
small) communities were next to unknown in Mentone; and this coincided
with what I had often casually observed. The people, men and women, said
this clergyman emphatically, were _bon pour la morale_. This good moral
conduct is, I believe, greatly owing to a prevalent tone of courtesy and
refinement among even the humbler classes. Coarseness of manners and low
habits are at the root of much that we lament as evil.

Quoting from Dr Bottini on the medical statistics of Mentone, Dr Siordet
states that among the native population ‘epidemic diseases do not occur
to any great extent,’ and that some other diseases are very rare. This
may be true. I was informed, however, on what seemed good authority,
that the death-rate of the settled inhabitants of the commune was as
high as 26 per 1000 per annum, which is 6 or 7 above what it ought to
be. Assuming that I was correctly informed, the comparatively high rate
of mortality might be explained by hard work, poor living, and
overcrowding of dwellings, with perhaps other insanitary conditions.

Hard grinding labour in all states of the weather might alone account
for much. It would be a great mistake to imagine that the French, with
all their light-heartedness, are an idly-disposed people. Taking them
all in all, they work too much; for as there is no law in France against
working or transacting business on Sunday, many who are so inclined
labour seven days a week. The _blanchisseuse_ knows no recurring weekly
Sabbath—not because she is irreligious, for she is frequently seen
popping into the churches to go through some devotional exercises; but
that a regard for a periodical day of rest is not part of her spiritual
system. As in the case of the humbler orders generally, her reverence
for Sunday is merged in the great solemnities of Christmas, Good Friday,
and Easter, at which times alone do we observe that there is a
scrupulous laying aside of ordinary occupations. Such a constant round
of drudging labour cannot have a beneficial effect. The sight of it
gives one the heart-ache. We feel that an error is committed, not only
in a religious point of view, but in social economics, and in all that
tends to elevate and adorn humanity. A residence abroad convinces me
more powerfully than any argument, that a due and reasonable observance
of a weekly rest on Sunday is one of the noblest attributes of
civilisation. I am glad to observe that a change for the better is in
this respect creeping over France. At Mentone, from whatever cause,
there is a growing abstinence from work on Sundays. The practice of
closing the shops is more common than it was some years ago;
comparatively few loaded carts are seen in the streets; building
operations are for the most part suspended; and scarcely any donkeys
with their burdens are observed trooping in from the country. These may
be deemed gratifying symptoms of an improved tone of feeling, the more
creditable for being spontaneous, at least without legal obligation.

It might perhaps be argued that the cessation of donkey-traffic on
Sundays is as much due to commercial as to religious scruples. I am not
aware that any animals are kept ready for hire at the _Stations des
Anes_. These establishments are only dépôts for ass-saddles, where
orders can be executed. The donkeys come from the hills in the morning
laden with fruits or other articles, in charge of a female; and having
done what might be thought a fair day’s work, are ready for hire at the
_Stations_, to go on excursions with invalids on their backs to and from
places in the neighbourhood. As few visitors employ them on Sunday, it
may seem advantageous not to bring them to town on that day. If so, the
donkeys have reason to be thankful. These docile creatures, contriving
‘a double debt to pay,’ might be styled the true bread-winners of the
peasant proprietary. Travelling by pathways wholly inaccessible to
wheeled carriages, they are seen not only bringing down loads of native
produce, but carrying up stones, lime, and other building-materials to
places two thousand feet above the sea-level. But for these useful
animals, the hilly region would be in a great measure valueless. So far
as the Riviera is concerned, the ass must be considered to be a
beneficent gift of Nature.



                              CHAPTER VII.


In making excursions in the neighbourhood it is advisable not to attempt
too much in one day. During the season there is plenty time to take
things deliberately. A good beginning may be made by a forenoon walk to
the Monastery of the Annonciade, or Annunciata. It is situated on the
high ridge of the hill between the Carei and Borigo—that hill the front
promontory of which is defaced by the buff-coloured, box-like villa
dignified with the name of the Château Partouneaux. The pathway to the
monastery leads off from the Route de Turin, a short way beyond the
railway viaduct, and will be found a curious zigzag lane, fit only for
pedestrians or donkeys. To relieve the steepness, the path is formed
like a series of steps four to five feet broad, cut in a rude way in the
sandstone rock, and now much worn. Winding upward among olive and orange
trees, and passing some dwellings, the road has an antiquated
broken-down look, significant of the misfortunes of the religious
establishment to which it leads.

On the spot occupied by the monastery originally stood a small chapel,
where, according to the account of M. Ardoin, wonderful cures were
effected by the intercession of the Virgin. We are told that about 1660,
a sister of the Prince of Monaco, afflicted with a distressing leprosy,
made pilgrimages to the chapel to offer prayers for her cure. The
prayers were successful: and, in gratitude, the princess built fifteen
niches or small chapels along the pathway, dedicating them to the
‘fifteen mysteries of the rosary.’ This recognition gave what may be
termed a great lift to the institution, which forthwith swelled from a
simple chapel with one or two priests into a regular monastery with
twelve monks. In the eighteenth century, all went on flourishingly until
the French Revolution, when the whole was abruptly put an end to, and
the property taken possession of by the nation. In this state matters
remained until in recent times some renovations were effected. Finally,
in 1867, a small number of monks of the order of St Francis, who had
been unhoused at Genoa by the appropriations of the Italian government,
got leave to plant themselves down here; and, favoured by local
munificence, the monastery was once more set on foot. So there it is,
with its monks in brown woollen gowns and hoods, wearing sandals on
their bare feet, and going about as walking curiosities. The piety of
the district has not managed to restore the niches placed by the
princess at different points of the ascending pathway. They stand in
hopeless ruin, and we see, only by fragments of plaster, that they had
at one time been pictorially decorated. Yet they continue to be used as
praying stations by those who, on pious errands, mount to the
Annonciade. The walk to the top is charming—the view of the
hill-terraces fine. If a little fatigued, the excursionist can take a
seat in the chapel, which is always open, and there note the votive
offerings hung about the walls. Among these I observed two pairs of
crutches, which had belonged to persons who (it is said) were cured of
lameness by intercessions similar to those which had effected such
wonders on the skin of the princess. M. Ardoin gives some historical
details concerning the spot, which may interest visitors. His small
pamphlet, _Du Sanctuaire de N.-D. de l’Annonciade_, may be procured in
Mentone. Scattered about in bosky situations on the top and sides of the
hill near the monastery, there are several small cottages, some of them
more fanciful than are elsewhere to be seen. One is placed like a nest
among the branches of a tree—a very pretty Jack-and-the-beanstalk idea,
but not to be complimented on the score of convenience.

Another but more lengthened excursion can be recommended—that to the
heights of Ste Agnes (pronounced _Anèse_). Invalids and persons stiff in
the limbs will find the journey too fatiguing to be undertaken on foot.
They will require to hire a donkey at a _Station des Anes_, and either a
boy or woman will go to lead it up the steeps. Walking, however, is
preferable, if the fatigue can be encountered; for much of the pleasure
consists in sitting down now and then to loiter over and mark the
beauties of the scenery. The route is, for about a third of a mile,
along the right bank of the Borigo, and then the ascent commences.
First, it winds by the usual broad and rudely made steps amidst orange
and lemon gardens, laid out in terraces, irrigated at certain seasons by
water gathered with the greatest possible care in well-built tanks. The
design apparently is to conduct all the rain that falls by channels and
gutters into these receptacles. When I made the ascent, the tanks were
either wholly dry, or had a residuum of dirty fetid water. What the
dwellers in the cottages did for water, was past my comprehension,
unless supplies were brought to them in small barrels on the backs of
donkeys.

The solitude, the simplicity of these hill-dwellings, furnish
interesting matter of contemplation. Of the old Ligurian type, and
speaking a blended patois of Italian and French, with some words of
Arabic and Spanish, the people occupying the slopes of the hills cling
with tenacity to their old usages and habits. From generation to
generation, they have occupied their small properties. Simple and frugal
in their way of living, consuming no foreign or taxable luxuries, they
follow out their obscure destiny in a manner that entitles them to
respect. Conquered by the Romans, harassed by the Grimaldis, they have
been so fortunate as to suffer no absolute robbery of houses and lands.
Dynasties may come and go. It is pretty much the same who are their
nominal superiors. What they have to do is to attend to their patch of
olives, oranges, or lemons. All the year round, the sun beats down on
their little properties; and provided they can secure a proper supply of
water for irrigation, they bask amidst permanent luxuriance. Water is to
them most precious. Every proprietor must have a tank for receiving the
runs of water from the pathways, in case of rain; and all along the
hill-sides are constructed channels for bringing supplies from distant
sources. With such appliances, a craggy steep, with but faint traces of
soil, becomes fertile and beautiful. In buying pieces of ground,
therefore, care is taken to stipulate for some sort of water privilege;
such, for instance, as a right to have water turned on one or more days,
or hours, per week. When there has been a long drought, as was the case
previous to my visit, the suffering is considerable; though personal
inconvenience is less thought of than loss of crops. In summer, when the
heat becomes excessive, it is not unusual for these hill-dwellers to
quit their small cottages, and live entirely in the open air. A whole
family will, gipsy-fashion, bivouac under one of the leafy boughs of a
fig-tree, and thus far exemplify in a European country the Asiatic usage
referred to in Scripture.

Gaining the summit of the _colline_, and passing through a forest of
pines, the path at length ascends the face of the mountains, becoming
continually more steep until the top of the pass is reached at the small
decayed village of Ste Agnes. The circumstance of snow occasionally
powdering the summit in winter, appears to have suggested the dedication
of the old church to Our Lady of the Snows. By a steep footpath, an
ascent may be made to the ruined château, which is perched on the rocky
peak. Tradition associates the ruin with a lady, canonised as Ste Agnes,
and a redoubtable Saracen chief, the occupant of the castle, whom she
Christianised; there is, however, no end of romantic legends of this
kind in the Riviera, and any one so inclined might fill a volume with
them. The fête of Ste Agnes takes place on the 21st of January, when a
miscellaneous concourse gathers for the occasion, some on foot, others
on donkeys, while ladies of infirm health are carried up in an
arm-chair—the carrying being managed by poles, on the principle of a
sedan. The ceremonies include a procession with a large _pomme d’or_, or
golden apple; and besides gifts of money, some devotees place an apple
covered with gold-leaf on the altar of the saint by way of offering. At
the termination of the ceremony, pieces of the apples are freely
distributed. M. Pessy, who mentions the fact, is unable to explain the
origin of this strange and ancient usage. The peak of Ste Agnes may be
considered as the central eminence in the wide semicircle of limestone
mountains which shelter Mentone from the north and north-western blasts.
It is not nearly the highest of the mountains, but it is prominent and
singularly picturesque. In a fine day, the view from it is magnificent,
the heights of Corsica being clearly outlined on the southern horizon.

We need say nothing special of excursions to Castellare, Castillon, the
lofty Berceau, the sunny knolls of Gorbio, Cabrole, or the quiet nooks
in the recesses of the different valleys. It is a common practice for a
party of visitors, ladies and gentlemen, to go off in the morning for
pic-nics to some choice spot, selected for its beauty. Seated under the
olive trees, the baskets borne by the donkey-boys are opened, and their
contents displayed. The grouping (faintly represented in the vignette
frontispiece) is sometimes made matter of tasteful arrangement, and the
_tableau vivant_, blended as to colour and figure, brings to remembrance
the pictures of Watteau.

In none of the excursions do we see the pasturing of sheep, such as we
are accustomed to at home. There is a general absence of animal life.
The scenery communicates the feeling of perfect repose. In the recesses
of the valleys, there is a sort of supernatural stillness. You are
environed by trees, rocks, and hill-terraces, with châlets far up on
which the sun is shining; but not a leaf is stirring, although at that
moment, perhaps, there is a breeze on the sea-shore. I never quite
understood what was done for supplies of mutton for market. The only
sheep visible consisted of a single flock, under the charge of an old
man and boy, dressed in antiquated costume. Standing high on their legs,
the sheep had remarkable Roman noses, and long pendent ears like hounds.
So thin, so lank were they, that a Scottish store-farmer would have
looked on them with contempt. It was my impression they were
half-starved. Every afternoon about sunset, they might be seen conducted
into town for the night. They came down the dry rubbishy torrent of the
Carei among the washerwomen at their dirty frothy pools, eagerly
catching at every blade of grass that happened to be growing among the
stones, eating, as a windfall, any bit of orange-peeling that happened
to lie in their way. Then, getting out of the Carei to the sea-beach,
they had a leisurely walk along the shingle, where possibly a stray
turnip-top or decayed potato rewarded their explorations. Next morning,
after being housed somewhere, they were out again for the day, and might
have been observed grubbing in the by-ways, and on odd pieces of waste
ground, where a mouthful of green food could be picked up. Such is all I
can say about the feeding of sheep in this pleasant Arcadia. As for
cows, they are not seen at all, but are kept within doors, where they
are fed on the waste pulp of oranges, lemons, and citrons, the rinds of
which fruits are for the most part manufactured as confections. Milk
good, nevertheless, which I thought strange.

[Illustration: Pont St Louis.]

Few will refrain from hiring a voiture to make a trip across the
frontier by the Pont St Louis, as far at least as that projecting part
of the mountains on which stands the old tower of Grimaldi. From the
level space in front of the hotels in the East Bay, the Corniche ascends
amidst gardens and villas until, at the distance of a mile, arriving at
the ravine of St Louis, it is carried by excavation along the face of
the precipice. It is really a grand work of art. The ravine, rugged and
singularly picturesque, is spanned by a bridge of a single arch,
connecting France and Italy. A rivulet trickling down the hollow is
conducted by artificial channels to the immediately adjoining gardens,
and issues some hundreds of feet below on the sea-beach. To have a
proper idea of the value of the road, we would need to walk along the
bottom of the cliffs bordering on the sea, making use of fragments of
that ancient Roman way which was the sole thoroughfare previous to the
construction of the Corniche. The walk is a scramble, with barely
footing for a single individual. It is, however, in various respects
worth seeing. We here have an opportunity of visiting several caverns in
the overhanging cliffs, in which bones and flint weapons of the
pre-historic era have been discovered, and may likewise see the arch of
a Roman bridge, which spans like an attenuated thread one of the
ravines.

The road from the Pont St Louis, cut by blasting out of the rocks, is
the finest part of the whole Corniche. On our left we have the huge
overhanging cliffs, and on our right the Mediterranean—view superb.
Tourists will remember that at the top of the ascent, the road wheels
round to the left, and becomes a little more tame in character. Just at
the point of turning, we are opposite the old tower, which had been a
residence of the Grimaldis. It resembles a Border keep, stuck high on
the side of the hill, with a good outlook seaward. Adjoining it, and
reached by an awkward pathway over some broken rocky ground encroached
upon by a quarry, is a garden made in the face of the steeps by Dr J. H.
Bennet. The thing is a marvel of artificial beauty. Five hundred feet
above the Mediterranean, and with incalculable labour and taste, has
this garden been established, ‘with a view to the cultivation of
flowers, and to the tranquil enjoyment of invalid lazaroni life.’ Such
is Dr Bennet’s own explanation of this singular garden among the rocks
of Grimaldi. On entering, you walk along an avenue with built pillars on
each side, whereon climbing plants are ingeniously trained. At my last
visit, the garden had been considerably extended by a fresh purchase of
rocks. Where the earth comes from, is at first sight a little puzzling.
It is discovered to consist of what through ages had accumulated amidst
small crevices in the gray limestone, and being carefully preserved when
making the pathways, is found to be of immense fertility. Dwellers in
northern climes can have no adequate idea of the productive power of
even a single handful of earth in this favoured spot. A large bush will
be seen growing out of a hole in the rock barely sufficient for its
stem.

Although the season is winter, when most English gardens wear a doleful
aspect, all around is gay with salvias, lavateras, geraniums, myrtles,
pelargoniums, and other plants less or more in blossom. Specimens of the
aloe and cactaceæ grow luxuriantly on the jutting points of the rocks.
The mesembryanthemum is in great profusion on the terraces. Garden
plants which with us are only small bushes, grow here to the dimensions
of moderate-sized trees. The grounds are tended by a native gardener,
who conducts the engineering of the ascending and descending pathways,
and has the whole in charge during summer, when the rays of the sun
blaze fiercely on the gray limestone cliffs. I ventured to suggest to
the doctor the purchase of that time-worn ruined tower of the Grimaldis,
which, amidst a group of olive trees, overhangs the entrance to the
gardens. Cannot be done. The ruin, practically valueless, is held in
heritage by six individuals, whose demands are too enormous to be dealt
with. At an opposite corner of the gardens is a slip of flat ground
bounded by a wall on the verge of the cliff, and here, at a projecting
angle, stands a round pepper-box-looking turret, which in the olden time
had been a watch-tower of the Grimaldis, commanding a fine view
westwards as far as Cap Martin. From a flag-staff on its summit, the
union jack—‘the meteor flag of England’—is unfurled on holiday
occasions, and may have been seen incomprehensibly waving far overhead
by travellers along the Corniche.

The level patch of ground which is so distinguished seems to form a kind
of open drawing-room or lounge, for playing croquet, reading, and other
recreations. At the inner side of it there is an arched alcove with a
slight trickle of water, affording growth to ferns and some other
plants; and here in the cool shade, swinging his hammock, Dr Bennet at
certain hours indulges in the pleasures of a lazaroni existence. While
his old friends the London physicians are driving through drizzling
sleets and choking smoky fogs, he, by an intelligent if not compulsory
restraint, is lolling in his hammock on the cliffs of Grimaldi, enjoying
the pure air and sunshine in the midst of a little garden of Eden—the
elegant pursuit of botanical science in a bland climate skilfully
protracting a life which had formerly been in jeopardy. All cannot
follow his example, nor is it desirable they should do so, but to how
many professionals approaching their grand climacteric is the example,
at all events, eminently suggestive?

The slopes to the sea-shore, after passing Grimaldi, if less
picturesque, possess an interest from archæological circumstances. The
land, rich and beautiful, had pertained to a number of families of
distinction, each with a palazzo of old Italian architecture, the
approach to which had been by lofty gateways, surmounted by heraldic
devices, and opening on the old Roman way. As that way is now broken up,
and all but impassable, the palazzos are in the awkward position of
being left without a road. All that can be done is to make pathways down
to them from the modern Corniche, and in a country where donkeys play so
important a part in social economy, the absence of regular roads is
perhaps not esteemed a serious inconvenience. If anybody wants to buy a
palace with fifty to a hundred acres of land on the borders of the
Mediterranean, here is his chance. Revolutions and what not have cleared
out the old families. The actual proprietors are living somewhere in
penury and obscurity; their palazzos are shut up, with boards in the
windows instead of glass; and the only major-domo is a peasant dwelling
in an outhouse, to take charge of the grounds. Several properties were
pointed out to me (1869) as being for sale.

The idea of making an investment in Italy may not be pleasing. One never
knows what may turn up. Possibly, this is being too sensitive. Distance
is said ‘to lend enchantment to the view,’ but it sometimes also lends
unnecessary apprehensions. On the spot, everything looks as composed and
harmless as may be, and whatever political turmoils may occur, this cosy
nook in the Riviera offers a retreat not likely to be molested. It is a
great thing to acquire a palazzo and the importance of a seigneur for
two or three thousand pounds—to make your own oil and wine, eat your own
oranges and figs, and have boating and yachting to any imaginable
amount. It is something in the catalogue of recommendations, that the
authorities at the neighbouring town of Ventimiglia are delighted (and
no wonder) to see Englishmen buying properties about them; any one,
therefore, settling down in the neighbourhood, may expect to be treated
with profound civility and consideration. Then, think of being within an
hour’s drive of France—Mentone quite at hand, whence friends can come to
see you on all occasions during the season, and the douaniers at the
frontier giving no sort of trouble. I retain a vivid recollection of the
richly-prolific grounds which environ these old and traditionally
dignified palazzos. Peeping within the gateway, you see an enclosure
exuberant in orange, citron, and fig trees, with vines trained from
pillar to pillar over the silent approach. Amidst the foliage towers the
old gray battered edifice, shut up, and sorrowful, with nothing to
animate the scene but the swallows wheeling in their busy flight around
the deserted mansion. My visit to these palazzos was in the month of
January, when peas (probably raised for market) were in full bloom.

An English gentleman has bought one of these properties, the Palazzo of
Orengo, near Cap Murtola, and renovated it in first-rate style. The
mansion occupies a site so prominent as to command a view of Mentone.
With the grounds and some water privileges, it was a cheap purchase.
Even with cost of repairs, it was a prodigious bargain. Politely invited
to the palazzo, we went in a hired carriage from Mentone, but
unexpectedly found that it could not take us further than a point on the
high-road overlooking the house, two hundred feet beneath. A walk down,
and the use of a donkey up for Madame, made all easy. I was of course
interested in the interior of the structure, with its white marble
stairs, its inlaid floors, and loggia off the drawing-room, in the upper
floor of the mansion. In every old palazzo two things appear to have
been essential, a draw-well and a loggia. The draw-well is here situated
at one side of the marble-paved entrance-hall; being, however,
tastefully enclosed, it does not appear out of place. Without a loggia,
it would be scarcely possible to exist in the heats of summer. At
Orengo, the loggia is a square apartment, open on two sides, the roof
being supported on pillars. Seated in this shady retreat, the family
enjoy the pleasures of the open air, with a view of the gardens beneath
and the adjacent sea-beach. A flight of steps on the side next the sea
leads down to the original entrance to the grounds from the old Roman
road, here distinctly traced, about twelve feet wide.

Conducted over the gardens, I had the pleasure of being shewn a variety
of trees and shrubs natural to a tropical climate, and rarely seen in
the open air in Europe. During the short ramble, I learned some facts
regarding the antiquity of the water channels which one observes
everywhere, and of the punctilious way in which custom and legal rights
guard the privileges of the proprietors. The water for the grounds is
led from a torrent, which at certain times turns a mill for pressing oil
from the olives. In consideration of the priceless value of water,
something like a grudge was felt that there was somewhere hereabouts a
subterranean river which had its outlet in the sea, where it could be
seen boiling up and running to waste. Nobody could tell where it came
from. All that could be conjectured was that it found its way through
the limestone rocks from some place far distant, it might be a hundred
miles off. If that river could be but tapped, and diverted to some
useful purpose, what visions of wealth for the neighbourhood! Perhaps,
thought I, this may come about. What a prize for the Mentonians if they
could manage to tap and impound a subterranean and ever-running river! A
gold mine would be nothing to it.

[Illustration: Palazzo of Orengo.]

Observing English newspapers on a table in the house, a talk ensued
about the irregularities of the French postal system. On settling here,
the _Times_ was ordered from London _viâ_ Mentone, but so frequently was
it late in arriving, that at length the expedient was tried of procuring
it by way of Turin and Genoa (some hundreds of miles about), and ever
since it had arrived with regularity and despatch. I am glad to have at
least one good thing to say of Italian administration, and were the
circumstance properly known, it might shame the French into an improved
system of forwarding English newspapers to strangers residing in their
country. In the pleasant society at Orengo, a few hours sped quickly
away. On our departure, after being hospitably entertained, a school of
little girls, under charge of their mistress, stood awaiting us on the
road. It was an agreeable surprise. At a signal, before entering our
carriage, which had been in attendance at the village, they united in
singing a hymn expressive of good wishes. Having concluded, they
individually presented us with bouquets of sweet-scented violets, and
kindly courtesied an adieu.



                             CHAPTER VIII.


There is one other excursion which ought not to be omitted. It is to Cap
Martin, and will be comprehended in a forenoon walk. What, I think, may
particularly interest strangers, is a sight of the largest and finest
olive trees in the whole Riviera, and also some curious Roman remains,
of which no one can give any perfectly satisfactory explanation. A few
days before my departure from Mentone, I made this excursion.
Fortunately, I was not alone in the journey. I was favoured with the
escort of Mr M. Moggridge, an English gentleman of nearly my own age,
who has resided a number of winters in Mentone with several members of
his family. Uniting a singular saliency of disposition with scientific
tastes, and happily possessing a wiry frame, which seems to defy fatigue
and exposure, he has been able to undertake journeys over a lengthened
tract of the Riviera, from the sea-shore to the tops of the highest
mountains. In 1862, he occupied himself in exploring the caves in the
limestone rocks on the shore near Pont St Louis, already noticed,
bringing to light bones, pieces of charcoal, and flint instruments,
which are the puzzle of historians. In the midsummer of 1868, he made an
expedition to the mountainous region of the Laghi delle Meraviglie,
thirty-two miles north of Mentone, and there, at the height of 7825 feet
above the level of the sea, copied certain hieroglyphic inscriptions on
rocks, which bear some remote resemblance to those remarkable stone
carvings in Scotland which have engaged the inquiry of antiquaries. Ever
on the alert, chiefly with a view to investigating the nature of the
plants in the Riviera, and so aiding the inquiries of his son, who has
written some elegant brochures on the botany of the district,[A] Mr
Moggridge readily consented to be my cicerone to Cap Martin and the
vicinity of Monaco.

-----

Footnote A:

  _Contributions to the Flora of Mentone_. By J. Traherne Moggridge.
  With Coloured Engravings. London, 1868.

-----

At ten o’clock I was ready to start, equipped in my strongest shoes,
which, however, were not half strong enough; for the weather had been
wet, and the roads were in about as bad a condition as possible for a
walking expedition. Feeling the inadequacy of my equipments, I could not
help admiring and envying my friend’s whole set-out. On presenting
himself, you might see at a glance that you had to deal with an
enthusiastic mountain pedestrian. Attired in a pair of knickerbockers,
ribbed woollen stockings, and stout ankle boots, he carried a pole five
and a half feet long, with a pike at one end and a hook at the other,
calculated either to steady him on the acclivities, or to pull down the
branch of a tree which he wished botanically to examine. Besides this
formidable pike-staff, he carried a green-painted tin box, slung by a
belt round his shoulder, as a receptacle for specimens of plants; while
around his waist was another belt, bearing two leather sheaths, one
containing a large knife, and the other a saw, both serviceable in his
explorations. In his visits to the hills, as I learned, he does not
burden himself with provender. Ordinarily, he is satisfied with a few
oranges in his pocket, and a brown tobacco-pipe, which he has the knack
of smoking while talking to you, holding the pipe adroitly between his
teeth.

It was in this guise that he proceeded to lead me to Cap Martin. Passing
Carnolles and the last house in the western suburb, we left the main
thoroughfare, and struck to the left, down a narrow road, dreadfully cut
up with wheel-tracks, and environed by grounds, on which grew a forest
of olive trees of considerable size, and evidently, from their
appearance, of great antiquity. I had seen none so large elsewhere.
According to tradition, many of these trees were upwards of a thousand
years old, and such, in a qualified sense, is likely to be the case.
Branches and part of the stem of the olive tree decay, but life remains
in the roots and lower division of the trunk, from which new boughs
spring time after time through a succession of ages. From these causes,
while many of the trunks are rent in antiquated hollows, the mass of
branches above are youthful and luxuriant. Such trees may command a
degree of veneration from their age, but I cannot coincide in the notion
of their beauty. Evidently the whole require frequent manuring around
the roots. Old woollen rags, if they can be obtained, are used for the
purpose. There is a belief that the Romans brought the olive from
Palestine and introduced it into the country. Nowhere, as I have said,
has it attained such a gigantic size as on the soil of Cap Martin.

Having floundered along the pathway for about a mile, turning and
winding, and at length ascending to the higher ground forming the
flattish ridge of the Cap, we paused a little to have a view over the
Mediterranean and the environs of Mentone. Mists hung on the summits of
the higher mountains, a few peaks being slightly whitened with snow. One
sharp point stood out clearly against the sky.

‘Do you see that tall jagged peak,’ said Mr Moggridge, ‘that one clear
of clouds, immediately behind Castellare?’

‘Of course I do,’ I replied: ‘it seems so narrow that a person could not
find footing on the summit.’

‘Quite a mistake,’ he replied. ‘I have often pic-nicked with parties on
the very top, which is only 2745 feet high.’

‘Surely, ladies cannot have climbed to such a height?’

‘Yes, they have,’ replied my friend. ‘The last time I was up, there was
a lady in the party who was a grandmother, and she is quite ready to
make the ascent again at the first opportunity. You have no idea what
spirited ladies—English visitors—we have in Mentone; they will walk for
miles up the hills, and afterwards dance half the night at a ball at the
Cercle. This is the place for exercising the limbs.’

‘Perhaps,’ said I, ‘sometimes rather more dancing than discretion;
however, that is not my affair. What is your idea about the climate of
Mentone?—you must have had a good experience of it.’

‘My idea is very conclusive; I care nothing about popular fancies, but
go to Nature. Two things I take as a criterion—contour and vegetation.
See that semicircle of mountains, the whole a mighty rampart sheltering
the lower grounds from the cold and moist winds of northern and central
Europe. Then, see what is the vegetation. Lemons and citrons, two most
delicate fruits, growing in profusion in the open air, like apples in
Herefordshire. Look around you, also, and see these noble olive trees,
as old and as tall as oaks in England. I might speak of the carouba and
various other trees, but it is unnecessary.’

‘Is not dryness a peculiarity of the air?’

‘Yes, the air is generally dry and light, which adapts it for some
classes of invalids; but I do not consider it as being too dry; the sea
must have a certain modifying influence. The benefit derived by members
of my own family wintering here, enables me to speak with confidence of
both air and climate.’

Speaking of the adaptability of the Cap for a pleasure-ground, with
drives for the enjoyment of visitors, I learned that the land had been
put in the way of being saved from exclusive private use by being
purchased by a Parisian gentleman, a winter visitor, M. Sabatier, to
whom, as well as to his family, Mentone was under many obligations.
Having bought the property, he has given the municipal authorities an
opportunity to acquire it at the purchased price for the use of the
public. Whether the liberal offer will be embraced seems doubtful; for
besides the purchase-money, there must be a considerable outlay in
forming a proper road along the beach to join the Promenade du Midi.

After a little chat on this interesting topic, we walked on, immediately
striking upon a narrow road through the forest, differing in some
respects from the miry path in the lower grounds. It was bounded by low
walls, and here and there we came upon a remnant of pavement with large
stones; such being portions of the old Roman road through the country.
Excepting what produce might presumably be gathered from the huge olive
trees, the district was a waste. Along the road, we met only two or
three labouring men going to their work somewhere, to all of whom my
companion said: _Bonjour, mon ami_, to which greeting there was a
gracious response.

‘I see,’ said I, ‘that you make a point of speaking to every one you
meet—I suppose that is the common practice.’

The reply was: ‘Some do it, and some do not. It has been my custom
through life to always have a kindly word for every one when walking
through the country. It is a bit of civility that gives pleasure. I have
never been the worse, but often the better, for it. Years ago, when
helping a canvass in Wales, I secured a great many votes from people I
knew nothing at all about; the explanation being, as they candidly told
me, that I had spoken to them long before, when I asked for and expected
nothing. Since I came to France, I have followed the practice, and am
the best friend in the world with all the poor people in the
neighbourhood.’

‘The opinion I have formed,’ I said, ‘from a comparatively limited
observation, is, that the humbler classes in Mentone and its vicinity
are an industrious, quiet, well-disposed people—does that consist with
your experience?’

‘Most assuredly it does: they are old-fashioned in their ways, possess
no enterprise, but in all my experience I never saw such a decent,
well-behaved people. Crime is almost unknown amongst them.—But here we
are at the ruin.’

At the distance of about sixty feet north from the side of the road, on
a raised bank surrounded by olive trees, stands this fragment of
masonry. Approaching it, to have a close inspection, we find it to be a
building of stones squared, and laid in regular courses. Fronting us is
a façade, measuring twenty-seven feet across, and twelve feet high; but
as the top is broken and ragged, the original height must have been
greater. The thickness of the façade is five feet six inches—so thick as
to admit of three alcoves or recesses in a row, each recess arched, and
about two feet in depth backwards. The wall above the arches shews a
handsome string-course, with a lozenge-shaped figure over the two side
arches. Over the central arch, there is a square recess in the wall,
which had evidently at one time been occupied by a slab, probably
bearing an inscription. Behind the mass forming this frontage, there had
been an open quadrangle, enclosed by a wall two feet thick. Of this wall
the west side only remains, but we trace where the other sides had been.
The depth of the quadrangle over the wall had been twenty-eight feet six
inches, by twenty-seven feet—very nearly a square. These walls, as is
observed by significant traces, had not been above seven or eight feet
high.

Having examined the structure at all points, we can have little
difficulty in assigning its origin to the Romans; but at what period it
was erected, or what were its uses, are questions less easily solved.
There it stands, without date or mark to tell its mysterious tale; and
from no ancient writer do we learn aught concerning it. To strengthen
the opinion that the ruin is of Roman origin, it is known with all but
absolute certainty that on the flat ground hereabouts was the military
station of Lumon or Lumone, indicated by Antoninus as being on the Roman
way from Ventimiglia to Turbia. Of this station there is now no visible
trace, such as the mounds of an encampment, but this may be accounted
for by the universal trenching caused by the culture of the olive trees.

‘Well,’ inquired my companion, ‘now that you have had a good look of the
ruin, and taken its measurements, what is your opinion about it? I have
made up my mind, but I will be quite fair, and let you speak first.’

This was putting me on my mettle. I took a little time to think. ‘My
first notion,’ I said, ‘on seeing the building was, that it was the
relic of some habitable structure; then the idea of baths crossed my
mind; but on looking closely at the façade, I am fully of opinion that
the building has been of a commemorative character; and I will shew you
why. That empty square space over the middle arch had, no doubt, been
originally filled with a slab bearing an inscription; and it is quite as
likely that in each alcove there had stood a figure in marble; in the
central one, possibly, a bust, and an appropriate heathen deity on each
side.’

‘Not badly guessed, so far,’ said Mr Moggridge: ‘now, I will tell you
what I think. This had been the mausoleum of some distinguished Roman
family, connected with the station of Lumone. The burial-place had been
the enclosure behind; and in front had been the inscription. Such, in
fact, is the opinion of several French antiquaries who have written
about the place. I believe, however, no one has thought of the figures
in front; but that conjecture, I allow, is very feasible.’

We argued the point as to whether the mausoleum was that of a family or
an individual; but having no basis of facts whereon to found our
respective theories, the discussion settled nothing. I suggested that
the space behind the façade should be trenched, to discover if there
were any sepulchral remains; and that at anyrate the whole ruin should
be enclosed, and protected from further injury. There is no photograph
or drawing of the ruin, and I likewise hinted that something of that
kind was very desirable. I have attempted a small sketch of it from
memory, and put it at the conclusion of the present volume.

Leaving this relic of antiquity, we continued our walk westward till,
getting clear of the woods, and still on the old Roman road, we came in
sight of Monaco and the very picturesque shores of the Mediterranean in
its neighbourhood. The ground was an open uncultured steep. Far below on
our left was the sea-shore, while on the face of the hill above was the
town of Roccabruna, which can be reached by a steep pathway. Around us
on the sloping bank, trees and small flowering plants were growing in a
state of nature. This wild condition of affairs was highly relished by
my companion. He was on the outlook for a particular plant, which he
described as being never found except in the south. I drew his attention
to a modest-looking shrub about the size of a whin-bush, bearing very
small purple blossoms along the outer stems.

‘Why,’ said he, ‘that is a common plant here; it is rosemary—the
well-known rosemary of Shakspeare; and if we look about we shall also
find rue, another plant of poetic renown—there it is. You remember what
Ophelia says about rue: “There’s rue for you; and here’s some for me.”’

‘Ophelia says something more than that: in tendering the rue to Laertes,
she says, “we may call it herb-grace o’ Sundays,” and what is meant by
that has been subject of subtle inquiry among critics; I suppose,
however, that rue was called herb-grace simply as figuring by its
sorrowful name the grace of repentance.’

The remark introduced a conversation on the practice of laying a bunch
of rue before persons on trial at Newgate—an impertinent practical pun
on their unfortunate position at the bar. While discussing the subject,
Mr Moggridge made a sudden rush to a plant with small slender leaves,
being the one he was in quest of, and seemed to feel more happy in
securing a specimen of it than if he had fallen upon a mine of the
precious metals. ‘I daresay it is a valuable plant that you have got
hold of,’ said I; ‘unfortunately, I am not able to see anything
remarkable about it; that, of course, is my ignorance. I go in for
admiring the rosemary, which is flowering hereabouts in great profusion;
so, “for remembrance,” I will take the liberty of carrying off a sprig
in my button-hole.’

Glancing down the steep, I observed a donkey climbing a pathway under a
load of sticks, with a lad behind driving it. ‘What a wonderfully useful
animal the ass is in this mountainous region,’ I observed. ‘I don’t see
how the people could get on without it. And so patient, so docile is the
creature, I am sometimes sorry for it. Talking of that, I have heard the
donkey-women address a few words to the animal, as if to cheer it on,
which I did not understand. The words sounded like _alla eesa_. Can you
tell me what they mean?’

‘Yes,’ was the reply. ‘The meaning is a pious exclamation of kindly
import from the Arabic, and is traced to the Saracens, who at one time
held possession of parts of the country along the coast. The
hill-dwellers certainly take the work out of their donkeys, but on the
whole treat them kindly; they are, in fact, their companions, their
friends, their dependence.’

Conversation now turned on the remarkable absence of wild animals,
particularly birds, along the whole Riviera. There was, doubtless, no
deficiency of butterflies, but this only confirmed the notion, that
insects injurious to plants had gained in numbers by the vicious
practice of shooting almost every kind of small bird.

Mr Moggridge confirmed me in this opinion. ‘Some of the tracts on the
higher hills,’ said he, ‘have been wholly stripped of their pine forests
by a destructive caterpillar, the _Bombyx processiania_; so called
because these caterpillars follow each other in long and very strange
processions. One goes in front as a leader, two follow close behind,
then three, and so on, all hard upon each other. As they are marked
brown and black, a procession of them looks like a triangular piece of
old carpet on the march with one of the corners foremost—a very queer
sort of thing, I assure you. Two or three years ago, when on an
expedition among the mountains, I came to the forest of Braus, which was
already half destroyed by these voracious caterpillars. Many trees were
merely withered stumps, others were dying, and to all appearance the
remainder would ere long perish. A good way to get rid of these
destructive caterpillars would be to gather and set fire to their nests,
which resemble bunches of fine wool placed among the branches of the
trees. I suggested to the government that women and children should be
employed to pick off the nests, otherwise the country would be denuded;
but I was referred to the communal authorities, and they would do
nothing. I suppose the woods are all gone by this time. All this comes,
of course, from shooting the small birds which are appointed by Nature
to keep down the number of insects. There has been, I believe, some
formal edict of the French government against killing these birds, but
little or no attention is paid to it. The insects which prey on plants
have full swing. The time may come when, alarmed for the consequences,
the French, like the people of Philadelphia in the United States, may
have to import batches of live sparrows from England.’

Taking the road back to Mentone, and leaving Mr Moggridge to pursue some
inquiries in the neighbourhood of Roccabruna, I had not an opportunity
of following up his remarks on the folly of killing small birds. It is
more than a folly. It is a gross public outrage. At Mentone, persons are
seen sallying out with guns slung by a belt over their shoulders, on the
watch for every stray sparrow, lark, or robin. Shooting these small
birds goes on with perfect impunity in the streets and by-ways. The
practice is not carried on in a mere spirit of idleness or mischief. The
little creatures are killed for the sake of picking up a few miserable
sous. The birds are disposed of to shopkeepers, who hang them up in
bunches for sale outside their doors; and in due time they make their
appearance cooked at the tables-d’hôte: a _menu_ with an _Entrée des
alouettes et des rouges-gorges_—in plain English, a dish of roasted
larks and robin-redbreasts! Greatly to the credit of the visitors
residing last season at the Hôtel Splendide, they protested against the
barbarity, and the remonstrance, as under, obtained publicity in the
small local journal.[B]

-----

Footnote B:

  (_Translation._) The undersigned, members of the colony of strangers
  at Mentone, penetrated, as every one ought to be, with the great wrong
  done to agriculture by the destruction of insectivorous birds, and
  anxious to contribute on their part towards the disappearance of a
  practice as hurtful as it is barbarous, make it known as their wish
  that the keepers of hotels and pensions will never again serve up this
  species of game at their tables-d’hôte.—_Journal de Menton_, Nov. 27,
  1869.

-----

Besides being injurious to agriculture, the systematic slaughter of
insectivorous birds must tend to increase the number of mosquitoes. I
cannot say we were annoyed with these insects, for the season was
winter, and from any stray one that happened to be in the apartments at
night we were protected by fine gauze curtains hanging in copious
drapery around the beds. They become, however, a serious trouble in
spring and summer, more particularly in the neighbourhood of trees. If
it were for nothing more than lessening the numbers of mosquitoes, the
settled inhabitants should interpose by some general movement to
preserve the small birds from indiscriminate destruction. If they do
interpose, they may as well, while in a lecturing mood, offer some hints
to the municipal authorities regarding their neglect in sundry other
little matters; some of them so obvious to the senses, that they do not
need to be particularised. When a town professes to lay itself out as an
attractive health-resort, it should not have been left to strangers to
make these remonstrances. The self-interest of the people, as well as
good taste, ought before this to have applied a corrective.

Before quitting the country, I visited Monaco, partly with a view to see
what I had heard sufficient talk about, the Casino of Monte Carlo. The
principality, shrunk to moderate dimensions, is now visited almost
exclusively on account of the Casino. Few trouble themselves about the
old walled town on the rocky peninsula, though it is interesting from
historical circumstances. Occupying a pleasant situation on an elevated
plateau east from the town, Monte Carlo consists of the Casino, a hotel,
and a few villas, shops, and restaurants. The whole are intermingled
with gardens, promenades, and terraces. On the principal terrace grow
some fine date palms. The place has an air of splendour. Everything has
been done to render it attractive. Much money must have been spent by M.
Leblanc, the lessee of the Casino, which bears a considerable
resemblance to the similar establishment at Homburg. The edifice
comprehends several large and very highly-decorated apartments for the
gaming-tables, balls, and concerts. There is likewise a reading-room,
provided with a profusion of English, French, German, American, and
other newspapers, open freely to visitors from morning to night. A band
of musicians plays in the open grounds twice a day. _Les jeux_ are of
the usual character—_rouge et noir_ with cards, and _roulette_. As the
railway station is at the foot of the slope immediately behind, the
Casino can be reached many times a day in a quarter of an hour from
Mentone, and in less than an hour from Nice. The resort is considerable,
more particularly from Nice; every train carrying a flock of persons of
both sexes with an appetite for gaming. Natives of the district are, I
believe, forbidden to enter the establishment, but this is a rule which
could not be easily enforced. I heard of cooks and waiters from the
hotels in Mentone occasionally winning or losing a five-franc piece.

It would be easy to enlarge on the gambling which, day by day, Sunday
included, goes on in this authorised temple of Pluto; but with every
disposition to say something condemnatory on the subject, one is
awkwardly reminded of the old injunction about first taking the mote out
of your own eye before trying your hand on the eyes of others. On this
matter of Monte Carlo, I feel as if my mouth were shut by a knowledge of
prevalent gaming practices at home—I mean the wide-spread system of
betting on horse-races, which is nothing else than inveterate and
disreputable gambling under the cover of sport and fashionable usage.

Wandering about the sunny knolls near the Casino, I had pointed out to
me a pretty spot on the sea-shore, as the original site of the shrine of
Ste Dévote, the patron saint of the small sovereignty. I had been lately
reading the legend of this highly appreciated female martyr, which I may
condense into a few lines, for the amusement of those who care for this
class of stories.

Dévote was a young maiden of Corsica, who, for her faithful adherence to
Christianity, was cruelly put to death during the frightful persecutions
of Diocletian and Maximilian. Warned by a vision, two priests, who had
hid themselves in a cave, carried away her body, and putting it on board
a boat, set sail for the coast of Africa. A storm, however, arose, and
there appeared to be a danger of being wrecked. In this emergency, when
all was given up for lost, the priests were again favoured by a vision;
the spirit of the girl announced that the storm would soon cease, and
that a dove would issue from her mouth, which they should follow with
the boat till they arrived at a certain spot on the Italian coast near
Monaco. They accordingly saw a dove come forth from the mouth of the
corpse, and they gladly followed it to the spot indicated. There the
body was interred on the 27th January, which day remains the festival of
Ste Dévote. The relics of the saint have been transferred from her
original shrine to the church in Monaco, and are carried in great
ceremony at the annual festival. It has long been a custom, on this
occasion, for the inhabitants of Monaco to prefer a request to the
prince, which, if they all agree upon, and is reasonable and
practicable, is graciously granted.

The implicit belief in the legend of Ste Dévote may be taken as a fair
specimen of the credulity still prevalent in the Riviera. At Monaco and
several other places, the passion of our Lord is dramatised in a public
procession every year on Good-Friday, when an immense concourse of
people attend.

Efforts, as I understand, have been made by some of the higher order of
clergy to put an end to these practices, which have degenerated into
little better than sacrilegious burlesque, but such well-meant attempts
have hitherto failed. The occasion is hailed as a sort of ‘Holy Fair,’
of which the lower uninstructed classes are immensely fond. To
accommodate the fluctuating crowds, Roccabruna holds its Good-Friday
entertainment on the 5th August. The maintenance of the revelries is
said to be partly due to the keepers of _Débits de Vin_, who find it to
their account to encourage them; and there are persons who cling to them
for histrionic reasons. One man is good at playing Pontius Pilate,
another (the villain of the piece) is clever at representing Judas
Iscariot, a woman is proud of being able to simulate the tenderly
weeping Mary Magdalene, and so on with other personages. There is
sometimes a difficulty in finding a person with sufficient self-command
to endure the contumelies heaped on the meek and suffering Saviour by
the Roman soldiers. A few years ago, at Roccabruna, one who undertook to
represent the sacred character was, as he thought, so maltreated as to
lose his temper, and using his fists in defence, broke out in
imprecations which greatly shocked the onlookers. From what I heard,
these pretended solemnities are losing hold on popular feeling. At
Mentone they are of a subdued character. Education and intercourse with
strangers are year by year lessening the general respect for them. Let
alone, I doubt not that, like the mummings of the olden time in England,
they will gradually disappear.

The concluding part of the season, as has been said, was spent by us in
Nice, where, as well as in Paris subsequently, I found something to
interest in the method of forming foot-pavements and roadways of a
species of artificial stone, which was introduced a few years ago with
perfect success into France. The material employed is a bituminous
limestone rock ground to powder; the powder is heated, but not melted,
in a caldron, after which it is laid evenly, as a sort of hot mortar, on
a bed of concrete; lastly, it is pressed smooth with rollers, and is
allowed a short time to cool and harden previous to being used. In the
case of foot-pavements, after pressure, it is stamped with indentations
to resemble sandstone. When finished, it is smooth, beautiful in
appearance, hard, and more durable than any stone ordinarily employed.
In Paris, it has latterly come extensively into use for the roadways,
and is only now becoming known in London. The rock which furnishes this
remarkable material is a hard limestone dug from mines in the
Val-de-Travers, canton of Neufchâtel, Switzerland. The proportion of
bitumen in the rock is eleven to twelve per cent., just sufficient to
fuse the material when ground, and to take a firm consolidated form by
pressure; on which account, it is a very different thing from the pitchy
asphalt mixed with sand with which we are accustomed. Any one who is
acquainted with the newer streets in Paris will recollect their
smoothness, and the ease with which carriages are run upon them. The
wonder is, how the invention should have been so long in making its way
to England.

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

My little tale is told. I have endeavoured to offer a fair outline of
what may be experienced, and what seen, by a WINTERING AT
MENTONE—extenuating nothing, overpraising nothing. More might have been
said regarding the climate without trenching on the province of the
physician; yet enough has been stated to shew invalids and
health-seekers in advanced years that, with care, very considerable
benefit may be experienced. It will have been seen that certain
discomforts, possibly extortions, may have to be submitted to. The
dreariness of exile in a place so unfortunately devoid of means for
rational amusement as Mentone, will in itself be hateful. The inadequacy
of various public arrangements may cause personal inconvenience and
dissatisfaction. But seriously considered, what is all that and much
more, when balanced against the probability of returning home with a
reinvigorated constitution? My latest sojourn, not free from annoyances
which are vanishing from memory, effected every desired end. On losing
the last glimpse of the Mediterranean, I felt something like a pang of
regret, though its noisy movements had at times been troublesome. Its
pleasant sunny shores had restored the health that had been impaired on
the banks of the Firth of Forth.



[Illustration]



               Edinburgh: Printed by W. and R. Chambers.





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