East of Paris
Matilda Betham-Edwards

Part 2 out of 3

But interest in personalities is leading me from what I have set myself
to describe, namely, portraiture in marble. For this magnificent work
thus perpetuates the last of the Montmorencys and his wife as they were
when separated for ever in their prime. Imposing although the monument
is as a whole, these two figures in white marble, standing out against a
dark background, engross attention. The entire work covers the wall
behind the high altar, the sculptures being in pure white marble, the
framework in black. Dismissing the niched Mars and Hercules on the one
side, the allegorised Religion and Charity on the other, we study the
central figures both offering interest of quite different kind.

Why a dashing soldier and courtier of the Renaissance should be
represented in the guise of a Roman warrior, is an anomaly,
irreconcilable as that of pagan gods and the personification of
Christian attributes here placed vis-a-vis. Perhaps the grief-stricken
wife, who was, as it appears, of a highly romantic and adventuresome
turn, wished thus to commemorate the heroic qualities of her husband;
she might also have wished to dissociate him altogether from his own
time, a period of which, in her eyes, he would be the victim. Be this as
it may, the Roman undress and accoutrements do not harmonise with a
physiognomy essentially French and French of a given epoch. Whilst the
interest aroused by the Duchess's effigy is purely artistic, that of her
husband excites curiosity rather than admiration. The head is strangely
poised, much as if the artist intended to suggest the fact of
decapitation; obliquity of vision, a defect hereditary in the
Montmorencys, is also indicated, adding singularity. The half-recumbent
figure by the Duke's side, is of rare pathos and beauty. Almost angelic
in its resignation and religious fervour is the upturned face. The
drapery, too, shows classic grace and simplicity, as strongly contrasted
with the martial travesty opposite as are the two countenances in

Long will art-lovers linger before this monument raised by wifely
devotion, a monument, with so many another, perpetuating rather the
devotion of the survivor than claims on posterity of the dead. And let
not hasty travellers follow Arthur Young's example, jotting down, after
a visit to Moulins, "No room for the Tombeau de Montmorenci."



A quarter of an hour by rail, an hour and a quarter by road, from
Moulins lies Souvigny, the cradle of the Bourbons, and as interesting
and delightful a little excursion as travellers can desire. On a glowing
September morning the scenery of the Allier looked its very best. Never
as long as I live shall I forget the beauty of that drive. Lightest,
loveliest cumuli floated athwart a pure, not too dazzlingly blue sky,
before us stretched avenue after avenue of poplar or plane trees,
veritable aisles of green letting in the azure, reminding me of the
famous Hobbema in our National Gallery. At many points the landscape
recalled our native land; but for the white oxen of the Morvan, we might
have fancied ourselves in Sussex or the Midlands. And cloudage, to
borrow an expression of Coleridge, suggested England, too. Clouds and
skies of the Midlands, none more poetic or pictorial throughout England
seemed here--those skies above the vast sweeps of undulating chalk
having a peculiar depth and tenderness, the clouds a marvellous
brilliance, transparence, and variety of form! So beautiful are those
cloud-pictures that we hardly needed beauty below. Here on the road to
Moulins we had both, the landscape, if not romantic or striking, being
rich in pastoral charm. Arthur Young, who looked at every bit of country
first and foremost from the farmer's point of view, was so much struck
with the neighbourhood of Moulins that, but for the Revolution, he would
very probably have become a French landowner. Just eight miles from the
city he visited in August, 1789, an estate was offered for sale by its
possessor, the Marquis de Goutte. "The finest climate in France, perhaps
in Europe," he wrote, "a beautiful and healthy country, excellent roads,
and navigation to Paris; wine, game, fish, and everything appears on the
table except the produce of the tropics; a good house, a fine garden,
with ready markets for every kind of produce; and, above all the rest,
three thousand acres of enclosed land, capable in a very little time of
being, without expense, quadrupled in its produce--altogether formed a
picture sufficient to tempt a man who had been twenty-five years in the
constant practice of husbandry adapted to the soil." The price of the
whole was only thirteen thousand and odd pounds, and the seller took
care to explain that "all seigneurial rights _haute justice_" (that is
to say, the privilege of hanging poachers, and others, at the chateau
gates), were included in the purchase money. But the country was already
in a ferment, and had our countryman struck a bargain then and there,
the last-named extras would have proved a dead letter. Seigneurial
rights were being abolished, or rather surrendered, at the very time
that this transaction was under consideration. As Arthur Young tells us,
he might as well have asked for an elephant at Moulins as for a
newspaper. No one knew, or apparently cared to know, what was taking
place in Paris. On asking his landlady for a newspaper, she replied she
had none, they were too dear. Whereupon the irate traveller wrote down
in his diary: "it is a great pity that there is not a camp of _brigands_
in your coffee room, Madame Bourgeau."

This part of France is not a region of prosperous peasant farmers, nor
is it a chess-board of tiny crops, the four or five acre freeholds of
small owners cut up into miniature fields. I had a long talk with a
countryman, and he informed me that, as in Arthur Young's time, the land
belongs to large owners, and is still, as in his time, cultivated by
_metayers_ on the half-profit system. At the present day, however,
another class has sprung up, that of tenant farmers on a considerable
scale; these, in their turn, sublet to peasants who give their labour
and with whom they divide the profits. Now, the half-profit system does
certainly answer elsewhere; in the Indre, for example, it has proved a
stepping-stone to the position of small capitalist. Here I learned, with
regret, that such is not the case. Land, even in the highly-favoured
Allier, cannot afford a triple revenue. In the Indre, on the contrary,
there is no intermediary between land-owners and _metayers_, the former
even selling small holdings to their labourers as soon as they have
saved a little capital.

"No; folks are not prosperous hereabouts," said my informant. "There are
no manufacturers at Moulins to enrich the people, and, what with high
rents and low prices, the half-profit system does not pay. If money is
made, it is by the tenant-farmer, not by the _metayer_." Curious and
instructive is the fact that the most Catholic and aristocratic centres
in France should often be the poorest; Moulins and the Allier afford but
one example out of many.

A beautiful drive of an hour and a quarter brought us within sight of
Souvigny. Towering above the bright landscape rose the Abbey Church, its
sober dun, red and brown hues, the quaint houses of similar colour
huddled around it, contrasted with the dazzling brightness of sky and

Still more striking the contrast between the pile so majestic and
surroundings so homely! Here, as at La Charite, nothing is in keeping
with the mass of architecture, which, in its apogee, stood for the town
itself, what of town, indeed, there was being the merest accessory,
inevitable but unimposing entourage, growing up bit by bit. The present
population of Souvigny is something over three thousand, doubtless, as
in the case of La Charite, less than that of its former monastery and
dependencies. As we wind upwards, thus flanking the town and abbey, we
realise the superb position of this cradle and mausoleum of the
Bourbons. For Souvigny was both. Two thousand and odd years ago, here,
in the very heart of France, Adhemar, a brave soldier, nothing more,
became the first "Sire de Bourbon," Charles le Simple having given him
the fief of Bourbon as a reward for military services, its chief
establishing himself at Souvigny, and of course founding a religious
house. The Benedictine abbey, being enriched with the bones of two
saints, former Abbots of Cluny, became a famous pilgrimage. Adhemar's
successors transferred their seat of seigneurial government to Bourbon
l'Archimbault, but for centuries here they found their last
resting-place, and here they are commemorated in marble.

Indescribably picturesque is this whilom capital of the tiny feudal
kingdom; topsy-turvy, higgledy-piggledy, coated of many colours are its
zig-zag little streets, one house tumbling on the back of its neighbour,
another having contrived to wedge itself between two of portlier bulk, a
third coolly taking possession of some inviting frontage, shutting out
its fellow's light, air, and sunshine; here, meeting the eye, breakneck
alley, there aerial terrace, and on all sides architectural reminders of
the Souvigny passed away, the Souvigny once so splendid and important,
now reduced to nothingness, as is, politically speaking, the so-called
House of France.

The Abbey Church, like that of La Charite, shows a mixture of many
styles, the general effect being magnificent in the extreme. Throughout
eastern France you find no more imposing facade. But, as observes M.
Emile Montegut, in the work before quoted, the church has been created
as Nature creates a soil, each age contributing its layer; Byzantine,
Roman, Gothic, each style is here seen, the latter in its purity.

Whilst the church itself stands taut and trim, a mass of sculptured
masonry in rich browns and reds, the interior shows melancholy
dilapidation. But, indeed, for the stern lessons of history, how sad
were the spectacle of these mutilated effigies in marble, exquisite
sculptures when fresh from the artist's hand, to-day torsos so hideously
hacked and hewn as hardly to look human! We cannot, however, forget that
the history of races, as of nations and individuals, is retributive.
When the 'Roi-Soleil,' that incarnation of the Bourbon spirit, was so
inflated with his own personality as to forbid the erection of any
statue throughout France but his own, he paved the way for the
revolutionary iconoclasts of a century later. It was simply a recurrence
of the old fatality, the inevitable moral, since History began.

For here, defaced to such a point that sculptures they can be called no
longer, are memorialised not only Louis XIV.'s ancestors, but his
offspring, namely, Louise Marie, one of his seven children by Madame de
Montespan, all, as we know, with those of Madame de la Valliere,
legitimised, ennobled and enriched. Pierre de Beaujeu, husband of the
great Anne of France, was also buried here. Anne it was who, on the
death of Louis XI., governed France with all her father's astuteness,
but without his cruelty, and pleasant and comforting it is to find that
Duke Pierre, her husband, seconded her in every way, himself remaining
in the background, acting to perfection the difficult role of Prince
Consort. The sight of these once exquisite marbles may perhaps awaken in
other minds the reflection that crossed my own. Heretical as I shall
seem, I venture to express the opinion, that in such cases one of two
courses are advisable, either the removal of the torsos, or restoration;
why should not some genius be able in this field to do what Viollet le
Duc has so successfully achieved in another? But for that great
architect, the cathedral of Moulins--and how many other beautiful French
churches?--would long ago have tumbled to pieces, been handed over as
storage to corn merchants, or brewers! Is it so much more difficult to
restore a marble effigy, whether of human being or animal, than a facade
or an altar-piece? If impossible, then, I say, let broken marbles like
those of Souvigny be hidden from view.

The agreeable town of Sens on the Yonne is here described for
completeness' sake. Although not lying in the Bourbonnais, Sens formed
the last stage of our little tour in this direction, a direct line of
railway connecting the town with Moulins. What a change we found here!
Instead of unswept, malodorous streets, and sordid riverside quarters,
all was clean, trim, and cared for, one wholly uncommon feature lending
especial charm.

For the tutelar goddess of Sens, benignant genius presiding over the
city, is a stream, or rather parent of many streams, that water the
streets of their own free will, supplying thirsty beasts with copious
draughts in torrid weather, and keeping up a perpetual air of rusticity
and coolness.

Wherever you go you are followed by the musical ripple of these runlets,
purling brooks so crystalline that you are tempted to look for

The voluntariness of this street watering constitutes its witchery. Post
haste flows each tiny course; not having a moment to spare seems every
current. Need we wonder at the fabled Arethusas and Sabrinas of more
youthful worlds?

Of itself Sens is very engaging. We can easily understand the fact of
the late Mr. Hamerton having made his first French home here. In the
memoir of her husband, affixed to his autobiography, Mrs. Hamerton gives
us particulars, not only of individual, but of super-personal interest.
I use the last expression because the idiosyncrasy described is common
to most men and women of genius or exceptional talent. The charming
essayist then, the art-critic, gifted with so much insight and feeling
settled down at Sens we are told, for the purpose of painting
'commission pictures.' His career was to be decided by the brush and not
by the pen. The author of "The Intellectual Life," with how many other
works of distinction, had, at the outset, wholly mistaken his vocation.
"The first thing considered by Gilbert when he settled at Sens," writes
Mrs. Hamerton, "was the choice of subjects for his commission pictures,
which he intended to paint directly from nature; and he soon selected
panoramic views from the top of a vine-clad hill, called Saint Bon,
which commands an extensive view of the river Yonne, and of the plains
about it." Unfortunately, rather we should say fortunately, anyhow, for
the reading world, the 'commission pictures' were declined. The
disappointed artist, out of humour with Sens, made a series of journeys
in search of an ideal home, the result being that most entertaining and
successful book, "Round My House," and the final devotion of its author
to letters.

Sens might well seem an ideal place of abode to many. Formed from the
ancient Province of Burgundy, the Department of the Yonne has the charm
of Burgundian scenery, with the addition of a wide, lovely river. All
travellers on the Lyons-Marseilles Railway will recall the noble
appearance of the town from the railway--the Cathedral, with its one
lofty tower, rising above grey roofs, no factory chimneys marring the
outline, and, between bright stretches of country, the Yonne, not least
enchanting of French rivers, if not the most striking or romantic,
perhaps the sweetest and most soothing in the world. The favourable
impression of Sens gained by this fleeting view, is more than justified
on nearer acquaintance. The Cathedral, externally less imposing than
those of Bourges, Rheims, or even Rodez and Beauvais, is of a piece
alike without and within, no tasteless excrescence disfiguring its outer
walls, little or no modern tawdriness to be seen inside, an
architectural gem of great purity. For the curious in such matters, the
sacristy offers many wonders, among others a large fragment of the true
cross, presented to Sens by Charlemagne. Less apocryphal are the
vestments of our own Archbishop Thomas, alb, girdle, stole, and the
rest, all most carefully preserved and exhibited in a glass case. It
will be remembered that, when the turbulent Thomas of London, afterwards
known as Becket, was condemned as a traitor, he fled to France. "This is
a fearful day," said one of his attendants on hearing the sentence. "The
Day of Judgment will be more fearful," replied Thomas. It was not at
Sens, however, that the refugee took up his abode, but in the Abbey of
St. Colombe, now in ruins hard by.

On the other side of the bridge, crowning an islet, stands one of those
curious church_lets_, or churc_lings_ I was about to say, that possess
so powerful a fascination for the archaeological mind. Particularly
striking was the little Romanesque interior in the September twilight, a
picturesque group of Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul, rehearsing
canticles with their pupils at one end, the subdued light just enabling
us to realise the harmony of proportions. This little church of St.
Maurice dating from the twelfth century, partly restored in the
sixteenth, must not on any account be missed. Its pretty spire crowns
the Isle d'Yonne, or island of the Yonne.

Chapter XIII.


Late and tired, I arrived, one September evening, at Arcis-sur-Aube,
birthplace and home of the great Danton.

I had brought with me letters of introduction to friends' friends,
unaware that at such a moment the sign-manual of the President of the
Republic himself would hardly have secured me a night's lodging. For at
this especial moment the little town, from end to end, was in the
possession of the military headquarters of that year's manoeuvres.

Every private dwelling showed a notice of the officers in command
sheltered under its roof. Here and there, the presence of sentinels
indicated the location of generals. The hotels were crowded from
basement to attic, folks who let lodgings for hire had made bargains
long before, whilst the very poorest made up beds, or turned out of
their own, to accommodate the rank and file. At the extreme end of the
town, close to the ancestral home of the Dantons, stands the straggling
old-fashioned Hotel de la Poste, a hostelry, I should suppose, not in
the least changed since the days of the great conventionnel. All here
was bustle and excitement. Mine host was spitting game in the kitchen,
and could hardly find time to answer my application; soldiers and
officers' servants, scullions and men of all-work, almost knocked each
other down in the inn-yard, the landlady, generally so affable a
personage in provincial France, gave me the cold shoulder. I turned out
in the forlorn hope of finding a good Samaritan. Of course, to present a
letter of introduction under such circumstances, was quite out of the
question, my errand would have been the last hair to break the camel's
back, final embarrassment of an already overdone hostess. But night was
at hand; the last train to Troyes, the nearest town, had gone, no other
would pass through Arcis-sur-Aube until the small hours of the morning.
Unless I could procure a room, therefore, I should be in the position of
a homeless vagrant. Well, not to be dismayed, I set out making inquiries
right and left, to my astonishment being rebuffed rather surlily and
with looks of suspicion. The fact is, during these manoeuvres, a lady
arriving at head-quarters alone is apt to be looked upon with no
favourable eye. Especially do people wonder what on earth can bring a
foreigner to an out of the way country place at such a time--she must
surely be a spy, pickpocket or something worse!

After having vainly made inquiries to no purpose along the principal
street, I turned into a grocer's shop in a smaller thoroughfare; two
young assistants were chatting without anything to do, and they looked
so good-natured that I entered and begged them to help me.

Very likely an English hobbledehoy similarly appealed to would have
blushed, giggled, and got rid of the stranger as quickly as possible;
French youths of all ranks have rather more of the man of the world in
them. The elder of the lads became at once interested in my case, and
manifested a keen desire to be serviceable. Hailing a little girl from
without, he bade her conduct me to a certain Mademoiselle D---- who let
rooms and might have one vacant. The little maid, fetching a companion
to accompany us--here also was a French trait; whatever is done, must be
done sociably--took me to the address given; the demoiselle in question
was, however, not at home, but the concierge said that, another
demoiselle living near would probably be able to accommodate me, which
she did. Before I proceed with my narrative, however, I must mention the
ill fortune that befell my useful little cicerone.

On taking leave I had given her half a franc, a modest recompense enough
as I thought. The following story would seem to show that the good
people of Arcis have not yet become imbued with modern ideas about
money, also that they have a high notion of the value of truth. To my
dismay I learnt next morning that the poor little girl had been soundly
slapped, her mother refusing to believe that she had come honestly by so
much money; as my hostess observed, the good woman might at least have
waited for corroboration of the child's statement. A box of chocolate,
transmitted by a third hand, I have no doubt acted as a consolation.

Dear kind mademoiselle Jenny M---- How warmly she welcomed me to her
homely hearth! My little purple rosette, insignia of an officer of
Public Instruction of France, proved a bond of union. This excellent
woman was the daughter of a schoolmaster who had himself worn the
academic ribbon, a French schoolmaster's crowning ambition. He had left
his daughter, in comfortable circumstances, that is to say, she enjoyed
an annuity of L40 a year, the possession of a large, roomy house, part
of which she let, and half an acre of garden full as it could be of
flowers, fruit and vegetables. We at once became excellent friends.

"Now," she said, "I am very sorry that my best bedroom is given up to
soldiers, two poor young fellows I took in the other night out of
compassion. You can, however, have the little back room looking on to
the garden, it is rather in disorder, but you will find the bed
comfortable. I cannot offer to do much for you in the way of waiting,
having a lame foot, but a woman brings me milk early in the morning and
she shall put a cupful outside your door; bread and butter you will find
in the little kitchen next to your room."

I assured her that such an arrangement would suit me very well, as I had
my own spirit lamp and could make tea for myself; then we went
downstairs. The great difficulty that night was to get anything to eat.
The soldiers had eaten every body out of house and home, she assured me
there was not such a thing as a chop or an egg to be had in the town for
love or money. Fortunately, I had the remains of a cold chicken in my
lunch basket, and this did duty for supper, my hostess pressing upon me
some excellent Bordeaux.

As we chatted, she mentioned the fact that two or three friends, much in
the same situation as herself, occupied the little houses running
alongside her garden.

"We are all old maids," she informed me.

"Old maids," quoth I, "how is that? I thought there were no single women
out of convents in France."

"The thing," she said, "has come about in this way--we have all enough
to live upon, and so many women worsen their condition by marriage,
instead of bettering it, that we made up our minds to live comfortably
on what we have got, and not trouble our heads about the men. We live
very happily together, and are all socialists, radicals, _libres
penseuses_ and the rest. We read a great deal, and, as you will see
to-morrow, my father left me a good library."

As we sat at table in the somewhat untidy kitchen, my fellow guests, the
conscripts, came in, they were pleasant, civil young fellows belonging
to different classes of life. One was a middle-class civilian from an
industrial city of the north, the other a homely peasant, son of the

These conscripts, however poorly fed in barracks, fare like aldermen
during these manoeuvres, everybody giving them to eat and drink of their
best. They had just dined plentifully, but for all that, managed to get
down a bumper of wine immediately offered by Mademoiselle Jenny; a hunk
of Dijon gingerbread they did evidently find some difficulty in getting
through. We toasted each other in friendliest fashion, and the civilian,
out of compliment to myself, drank to the health of the English army.

Next morning I fared no less sumptuously than a soldier during the
manoeuvres. A savoury steam had announced game for our mid-day meal.

"Now," said my hostess, as she dished up and began to carve a fat
partridge cooked to a turn--"this bird that came so apropos, is a
present from a great-nephew of Danton. He is the _juge de paix_ here and
a good neighbour of mine. We will pay him a visit this afternoon."

Of this gentleman, of Danton's home and family, I shall say something
later on. We made a round of visits that day, but the _juge de paix_,
who seemed to share the tastes of his great ancestor, was in the country
in search of more partridges. Other friends and acquaintances we found
at home; among these was a retired confectioner, who had once kept a
shop in Regent Street, and had told Mademoiselle Jenny that she would be
delighted to talk English with me.

Warmly welcomed I was by the portly, prosperous looking pastry-cook, who
was reading a newspaper and smoking a cigarette in a well-furnished,
comfortable parlour. But alas! thirty years had elapsed since his
departure from England, and during the interval he had never once
interchanged a word with any of my country-people. To his intense
mortification, he had completely lost hold of the English tongue!
Another acquaintance, an elderly woman, who seemed to be living on small
independent means, had a curious house pet. This, once a pretty little
frisking lamb, had now reached the proportions of a big fat sheep. So
docile and affectionate, however, was the animal, and so attached had
the good soul become to it, that a pet it seemed likely to remain to the
end of its days; the creature followed its mistress about like a dog.

The little town of Arcis-sur-Aube, like many another, is now deserted by
all who can get to livelier and more bustling centres. Tanneries, vest,
stocking and glove weaving and stitching, are the only resources of the

During my stay, I made the acquaintance of a charming family engaged in
the latter trade. Stopping one day in front of a weaver's open door to
watch him at work, I was cordially invited to enter. The head of the
house, one of those quiet, intelligent, dignified artisans so typical of
his class in France, was weaving vest sleeves at a hand loom, just as I
had seen, at St. Etienne, ribbon weavers pursuing their avocations at
home. As we chatted about his handicraft and its modest emoluments, his
little son came in from school, a bright lad who, to his father's
delight, had lately gained prizes. It is curious that only one part of a
vest, stocking or glove is done by a single hand; some goods I found
came to this house to be finished and others were sent away to be made
ready for sale elsewhere. By-and-by, a pretty, refined girl, the
daughter of the house, came in and asked me if I would like to see what
she was doing.

Forthwith she took me to a neat, cheerful little room upstairs
overlooking a garden.

On a table by the open window was a hand-sewing machine, and her
occupation was the ornamental stitching of silk and cotton gloves by
machinery. The pay seemed excessively low I thought, I believe something
like twopence per dozen pair, but the young machinist seemed perfectly
contented and happy.

"It is pleasant," she said, "to be able to earn something at home and to
live with papa and mamma and my little brother."

Before leaving, with the prettiest grace in the world, she begged my
acceptance of a dainty pair of lavender silk gloves knitted by her own

Some day I hope to revisit Arcis-sur-Aube, and meantime I hold
occasional intercourse by post with my friends in Danton's town.



But by far the most interesting acquaintance at this most historic
little town was the great-nephew of Danton. Middle-aged, unpretentious
of aspect, yet with that unmistakable look partly of dignified
self-possession, partly of authority, seldom absent from the French
official, I looked in vain for any likeness to the portraits of his
great kinsman. Yet perhaps in the stalwart figure, manly proportions and
bronzed complexion, might be traced some suggestion of the athlete, the
strong swimmer, the bold sportsman, whose mighty voice once made Europe
tremble. The brother of this gentleman also lived at Arcis-sur-Aube, but
was absent during my visit. The _juge de paix_ and his family were on
friendliest terms with my hostess, and he would often drop in for a

From him and other residents I gathered some interesting particulars
about the Danton family. The great tribune left two little sons, George
and Antoine, who grew up and resided in their ancestral home, hiding
themselves from the world. Their young step-mother it was whose memory,
when on the way to the guillotine, evoked from Danton the only betrayal
of personal emotion throughout his stormy career: "Must I leave thee for
ever, my beloved," then, quickly recovering himself, cried "Danton, no

Madame Danton married again and is lost sight of. One of Danton's
sisters entered a convent, as it was supposed hoping to expiate by a
life given up to prayer the crimes, as she deemed them, of her brother.
Meantime, appalled by the shadow of their father's memory, George and
Antoine decided to remain celibate, a pair marked out for solitude and

"Let the name of Danton perish from the recollection of man," they said.

The elder, however, afterwards acknowledged and, I believe, legitimised
a daughter according to the merciful French law. Mademoiselle Danton
became Madame Menuel, and, strange as it may seem, at the time of my
visit, this direct descendant of Danton was still living. President
Carnot had given her a small pension in the form of a _bureau de tabac_
at Troyes, where she died in 1896, leaving a son, who some years ago was
divorced from his wife, emigrated to Buenos Ayres, and has never been
heard of since. It is supposed that he is dead. The two great-nephews
have each a son and a daughter living.

The _juge de paix_ and his brother are now among the most respected
citizens of Arcis, and have lived to witness the rehabilitation of their
great ancestor. Neither of the pair inhabit the house in which Danton
was born, and to which he ever returned with joy and satisfaction.

A sight of Danton's house is sufficient to disprove the calumnies of
that noble woman, but inveterate hater, Madame Roland.

From her memoirs we might gather that Danton was a poverty-stricken,
pettifogging lawyer of the basest class. That Danton's family belong to
the well-to-do upper middle ranks, we see from the object lesson before
us. At the time of my visit, this large, roomy, well-built house, with
coach-house, stables and half-a-dozen acres of garden, orchard and wood,
was to let for 700 francs a year. But so low a rent now-a-days is no
indication of its value a hundred years ago.


The owner of the house most kindly showed me over every part.

It is two-storeyed, plainly but solidly constructed, and evidently
arranged, according to French fashion, for a combined tenancy. Two or
three families could here well be accommodated under the same roof, each
having separate establishments. I found myself in a covered carriageway,
cool dark corridors leading to outhouses and stables, a wide staircase
with handsome oak balustrade to upstair kitchen and bed-chambers, on
either side of the ground floor were spacious salon and dining room,
fronting town and river, water-mills and quays. In the vast kitchen was
an enormous chopping block, suggestive of large family joints.

My kind cicerone allowed me to linger in Danton's bed-chamber. I now
looked out from the window at which the fallen leader was often seen by
his townsfolk during the last days of his stormy career. In his
night-cap the colossal figure might be descried gazing out into the
night, as if peering into futurity, trying to read the future. Did he
perhaps from time to time waver in his decision to abide his doom? We
know that again and again his friends urged him to seek safety in

"Does a man carry his country on the sole of his shoe?" he retorted
fiercely, but it may well be that he here envied weaker men. Danton's
character was thoroughly French. His ambition was as he said to retire
to Arcis-sur-Aube and there plant cabbages. A devoted son, husband and
father, his affections were also centred upon others not of his blood
and name. He tenderly loved his old nurse, and left her a small pension.
Within the last thirty years, thanks to M. Aulard and his collaborators,
the history of the Revolution has been written anew, or rather for the
first time. The gigantic figure of Danton stands forth to-day in its
true light, as the saviour of France from the fate of Poland, and as a
founder of the democratic idea. He succumbed less because he was a rival
of Robespierre than because he was a friend of humanity.

"I would rather be guillotined than guillotine," he repeated, and it was
mainly his effort to stay the Terror that made him its victim.

The study adjoining contained that suggestive library of English,
Spanish, Italian, and ancient classics of which his biographers have
given us a catalogue, but which are now, alas! dispersed for ever.

The house stands conspicuous, rearing a proud front to the world, if
world could be used appropriately of so quiet, humdrum a little place. A
few hundred yards off we reach the Church, Hotel de Ville and open
square. In 1886, a monument to Danton was inaugurated here with much
ceremony. A bronze statue represents the great tribune in the fiery
attitude of an orator, pronouncing his immortal phrase:--

_"De l'audace, encore de l'audace, toujours de l'audace!"_

Arcis-sur-Aube is a little town of three thousand souls, within an
hour's railway journey from Troyes. The river Aube (Alba), so called
from its silveriness flows by Danton's house. In his time and up to the
opening of the railways the place was a port of some importance. Boats
and barges carried goods to Troyes, Bar-sur-Aube and other towns.

Of late years Arcis has been partially surrounded with pleasant shady
walks greatly appreciated by the townsfolk. Regretfully I quitted my
circle of acquaintances here, little dreaming under what interesting
circumstances I should next meet Danton's great-nephew.



The grandest of all the grand cathedrals in France has been so fully
described elsewhere, that I will not attempt to do justice to the
subject myself. During one of my numerous visits to Rheims, however, it
was my good fortune to enjoy a very rare experience. On the occasion of
President Faure's funeral, the great _bourdon_ or bell, formerly only
tolled for the death of monarchs, was now heard for the second time
during the Third Republic. Standing under the shadow of that vast
minster the sound seemed to come from east and west, from above and
below, dwarfing the hum of the city to nothingness, as if echoing from
the remotest corners of France. It was no heroic figure now knelled by
the deepest-voiced bell in the country, but in the person of the Havre
tanner raised to the dignity of a ruler, was embodied a magnificent
idea, the sovereignty of the people and the overthrow of privilege.
Never as long as I live shall I forget the boom of that great bell, and
long the solemn sound lingered on my ears.

A few days later the interior of the vast Cathedral echoed with sound
almost as overwhelming in its force and solemnity. A grand mass was
given in honour of the dead President.

In front of the high altar stood a lofty catafalque, the rich purple
drapery blazing with gold. The nave was filled with dazzling uniforms
and embroidered vestments. In especially reserved seats sat the officers
of the Legion of Honour, among these in civilian dress figuring the
honoured citizen of Rheims who has ever retained English nationality,
Mr. Jonathan Holden.

What with beating drums, clashing cymbals, blaring trumpets and pealing
organ, the tremendous vault seemed hardly capacious enough for the
deafening combination of sound. As a relief came the funeral march of
Chopin, the more subdued strains seeming almost inaudible after the
tumult of the moment before. Never surely had plebeian requiem so

The rich, artistic and archaeological treasures of Rheims are well
known. I will now describe one or two sights which do not come in the
way of the tourist.

One of these is the so-called "Maison de Retraite" or associated home
for people of small means. The handsome building, with its large
grounds, accommodating three hundred tenants, is neither a hotel nor a
boarding establishment, least of all an almshouse.

Under municipal patronage and support the "Maison de Retraite" offers
rooms, board, attendance, laundress and even a small plot of garden for
the annual sum of L16 to L24 per inmate, the second sum procuring larger
rooms and more liberal fare. Personal independence is absolutely
unhampered except by the fact that the lodge gate is closed at 10 p.m.
As most of the tenants of the home are elderly folks, such a rule is no
hardship. One great advantage of the system is the protection thus
afforded to single women and old people, and the immunity from household
cares. Meals are taken in common, but otherwise intercourse is
voluntary. The French temperament is so sociable, however, and chat is
such a necessity of existence, that we saw many groups on garden
benches, and also in the recreation and reading rooms. When the number
of small _rentiers_ is considered, i.e., men and women of the
middle-class living upon a minimum income, we can understand the
usefulness of this home. I learned that the establishment is
self-supporting, the initiatory expense having been borne by the town
and philanthropists.

We strolled about with one of the managing staff finding the inmates
very sociable; one elderly gentleman invited us to sit down in his bit
of garden, very proud, as he might well be, of all the flowers he had
contrived to crowd into so small a space. We were also welcomed into
some of the neat interiors, these varying in size according to the scale
of payment. The class profiting by this associated home was evidently
that of the small _bourgeoisie_.

Children there seemed to be none, one and all of the tenants being
elderly widows, widowers, bachelors or spinsters. There were, however, a
few married couples, who, if they preferred it, could cook their own
meals at home. For single, middle-class women here was a refuge
answering to the conventual boarding house of the upper classes.

Unmarried women in France are not nearly so numerous as in England, and
I must say they may well envy their English and American sisters in
spinsterhood. An unmarried French lady belonging to genteel society
cannot cross the street unaccompanied till she has passed her fortieth
year, nor till then may she open the pages of Victor Hugo or read a
newspaper. Even in this "Maison de Retraite" special provision was made
for the privacy of single ladies; whether they liked it or not they were
expected to eat in a separate dining room, and meet for social purposes
in a separate salon. As there is no limit to the emotional period and
the age of sentiment, perhaps these safeguards of propriety are not
wholly superfluous.

Of course the economy of such an arrangement is very great. Think of a
respectable fairly-educated young woman getting what good old John
Bunyan calls "harbour and good company," in other words, all the other
necessaries of life, with society into the bargain, for L16 a year! The
attendance is of course somewhat rough and ready. We saw a stalwart,
rough-haired, rather masculine-looking female setting one of the
dinner-tables with a clatter that would drive the fastidious to
distraction. But the good soul had evidently her heart in her work, and
I dare aver that single-handed she got through as much as three English
housemaids with ourselves. Would such a scheme answer in England? I
doubt it. The Anglo-Saxon character is the reverse of sociable, and
class distinctions are so in-rooted in the English nature that it would
be very difficult to get ten English women together who considered
themselves belonging to precisely the same class.

Furthermore, are there with us many widows or spinsters of the same
class enjoying even such small independent means as the sums above
mentioned? In France, teachers, tradeswomen, female clerks and others,
by dint of rigid economy, usually insure for themselves a small income
before reaching old age. Fortunately habits of thrift are increasing in
England, and our women workers have a larger field and earn higher
wages. I had also the privilege of seeing the great wool-combing factory
of our countryman Mr. Jonathan Holden, for upwards of forty years a
citizen of Rheims. This town has been for centuries one of the foremost
seats of industry in France. Mr. Holden's chimneys are kept going night
and day, Sundays excepted, with alternating shifts of workmen. All the
hands employed are of French nationality and--a fact speaking
volumes--no strike has ever disturbed the amicable relations of English
employer and French employed. The great drawback to an inspection of
these workshops is the din of the machinery and the odour of the skins.
But there is something that takes hold of the imagination in the
perfection to which machinery has been carried. As we gaze upon these
huge engines, only occasionally touched by a woman's hand, we are
reminded of man, the pigmy guiding an elephant. We seem conscious,
moreover, of what almost approaches human intelligence, so much of the
work achieved appearing voluntary rather than automatic. The skins reach
Rheims direct from Australia and are here dressed, cleaned and prepared
for working up into cloth. If machinery is brought almost to the
perfection of manual dexterousness, human beings attain the precision of

I saw a neatly dressed girl at work whose sole occupation it was to tie
up the wool, now white as snow and soft as silk, into small parcels. The
wool already weighed came down by a little trough, and as swiftly and
methodically as wheels set in motion, the girl's fingers folded the
paper and tied the string. I should not like to guess how many of these
parcels she turned off in half a minute.



Rheims possesses a handsome theatre, the acquaintance of which I was
enabled to make under exceptional circumstances. At the risk of
appearing slightly egotistical, I will here describe an incident which
has other than personal interest. My visit to Damon's country, the
particulars of which were given in a former chapter, had an especial
object, viz., the setting of a novel of my own having the great
conventionnel for its hero. The story was dramatised by two French
collaborators, one of whom was at that time stage manager of the Grand
Theatre, Rheims. What, then, was my delight to see one morning placarded
throughout the town the announcement of the Anglo-French play? A few
days before the first representation I had witnessed a rehearsal, and as
I was guided through the dusky labyrinths of the theatre I could realise
the excessive, the appalling, combustibility of such buildings. It is
difficult, moreover, for those who have never penetrated into such
recesses--whose only acquaintance is with the representation on the
stage--to imagine how gloomy and sepulchral "behind the scenes" may
appear. However, by-and-by it was all cheerful enough, and the
rehearsal, I must say, although of a tragedy, abounded in touches of
humour. My friend and myself were accommodated with chairs just in front
of the stage near the prompter, a very friendly personage, who was
evidently interested in the fact of my presence. The actors and
actresses dropped in one by one and we exchanged a cordial handshake.
There was nothing theatrical about the dress or manners of these ladies,
whose ages ranged from extreme youth to middle age. They all looked
pleasant, lady-like, ordinary women, who might have quitted their
housekeeping or any other occupation of a domestic nature. The men, too,
impressed me agreeably as they greeted myself and their colleagues. Very
amusing was the commencement of proceedings.

"Come, my children, put yourselves into position," said the stage
manager, making corrections or suggestions as he went on; now somebody
spoke too loud, and now somebody was too inarticulate, now an arm was
held too forward, and now a leg dragged too much. Excessively diverting,
also, the dummy show. In one scene of the play, a village schoolmaster
is holding a class of little boys and girls. To-day, a row of chairs did
duty for the scholars and were duly harangued, catechised, and even
admonished with a cane. In another scene, a peasant woman appears with
her donkey, to whom she confides a long tirade of troubles, the donkey
for the moment being like the showman's hero in the famous story, "round
the corner." A third and still more amusing piece of dumb show occurred
later, when an ex-abbess acting as housekeeper to the village cure, let
fall a basket of potatoes which were supposed to roll about the stage.
All went well and the prompter, to whom I appealed for an opinion,
assured me that I need be under no uneasiness, for the piece would go
off like a house on fire.

In spite of that favourable prognostic an author's first night is always
a nervous affair, especially when that author is a foreigner, and her
piece a translation from the original.

However, everything went merry as a marriage bell, my kind friends
filled several boxes, and perhaps one of the most interesting incidents
of the evening was the fact that just underneath sat Danton's
great-nephew with his clerk, who had come from Arcis-sur-Aube expressly
for the occasion. Between the acts I went down and chatted with these
two gentlemen, also with a French friend who had travelled from Dijon--a
six hours' railway journey--in order to witness the piece. To the best
of my knowledge now for the first time Danton figured on the French

It must be confessed that the theatre on this especial night was not a
crowded house. In the first place, three large soirees, which had been
postponed on account of the President's funeral, coincided with the
representation. In the second place, as a rule, the wealthier and more
fashionable classes do not patronise provincial theatres, especially
when residing within easy reach of Paris. However, the pit and gallery
were packed, and loud was the applause with which the appearance of
Danton in a blue tail coat, top boots and sash, and his vehement
utterances were greeted.

It had never crossed my mind that under such circumstances an author
would be called for; when, indeed, at the close of the piece, cries of
"Auteur! auteur!" were heard throughout the theatre, my friends begged
me to show myself. Which, proudly enough, I did, first saluting the
sovereign people in the gallery, then bowing less beamingly to the
scantier audience in the boxes, finally acknowledging the acclamations
from the pit. If "Danton a Arcis" brought its author neither fame nor
fortune, it certainly repaid her in another and most agreeable fashion.
Two or three days later, a second representation of the piece at popular
prices was given, and upon that occasion the house was full to

The Grand Theatre, Rheims, is a very handsome building, and like most
other provincial houses maintains a company of its own, although from
time to time it is visited by the best Paris troupes.

Yet another uncommon recollection of Rheims must here be recorded. In
September of last year, I witnessed such a spectacle as my military
friends assured me had never before been afforded to the marvel-loving;
in other words, the sight of a hundred and sixty thousand men--a host
perhaps more numerous than any ever commanded by Napoleon--performing
evolutions within range of vision.

By half-past five in the morning I was off from Paris with my host and
hostess in their motor car for the Northern railway station. The day of
the great review broke dull and grey, and deserted indeed looked the
usually gay and lively Paris streets. We reached the station at five
minutes to six, i.e., five minutes before the starting of our train, and
at once realised the neatness with which the day's programme had been
arranged, both by the railway companies and the Government. The tens of
thousands of sightseers had been despatched to Rheims by relays of
trains during the night, and the station was now kept clear for the
numerous specials conveying members of the Senate, the Chamber, and the
Press. Here, therefore, was no crowding whatever, only a quiet stream of
deputies, wearing their tricolour badges accompanied by their ladies,
each deputy having the privilege of taking two.

Precisely on the stroke of six, our long and well-filled train
consisting of first-class carriages only steamed out of the station,
taking the northern route and only making a short halt at Soissons. No
sooner had we joined the Compiegne line than we realised the tremendous
precautions necessary in the case of visitors so august; double rows of
soldiers were placed at short intervals on either side of the railway
and detachments of mounted troops stationed at a distance guarded the
route. The arrangements for our own comfort were perfect. Our train set
us down, not at Rheims, but at Betheny itself the scene of the review, a
temporary station having been there erected. We were, therefore within a
hundred yards or so of our tribune, or raised stage, and of the luncheon
tents, roads having been laid down to each by the Genie or engineering
body. Numbered indications conspicuously placed quite prevented any
confusion whatever, and, indeed, it was literally impossible for anyone
to miss his way. The only eventuality that could have spoiled
everything, wet weather, fortunately held off until the show was over.
The review itself was a magnificent spectacle, surely not without irony
when we consider that this great military display, one of the greatest
on record, was got up in honour of the first Sovereign in the world who
had dared to propose a general disarmament! Another line of thought was
awakened by the fact of our isolation. The specially invited guests of
the French Government upon this occasion numbered three thousand
persons, and it seemed that for the Czar, his train, and these, the
great show was got up. The thousands of outsiders, sightseers, and
excursionists, brought to Rheims by cheap trains from all parts of
France, were nowhere; in other words, invisible.

Whether or no such spectators got anything like a view of the evolutions
I do not know. I should be inclined to think that from the distance at
which they were kept the moving masses were mere blurs and nothing more.
From our own tribune, adjoining that of the Presidential party, we
commanded a view of the entire forces covering the vast plain,
surrounded by rising ground.

Amazing it was to see the dark immovable lines slowly break up, and as
if set in motion by machinery, deploy according to orders. The vast
plain before us was a veritable sea of men, an army, one would think,
sufficient for the military needs of all Europe.

One striking feature of these superb regiments, cavalry as well as
infantry, was the excellence of the bands. Never before had I realised
the inspiriting thing that martial music might be. Another interesting
point was that afforded by the cyclists, several regiments having these
newly formed companies. Whenever a flag was borne past, whether by foot
or mounted soldier, the cheering was tremendous, but it was reserved for
a regiment of Lorrainers to receive a veritable ovation. Still so fondly
yearns the heart of France after her lost and mutilated provinces! On
the whole, and speaking as a naive amateur, I should say that no country
in the world could show a grander military spectacle. Enthusiasm reigned
amongst all beholders, but there was no display of political bias or any
discordant note. Cries of "Vive la France!" were as frequent as those of
"Vive l'armee!"

Not a policeman was to be seen anywhere, the deputies keeping order for
themselves. And not always without an effort! People would rise from
their seats, even stand on benches, despite the thundered out "Remain
seated!" on all sides. On the whole, and with this exception, nothing
could surpass the general good humour. And when the splendid cortege
filed by at the close, delight and satisfaction beamed on every face. M.
Loubet was so dignified, folks said, Madame Loubet was so well dressed,
the deportment of M. Waldeck Rousseau was perfect, M. Deschanel
handsomer than ever, and so on, every member of the Czar's, or rather
the President's, entourage winning approval. General Andre and M.
Delcasse were very warmly received. The slim, pale, fastidious looking
young man in flat, white cap, green tunic, and high boots, seated beside
the portly, genial figure wearing the broad Presidential ribbon, set me
thinking. How at the bottom of his heart does the Autocrat of All The
Russias view these representatives of the great French Republic! How
does he really feel towards France, the first nation of the western
world to set the example of officially recognised self-government, the
initiator of a system as opposed to Russian despotism as is white to
black? Whatever may be the secret of this strange Franco-Russian
alliance, it is apparently in the interest of peace, and, as such,
should be warmly welcomed by all advocates of progress.

The luncheon was superabundant, consisting of wines, cold meat, and
bread in plenty. The task of finding refreshment for three thousand
people had been satisfactorily solved. The only thing wanting was water.
It seems that upon such an occasion no one was expected to drink
anything short of Bordeaux, Burgundy, or pale ale.

All the special trains were crowded for the return journey, made by way
of Meaux, but everyone made way for everyone, and we reached Paris at
eight o'clock, almost as fresh and quite as good-humoured as we had
quitted it at dawn. If this great review was interesting from one point
more than another, it was from the manner in which it displayed the
wonderful organising faculty of the French mind. The most trifling
details no more than the largest combinations can disconcert this
pre-eminently national aptitude.



The first of these places mentioned is a Champenois village twelve miles
from a railway station. From the windows of my friends' chateau I look
upon a magnificent deer park, where during the oft-time torrid heat of
summer delicious shade is to be found.

Far away vast forests bound the horizon, to the north a hot open road
leading to Brienne-le-Chateau, where Napoleon studied as a military
cadet; eastward, lies varied scenery between Soulaines and Bar-sur-Aube,
there woodland ending and the vine country beginning.

On one especial visit during September, not even these acres of
closely-serried forest could induce more than a suggestion of shadow and
coolness. Although screened from view the sun was there. Throughout a
vast region--half a province of woodland--folks breathed the hot air of
the Soudan. The tropic temperature admitted of no exercise during the
day, but after four o'clock tea we broke up into parties--drove, rode,
strolled, called upon homelier neighbours, visited quaint old churches
hidden in the trees or forest nooks, the solitude only broken by
pattering of deer and rabbits, or nut-cracking squirrel aloft. Here and
there we would come upon huts of charcoal-burner and wood-cutter,
gamekeepers and foresters, too, had their scattered lodges; such signs
of human habitation being few and far between.

We are here in the remnant of the great Celtic forest of Der. The
straggling village of Soulaines is one long street, a little stream
running behind the picturesque, timbered houses, many of these have
outer wooden staircases leading to grange or storehouse. Church and
presbytery, convent and Mairie were conspicuous.

In the opposite direction, another church rose above the horizon, the
centre of what in France is called not a village but a hamlet. Bare as a
barn seen from far and near showed this little church, and we often
walked thither for the sake of its picturesque surroundings. The portal
of the quaint old building is a mass of ancient sculpture, close round
it being grouped a few mud-built, timbered, one-storeyed dwellings all
of a pattern.

Even in France are to be found day labourers, only the very poorest,
however, being without a cottage, plot of ground, a cow and of poultry
their own. Many of their interiors are far neater and cleaner than those
of the farm-houses, their occupants not being so tied to the soil from
morning to night, not, in fact, incited to Herculean labours by the spur
of larger possession. We visited one of the poorest villages hereabouts,
of not quite a hundred souls, but of course, provided with church,
school and Mairie. Many a group of potato diggers we saw in the
exquisite twilight, suggestive of Millet, many a landscape recalling
other masters. This handful of woodlanders--for the village is
surrounded by forests--is perhaps as poor as any rural population to be
found throughout France. Yet here surprises await us. Some of the better
off hire a little land, keep cows, rear poultry, most likely in time to
become owners of a plot. They are paid for harvest work in kind, several
we talked to having earned enough corn for the winter's consumption--as
they put it--our winter's bread. They are a fine, sunburnt, well-formed
race and seem cheerful enough. In one of the poorest houses, a huge
pipkin on the fire emitted savoury steam, and rows of small cheeses
garnished the shelves. Good oak bedsteads, linen presses and
old-fashioned clocks were general. Every mantel-piece had its framed
photograph and ornamental crockery. New milk was always freely offered

Within the precincts of this hamlet we find ourselves in a bluish-green
land of mingled wood and water; above the reedy marsh, haunt of wild
fowl, willows grew thick; here and there the water flowed freely, its
surface broken by the plash of carp and trout. At this season all hands
hereabouts were busy with threshing out the newly garnered corn and
getting in potatoes. The crops are very varied, wheat, barley, lucerne,
beetroot, buckwheat, colza, potatoes; we see a little of everything.
Artificial manures are not much used, nor agricultural machinery to a
great extent, except by large farmers, but the land is clean and in a
high state of cultivation. Peasant property is the rule; labouring for
hire, the condition of non-possession, very rare. And whether the times
are good or evil, land dirt cheap or dear, the year's savings go to the
purchase of a field or two and, as a necessary consequence, to the
consolidation of the Republic and the maintenance of Parliamentary

I will now say something of our neighbours. One of these was the parish
priest, who had the care of between six and seven hundred souls. The
fact may be new to some readers that a village cure, even in these days,
receives on an average little more than Goldsmith's country parson,
"counted rich on forty pounds a year." This cure's stipend, including
perquisites amounted to just sixty pounds yearly, in addition to which
he had a good house, large garden and paddock. But compare such a
position with that of one of our own rectors and vicars!

The Protestant clergy in France are better paid than those belonging to
the orthodox faith. Being heads of families, they are supposed, and
justly, to need more. Let it not be imagined, however, that the priest
receives less under the Republic than under the Empire. But the cost of
living has increased.

Of course there are black sheep in the Romish fold as elsewhere; perhaps
even the simplicity, learning and devotion to duty of the individual I
here write of, are rare. Yet one cannot help feeling how much more money
the Government would have at command with which to remunerate good
workers in pacific fields if disarmament were practicable. This
excellent priest, like other men of education and taste, would have
relished a little travel as much as do our own vicars and curates their
annual outing to Norway or Switzerland. What remains for recreation and
charity after defraying household expenses and cost of a housekeeper out
of sixty pounds a year?

Next, let me say a word about the _juge de paix_ in France, as I presume
most readers are aware, a modest functionary, yet better paid than that
of a priest. The average stipend of a justice of the peace is about a
hundred pounds a year, with lodging, but although his duties often take
him far afield he is not provided with a vehicle, and must either cycle
or defray the cost of carriage hire. I know many of these rural
magistrates, and have ever found them men of education and intelligence.
I, now, for the first time, found one well read in English literature,
not only able to discuss Shakespeare and Walter Scott, but the latest
English novel appearing in translation as a feuilleton. It is well that
these small officials should have such resources. Tied down as they are
to remote country spots, their existence is often monotonous enough,
especially during the winter months.

It seems to be a canon of French faith that you cannot have too much of
a good thing, anyhow in the matter of wedding festivities. Parisian
society is beginning to adopt English saving of time and money,
fashionable marriages there now being followed by a brief lunch and
reception. Country-folks stick to tradition, preferring to make the most
of an event which as a rule happens only once during a lifetime.
Gratifying as was the experience to an English guest, especially that
guest being a devoted admirer of France, I must honestly confess that my
share in such a celebration constituted probably the hardest day's work
I ever performed. Here I will explain that the bride's father was head
forester of my host and hostess, the great folks of the place, and
adored by their humbler neighbours. Chateau and cottage were thus
closely, nay affectionately, interested in the important event I am
about to describe, and this aspect of it is fully as noteworthy as the
truly Gallic character of the long drawn out fete itself.

By nine a.m. horses and carriages of the chateau, adorned with wedding
favours, were flying madly about in all directions conveying the wedding
party to and from the Mairie for the civil ceremony. An hour later we
were ourselves off to the village church, the house party including
three English guests. The enormously long religious ceremony over, a
procession was formed headed by musicians, bride and bridegroom leading
the way, fifty and odd couples following and the round of the village
was made. At the door of the festive house we formed a circle, the
newly-wedded pair embracing everyone and receiving congratulations; this
is a somewhat lachrymose ceremony. The marriage was in every way
satisfactory, but the nice-looking young bride, a general favourite, was
quitting for ever her childhood's home. After some little delay we all
took our places in two banqueting rooms, the tables being arranged
horse-shoe wise. Facing bride and bridegroom sat my host, the second
room being presided over by the bride's father, of whom I shall have
something to say later. Here I give the bill of fare, merely adding that
the festive board was neatly, even elegantly, spread, and that every
dish was excellent:--

Hors d'oeuvre Salade de saison
Radis, beurre frais, Langue fumee Fruits
Bouchees a la Reine Brioche. Nougat
Daim, sauce chassuer Desserts varies
Galantine truffee Vins
Salmis de canards Pineau, Bordeaux, Champagne
Choux-fleurs Cafe, Liqueurs.
Dinde truffee.

Looking down the lines of well-dressed people, all with the exception of
ourselves belonging to the same rank as the bride, I could but be struck
with the good looks, gentle bearing, and general appearance of everyone.
As to the head forester, he was one of Nature's gentlemen, and might
easily have passed for a general or senator. At the table sat several
young girls of the village, each having a cavalier, all these dressed
very neatly and comporting themselves like well-bred young ladies
without presumption or awkwardness. During the inevitable pauses between
dish and dish, one after another of these pretty girls stood up and
gratified the company with a song, the performance costing perhaps an
effort, but being got through simply and naturally. In the midst of the
banquet, which lasted over three hours, two professionals came to sing
and recite. From the breakfast table, after toasts,--the afternoon being
now well advanced--we again formed a procession to the Mairie, in front
of which _al fresco_ dancing commenced. Add that this out-of-door ball
lasted till a second dinner, the dinner being followed by a second ball
lasting far into the small hours. Nor did the celebration end here. The
following day was equally devoted to visits, feasts, toasts, and
dancing. What a national heritage is this capacity for fellowship,
gaiety, and harmless mirth!

Bar-sur-Aube lies twelve miles off and a beautiful drive it is thither
from Soulaines. We gradually leave forest, pasture and arable land,
finding ourselves amid vineyards. At the little village of
Ville-sur-Terre, we one day halted at a farm-house for a chat, the
housewife most kindly presenting me with two highly decorative plates.

As we approach Bar-sur-Aube we come upon a wide and beautiful prospect,
wooded hills dominating the plain.

This little town is very prettily situated, and like every other in
France possesses some old churches. Perhaps its most famous child is
Bombonnel, the great panther-slayer, born close by, who died at Dijon
and whose souvenirs bequeathed to me as a legacy I have given elsewhere.
The son of a working glazier, he made a little fortune as hawker of
stockings in the streets of New Orleans, returned to France, cleared the
Algerian Tell of panthers, for a time enjoyed ease with dignity in
Burgundy; on the outbreak of the Franco-German War in 1870, as leader of
a thousand _francs-tireurs_, gave the Germans more trouble than any
commander of an army corps, twice had a price of L1,000 set upon his
head, was glorified by Victor Hugo, received the decoration of the
Legion of Honour, and as a reward for his patriotic services several
hundred acres of land in Algeria. A gigantic statue of Sant Hubert, the
patron of hunters, now commemorates the great little man, for he was
short of statue, in the cemetery of Dijon.

Bar-sur-Aube is connected with another notoriety, the infamous Madame de
la Motte, the arch-adventuress, who, a descendant herself of Valois
kings, proved the undoing of Marie Antoinette. As was truly said by a
great contemporary:--"The affair of the Diamond Necklace," wrote
Mirabeau, "has been the forerunner of the Revolution."

This Jeanne de Valois, rescued from the gutter by a benovolent lady of
title and a charitable priest, presents a psychological study rare even
in the annals of crime. Never, perhaps, were daring, unscrupulousness,
and the faculty of combination linked with so complete a disregard to
consequences. The moving spring of her actions, often so complicated and
foolhardy, was love of money and display. It seemed as if in her person,
was accumulated the lavishness of French Royal mistresses from Diane de
Poitiers down to Madame Dubarry. There was a good deal of the Becky
Sharp about her too, although there is nothing in her history to show
that, like Thackeray's heroine, "she had no objection to pay people if
she had the money." If, indeed, anything in the shape of ethics guided
the most astoundingly ingenious swindler we know of, it was some such
principle as this: she ought to have been at Versailles, there being
received as a recognised Princess of the Royal House; since, through
no fault whatever of her own, she was not, she had a perfect right to
avenge herself upon royalty and society in general.

How she wormed herself into the confidence of the Cardinal de Rohan, a
man of the world and of education, would seem wholly unaccountable but
for one fact. The Prince Primate had faith in Cagliostro and his
nostrums, and when an individual has recourse to astrologers and
fortune-tellers, we are quite in a position to gauge his mental
condition. Like Mdlle. Couesdon of contemporary fame, Cagliostro held
intercourse with the angel Gabriel, but his occult powers and
privileges far exceeded those of the Parisian lady-seer. He was
actually in the habit of dining with Henri IV., and two days before
the Cardinal's arrest made his client believe that he had just
accepted such an invitation!

It had been Rohan's ambition to obtain the favour of the Queen and a
foremost position at court, hence the readiness with which he fell
into the trap. For "the Valois orphan," now Comtesse de la Motte, not
only possessed great personal attractions, but an extraordinary gift
of persuasiveness. Without much apparent trouble she made the Cardinal
believe that she was in the Queen's favour, and indeed in her
confidence. Having got so far the rest was easy.

How the acquisition of the already celebrated Diamond Necklace was
first thought of, how, by the aid of willing tools, she matured and
carried out her deep-laid and diabolical scheme, reads like an
adventure from the "Arabian Nights." The personification of the Queen
by a little dressmaker who happened to resemble her, the forgery of
the Royal signature, the final attainment of the diamonds, all seemed
so easy to this consummate trickster that it is small wonder she
became intoxicated with success and blind to consequences. No sooner
was the necklace in her possession than, of course, as fast as
possible it was turned, not into money, but into money's worth. Houses
and lands, equipages and furniture, costly apparel, and delicacies for
the table were purchased, not with louis d'or, but with diamonds.

We read of her triumphant entry into the little town of Bar-sur-Aube,
cradle of the Saint Remy-Valois family, in a berline with white
trappings and the Valois armorials, before and behind the carriage,
which was drawn by "four English horses with short tails," rode
lacqueys, whilst on the footboard ready to open the door stood a
negro, "covered, from head to foot with silver." Still more dazzling
was the dress of Madame la Comtesse, richest brocade trimmed with
rubies and emeralds. As to the Count, not content with having rings on
every finger he wore four gold watch chains! Besides holding open
house when at home, the pair had a table always spread with dainties
for those who chose to partake in their hosts' absence. Among the toys
paid for in diamonds was an automatic bird that warbled and flapped
its wings. This was intended for the amusement of visitors.

The carnival proved of short duration. It was on the 1st of February,
1783, that the diamond necklace was handed over to Madame de la Motte,
Rohan receiving in return the forged signature of "Marie-Antoinette de
France." On August of the same year, in the midst of a banquet given
at Bar-sur-Aube, a visitor arrived with startling news. "The Prince
Cardinal de Rohan, Grand Almoner of France, was on the Festival of
Assumption, arrested in pontifical robes, charged with having
purchased a diamond necklace in the name of the Queen."

The charm of these little French towns and rustic spots lies in their
remoteness, the feeling they give us of being so entirely aloof from
familiar surroundings. In many a small Breton or Norman town we hear
little else but English speech, and in the one general shop of tiny
villages see _The New York Herald_ on sale. But from the time of
leaving Nemours to that of reaching the farthest point mentioned in
these sketches we encounter no English or American tourists. This
essentially foreign atmosphere is not less agreeable than conducive to
instruction. We are thus thrown into direct contact with the country
people and are enabled to realise French modes of life and thought.



Within the last twenty-five years so many new lines of railway have
been opened in France that there is no longer any inducement--I am
inclined to say excuse--for keeping to the main road. Yet, strangely
enough, English tourists mostly ignore such opportunities. For one
fellow-countryman we meet on the route described here, hundreds are
encountered on the time-honoured roads running straight from Paris to
Switzerland. Quit Dijon by any other way and the English-speaking
world is lost sight of, perhaps more completely than anywhere else on
the civilised globe. Again and again it has happened to myself to be
regarded in rural France as a kind of curiosity, the first subject of
Queen Victoria ever met with; again and again I have spent days, nay
weeks, on French soil, the sole reminder of my native land being the
daily paper posted in London. It is now many years since I first
visited St. Jean de Losne, in company of a French acquaintance, a
notary, both of us being bound to a country-house on the Saone. At
that time the railway did not connect it with Dijon, and in brilliant
September weather we jogged along by diligence, a pleasant five hours'
journey enough. My companion, a native of the Cote d'Or, seemed to
know everyone we passed on the way, whenever we stopped to change
horses getting out for a gossip with this friend and that he had taken
the precaution to provide himself with a huge loaf of bread, from
which he hacked off morsels for us both from time to time. As we had
started at seven o'clock in the morning, and got no dejeuner till past
noon, the doles were acceptable. The fellow-traveller of that first
journey--alas! With how many friends of the wine country!--has long
since gone to his rest. The second time I set forth alone, taking my
seat in the slow--the very slow--train running alongside the Canal de
Bourgogne. On the central platforms of the Dijon railway station,
crowds of English and American tourists were hurrying to their trains,
bound respectively for Paris and Geneva. No sooner was I fairly off,
my fellow travellers being two or three country-folks, than the
conventionalities of travel had vanished. Surroundings as well as
scenery became entirely French.

The Burgundian character is very affable, and although people may
wonder what can be your errand in remote regions, they never show
their curiosity after disagreeable fashion. They are delighted to
discover that interest in France--artistic, economic, or industrial--
has led you thither, and will afford any assistance or information in
their power. They seem to regard the wayfaring Britisher as whimsical,
that is all.

A train that crawls has this advantage, we can see everything by the
way, villages, crops, and methods of cultivation. The landscape soon
changes. The familiar characteristics of the wine country disappear.
Instead of vine-clad hills, nurseries of young plants grafted on
American stocks, and vineyard after vineyard in rich maturity, we now
see hop gardens, colza fields, and wide pastures. Here and there we
obtain a glimpse of some walled-in farmhouse, recalling the granges of
our own Isle of Wight.

Alongside the railway runs the canal, that important waterway
connecting the Seine with the Saone; but the Saone itself, Mr.
Hamerton's favourite river, is not seen till we reach our destination.

The little town of St. Jean de Losne, although unknown to English
readers, is one of the most historic of France. No other, indeed,
boasts of more honourable renown. As Jeanne d'Arc had done just two
centuries before, St. Jean de Losne saved the country in 1636. When
the Imperial forces under Galas attempted the occupation of Burgundy,
the dauntless townsfolk long held the enemy at bay and compelled final
retreat. After generations profited by this heroism. Until the great
year of 1789, the town, by royal edict, enjoyed complete immunity from
taxation. On the outbreak of the Revolution, with true patriotic
spirit, the citizens surrendered those privileges, of their own free
will sharing the public burdens.

The first sight that meets the eye on entering St. Jean de Losne is
the monument erected in commemoration of the siege. "Better late than
never," is a proverb applicable to public as well as private affairs
of conscience.

A little farther, and we reach the church of St. Jean. It contains a
magnificent pulpit, carved from a single block of rich red marble, the
niches ornamented with charming statuettes of the apostles. Close by
is the Hotel de Ville, in which are some interesting historic relics.
As I passed through the courtyard, I saw an odd sight. One might have
fancied that a second Imperial army threatened a siege, and that the
townsfolk were laying in stores. The pavement was piled with bread and
meat, whilst butchers and bakers were busily engaged in dividing these
into portions, authorities, municipal, military and police, looking

I learned that these rations were for the regiments quartered in the
town during the autumn manoeuvres. Every day such distributions take
place; in country places the troops have recourse to the peasants,
very often being treated as guests. A young friend, serving his three
years, told me that nowhere had he found country folk more hospitable
than in the Cote d'Or. No sooner did the soldiers make their
appearance in a village, than forth came the inhabitants to welcome
them, officers being carried off to chateaux, men by twos and threes
to the home of cure or small owner. "Not a peasant," he said, "but
would bring up a bottle of good wine from his cellar, and often after
dinner we would get up a dance out of doors. On the saddle sometimes
from two in the morning till twelve at noon, the kind reception and
the jollity of the evening made up for the hardship and fatigue. We
have just had several days of bad weather, and had to sleep on straw
in barns and outhouses, wherever indeed shelter was to be had. Not one
of us ever lost heart or temper; we remained gay as larks all the

An hour's railway journey from St. Jean de Losne takes the traveller
to Lons-le-Saulnier, beautifully situated at the foot of the Jura
range on the threshold of wild and romantic scenery.

A decade had not robbed this little town of its old-world look
familiar to me, but meantime a new Lons-le-Saulnier had sprung up.
Since my first visit a handsome bathing establishment has been built,
with casino, concert-room, and all the other essentials of an inland
watering-place. The waters are especially recommended for skin
affections, gout, and rheumatism. Formerly the mineral springs of
Lons, as the townsfolk lazily call the place, were chiefly frequented
by residents and near neighbours. Improved accommodation, increased
accessibility, cheapened travel and additional attractions, have
changed matters. The season opening in May, and lasting till the end
of October, is now patronised by hundreds of visitors from all parts
of eastern France. These health resorts are much more sociable than
our own. Folks drop alike social, political, and religious differences
for the time being, and cultivate the art of being agreeable as only
French people can. Excursions, picnics, and pleasure parties are
arranged; in the evening the young folks dance whilst their elders
play a rubber of whist, chat, look on, or make marriages. Many a
wedding is arranged during the _Saison des Bains_, nor can such unions
be called _mariages de convenance_, as in holiday-time intercourse is
comparatively unrestricted. Grown-up or growing-up sons and daughters
then meet as those on English or American soil.

Lons-le-Saulnier possesses little of interest except its Museum, rich
in modern sculpture, and its quaint arcades, recalling the period of
Spanish rule in Franche Comte. The excursions lying within easy reach
are numerous and delightful. Foremost of these is a visit to the
marvellous rock-shut valley of Baume-les-Messieurs, so called to
distinguish it from Baume-les-Dames near Besancon. The descent is
made on foot, and at first sight appears not only perilous but
impracticable, the zigzag path being cut in almost perpendicular
shelves of rock. This mountain staircase, or the "Echelle des Baumes,"
is not to be recommended to those afflicted with giddiness. Little
sunshine reaches the heart of the gorge, yet below the turf is
brilliant, a veritable islet of green threaded by a tiny river. The
natural walls shutting us in have a majestic aspect, but playful and
musical is the Seille as it ripples at our feet. Travellers of an
adventuresome turn can explore the stalactite caverns and other
marvels around; not the least of these is a tiny lake, the depth of
which has never been sounded. For half-a-mile the valley winds towards
the straggling village of Baume, and there the marvels abruptly end.

Nothing finer in the way of scenery is to be found throughout eastern
France. In the ancient Abbey Church are two masterpieces, a retable in
carved wood and a tomb ornamented with exquisite statuettes.



It is a pleasant six hours' journey from Dijon via Chalindrey to
Nancy. We pass the little village of Gemeaux, in which amongst French
friends I have spent so many happy days.

From the railway we catch sight of the monticule crowned by an
obelisk; surmounting the vine-clad slopes, we also obtain a glimpse of
its "Ormes de Sully," or group of magnificent elms, one of many in
France supposed to have been planted by the great Sully. Since my
first acquaintance with this neighbourhood, more than twenty years
ago, the aspect of the country hereabouts has in no small degree
changed. Hop gardens in many spots have replaced vineyards, owing to
the devastation of the phylloxera. It was in the last years of the
third Empire that the inhabitants of Roquemaure on the Rhone found
their vines mysteriously withering.

A little later the left bank was attacked, and about the same time the
famous brandy producing region of Cognac in the Charente showed
similar symptoms. The cause of the mischief, the terrible Phylloxera
devastatrix, was brought to light in 1868. This tiny insect is hardly
visible to the naked eye, yet so formed by Nature as to be a wholesale
engine of destruction, its phenomenal productiveness being no less
fatal than its equally phenomenal powers of locomotion. One of these
tiny parasites alone propagates at the rate of millions of eggs in a
season, a thousand alone sufficing to destroy two acres and a half of
vineyard. As formidable as this terrible fertility is the speed of the
insect's wings or rather sails according extraordinary ease of
movement. A gust of wind, a mere breath of air, and like a grain of
dust or a tuft of thistledown, this germ of destruction is borne
whither chance directs, to the certain ruin of any vineyard on which
it lights. The havoc spread with terrible rapidity. From every vine-
growing region of France arose cries of consternation. Within the
space of a few years hundreds of thousands of acres were hopelessly
blighted. In 1878 the invader was first noticed at Meursault in
Burgundy; a few days later it appeared in the Botanical Gardens of
Dijon. The cost of replanting vineyards with American stocks is so
heavy, viz.: twenty pounds per hectare, that even many rich vintagers
have preferred to cultivate other crops. Some owners have sold their
lands outright.

On quitting Is-sur-Tille we enter the so-called Plat de Langres, or
richly cultivated plains stretching between that town and Toul, in the
Department of the Meurthe and Moselle.

With the almost sudden change of landscape--woods, winding rivers, and
hayfields in which peasants are getting in their autumn crop,
literally mauve-tinted from the profusion of autumn crocuses--we
encounter sharp contrasts, the events of 1870-1 changing the French
frontier, necessitating the transformation we now behold--once quiet,
old-world towns now wearing the aspect of a vast camp, everywhere to
be seen military defences on a wholly inconceivable scale. It is
comforting to hear from the lips of those who should know, that at the
present time war is impossible, the engines of warfare being so
tremendous that the result of a conflict would be simply annihilation
on both sides. After ten years' absence, and in spite of radical
changes, the elegant, exquisitely kept town of Nancy appears little
altered to me. The ancient capital of Lorraine is now one of the
largest garrisons on the eastern frontier, but the military aspect is
not too obtrusive. Except for the perpetual roll of the heavy
artillery waggons and perpetual sight of the red pantalon, we are apt
to forget the present position of Nancy from a strategic point of

Other changes are pleasanter to dwell on. The Facultes, or schools of
medicine, science, and law, removed hither from Strasburg after the
annexation, have immensely increased the intellectual status of Nancy,
whilst from the commercial and industrial side the advance has been no
less. Its population has doubled since the events of 1870-1, and is
constantly increasing. Why so few English travellers visit this dainty
and attractive little capital is not easy to explain. More interesting
even than the artistic and historic collections of Nancy is the
celebrated School of Forestry. Formerly a few young Englishmen were
out-students of this school, but since the study had been made
accessible at home the foreign element at the time of my visit,
consisted of a few Roumanians, sent by their Government. The Ecole
Forestiere, courteously shown to visitors, was founded sixty years ago
and is conducted on almost a military system. Only twenty-four
students are received annually, and these must have passed severe
examinations either at the Ecole Agronomique of Paris, or at the Ecole
Polytechnique. The staff consists of a director and six professors,
all paid by the State. Two or three years form the curriculum and
successful students are sure of obtaining good Government
appointments. Forestry being a most important service, every branch of
natural science connected with the preservation of forests, and
afforesting is taught, the school collections forming a most
interesting and wholly unique museum. Here we see, exquisitely
arranged as books on library shelves, specimens of wood of all
countries, whilst elsewhere sections from the tiniest to the gigantic
stems of America. Very instructive, too, are the models of those
regions in France already afforested, and of those undergoing the
process; we also see the system by means of which the soil is so
consolidated as to render plantation possible, namely, the arresting
of mountain torrents by dams and barrages. In the Dauphine, and French
Alps generally, many denuded tracks are in course of transformation,
the expense being partly borne by the State and partly by the
communes. It is impossible to over-estimate the importance of such
works, alike from a climatic, economic, and hygienic point of view.
The extensive eucalyptus plantations in Algeria, teach us the value of
afforesting, vast tracks having been thereby rendered healthful and

A strikingly beautiful city, sad of aspect withal, is this ancient
capital of Lorraine, ever wearing half mourning, as it seems, for the
loss of its sister Alsace.

Unforgettable is the glimpse of the Place Stanislas, with its bronze
gates, fountains, and statue, worthy of a great capital; of the
beautiful figure of Duke Antonio of Lorraine on horseback, under an
archway of flamboyant Gothic; of the Ducal Palace and its airy
colonnade; lastly, of the picturesque old city gate, the Porte de la
Crafie, one of the most striking monuments of the kind in France.

All these things may be glanced at in an hour, but in order to enjoy
Nancy thoroughly, a day or two should be devoted to it, and creature
comforts are to be had in the hotels.

In the Ducal Palace are shown the rich tapestries found in the tent of
Charles le Temeraire after his defeat before Nancy, and other relics
of that Haroun-al-Raschid of his epoch, who bivouacked off gold and
silver plate, and wore on the battle-field diamonds worth half a
million. The cenotaphs of the Dukes of Lorraine are in a little church
outside the town--the _chapelle ronde_, as the splendid little
mausoleum is designated, its imposing monuments of black marble and
richly-decorated octagonal dome, making up a solemn and beautiful
whole. Graceful and beautiful also are the monuments in the church
itself, and those of another church, des Cordeliers, close to the
Ducal Palace.

Nancy is especially rich in monumental sculpture, but it is in the
cathedral that we are enchanted by the marble statues of the four
doctors of the church--St. Augustine, St. Gregoire, St. Leon, and St.
Jerome. These are the work of Nicholas Drouin, a native of the town,
and formerly ornamented a tomb in the church of the Cordeliers just
mentioned. The physiognomy, expression, and pose of St. Augustine are
well worthy of a sculptor's closest study, but it is rather as a whole
than in detail that this exquisite statue delights the ordinary

All four sculptures are noble works of art; the beautiful, dignified
figure of St. Augustine somehow takes strongest hold of the
imagination. We would fain return to it again and again, as indeed we
would fain return to all else we have seen in the fascinating city of

From Nancy, by way of Epinal, we may easily reach the heart of the



At the railway station of Nancy, I was met by a French family party,
my hosts to be in a chateau on the other side of the French frontier.

We had jogged on pleasantly enough for about half an hour, when the
gentlemen of the party, with (to me) perplexing smiles, briskly folded
their newspapers and consigned them, not to their pockets or rugs, but
to their ladies, by whom the journals were secreted in underskirts.

"We are approaching the frontier," said Madame to me.

I afterwards learned that only one or two French newspapers are
allowed to circulate in the annexed provinces, the _Temps_ and others,
the names of which I forget; for the first and second offence of
smuggling prohibited newspapers, the offender is subjected to a
reprimand, the third offence is punished by a fine, the fourth
involves imprisonment. Now, as all of us know who have lived in
France, the _Figaro_ is a veritable necessity to the better-off
classes in France, the _Times_ to John Bull not more so. Similarly, to
the peasant and the artisan, the _Petit Journal_ takes the place of
the half-penny newspaper in England. This deprivation is cruelly felt,
and is part of the system introduced by William II.

Custom-house dues are at all times vexatious, but on the French-
Prussian frontier they are so arranged as to provoke patriotic
feeling. It may seem a foolish fancy for French folks, German subjects
of the Kaiser, to prefer French soap and stationery, yet what more
natural than the purchase of such things when within easy reach? Thus,
on alighting at the frontier, not only were trunks and baskets turned
out, we were all eyed from head to foot suspiciously. My hosts'
newspapers were not unearthed, certainly; perhaps their rank and
position counted for something. But one country girl had to pay duty
on a shilling box of writing paper, another was mulcted to half the
value of a bottle of scent, and so on. There was something really
pathetic in the forced display of these trifles, the purchasers being
working people and peasants. All French goods and productions are
exorbitantly taxed. Thus a lady must pay three or four shillings duty
on a bonnet perhaps costing twenty in France. On a cask of wine, the
duty often exceeds the price of its contents, and, according to an
inexorable law of human nature, the more inaccessible are these
patriotic luxuries, so the more persistently will they be coveted and
indulged in.

Custom House officials on the Prussian side have no easy time of it,
ladies especially giving them no little trouble. The duty on a new
dress sent or brought from France across the frontier is ten francs;
and we were told an amusing story of a French lady, who thought to
neatly circumvent the douane. She was going from Nancy to Strasburg to
a wedding, and in the ladies' waiting-room on the French side changed
her dress, putting on the new, a rich costume bought for the ceremony.
The officials got wind of the matter. The dress was seized and finally
redeemed after damages of a thousand francs!

Persons in indifferent circumstances, however patriotic they may be,
can subsist upon German beer, soap, and writing paper. The blood tax,
upon which I shall say something further on, is a wholly different

A short drive brought us to a noble chateau, inside a beautifully
wooded park, the iron gateway showing armorial bearings. Indoors there
was nothing to remind me that I had exchanged Republican France for
autocratic Prussia. Guests, servants, speech, usages, books, were
French, or, in the case of the three latter, English. Every member of
the family spoke English, afternoon tea was served as at home, and the
latest Tauchnitz volumes lay on the table.

Difficult indeed it seemed to realise that I had crossed the frontier,
that though within easy reach, almost in sight of it, the miss, alas!
Was as good as a mile.

Alsace-Lorraine, I may here mention, is a verbal annexation dating
from 1871. Whilst Alsace was German until its conquest by Louis XIV.,
Lorraine, the country of Jeanne d'Arc, had been in part French and
French-speaking for centuries. Alsace under French _regime_ retained
alike Protestantism and Teutonic speech. We can easily understand that
the changes of 1871 should come much harder to the Catholic Lorrainers
than to their Protestant Alsatian neighbours.

Bitterness of feeling does not seem to me to diminish with time. On
the occasion of my third visit to Germanised France, I found things
much the same, the clinging to France ineradicable as ever, nothing
like the faintest sign of reconciliation with Imperial rule.

One might suppose that, after a generation, some slight approach to
intercourse would exist among the French and Prussian populations. By
the upper classes the Germans, no matter what their rank or position,
remain tabooed as were Jews in the Ghetto of former days.

At luncheon next day, my host smilingly informed me that he had filled
up the paper left by the commissary of police, concerning their newly
arrived English visitor. We are here, it must be remembered, in a
perpetual state of siege.

"I put down Canterbury as your birthplace--" he began.

"Good Heavens!" exclaimed I, "I was born near Ipswich."

"Oh!" he said, smiling, "I just put down the first name that occurred
to me, and filled in particulars as to age, etc.," here he bowed,
"after a fashion which I felt would be satisfactory to yourself."

This kind of domiciliary visit may appear a joking matter, but to live
under a state of siege is no subject for pleasantry, as I shall show
further on. Here is another instance of the comic side of annexation,
if the adjective could be applied to such a subject. In the salon I
noticed a sofa cushion, covered, as I thought to my astonishment, with
the Prussian flag. But my hostess smilingly informed me that, as the
Tricolour was forbidden in Germanised Lorraine, by way of having the
next best thing to it, she had used the Russian colours, symbol of the
new ally of France.

Another vexation of unfortunate _annexes_ is in the matter of
bookbinding. French people naturally like to have their books bound in
French style, but it is next to impossible to get this done in Alsace.
If the books are bound in France, there is the extra cost of carriage
and duty.

A very pleasant time I had under this French roof on German soil. Our
days were spent in walks and drives, our evenings entertained with
music and declamation. Now we had the Kreutzer Sonata exquisitely
performed by amateur musicians, now we listened to selections from
Lamartine, Nadaud, Victor Hugo and others, as admirably rendered by a
member of this accomplished family, all the members of which were now
gathered together. I saw something alike of their poorer and richer
neighbours, all of course being their country-people. This social
circle, including the household staff, was rigorously French.

Let me now describe a Lorraine lunch, as the French _gouter_ or
afternoon collation is universally called, our hosts being a family of
peasant farmers, their guests the house party from the chateau. We had
only to drive a mile or two before quitting annexed France for France
proper, the respective frontiers indicated by tall posts bearing the
name and eagle of the German Empire and the R.F. of France.

"You are now on French soil," said my host to me with a smile of
satisfaction, and the very horses seemed to realise the welcome fact.
Right merrily they trotted along, joyfully sniffing the air of home.

The Lorraine villages are very unlike their spick and span neighbours
of Alsace, visited by me two years before. Why Catholic villages
should be dirty and Protestant ones clean, I will not attempt to
explain. Such, however, is the case. As we drove through the line of
dung-heaps and liquid manure rising above what looked like barns, I
was ill-prepared for the comfort and tidiness prevailing within. What
a change when the door opened, and our neatly dressed entertainers
ushered us into their dining-room! Here, looking on to a well-kept
garden was a table spread with spotless linen, covers being laid as in
a middle-class house. An armchair, invariable token of respect, was
placed for the English visitor; then we sat down to table, two blue-
bloused men, uncle and nephew, and three elderly women in mob caps and
grey print gowns, dispensing hospitality to their guests, belonging to
the _noblesse_ of Lorraine. There was no show of subservience on the
one part, or of condescension on the other. Conversation flowed easily
and gaily as at the chateau itself.

I here add that whilst the French _noblesse_ and _bourgeoisie_ remain
apart as before the Revolution, with the peasant folk it is not so.
These good people were not tenants or in any way dependents on my
hosts. They were simply humble friends, the great tie being that of
nationality. The order of the feast was peculiar. Being Friday no
delicacy in the shape of a raised game pie could be offered; we were,
therefore, first of all served with bread and butter and _vin
ordinaire_. Then a dish of fresh honey in the comb was brought out;
next, a huge open plum tart. When the tart had disappeared, cakes of
various kinds and a bottle of good Bordeaux were served; finally,
grapes, peaches, and pears with choice liqueurs. Healths were drunk,
glasses chinked, and when at last the long lunch came to an end, we
visited dairy, bedrooms, and garden, all patterns of neatness. This
family of small peasant owners is typical of the very best rural
population in France. The united capital of the group--uncle, aunts
and nephew--would not perhaps exceed a few thousand pounds, but the
land descending from generation to generation had increased in value
owing to improved cultivation. Hops form the most important crop
hereabouts. This village of French Lorraine testified to the
educational liberality of the Republic. For the three hundred and odd
souls the Government here provides schoolmaster, schoolmistress, and a
second female teacher for the infant school, their salaries being
double those paid under the Empire.

Now a word concerning the blood-tax. Rich and well-to-do French
residents in the annexed provinces can afford to send their sons
across the frontier and pay the heavy fines imposed for default. With
the artisan and peasant the case is otherwise. Here defection from
military service means not only lifelong separation but worldly ruin.
To the wealthy an occasional sight of their young soldiers in France
is an easy matter. A poor man must stay at home. If his sons quit
Alsace-Lorraine in order to go through their military service on
French soil, they cannot return until they have attained their forty-
fifth year, and the penalty of default is so high that it means, and
is intended to mean, ruin. There is also another crying evil of the
system. French conscripts forced into the German Army are always sent
as far as possible from home. If they fall ill and die, kith or kin
can seldom reach them. Again, as French is persistently spoken in the
home, and German only learnt under protest at the primary school, the
young _annexe_ enters upon his enforced military service with an
imperfect knowledge of the latter language, the hardships of his
position being thereby immensely enhanced. No one here hinted to me of
any especial severity being shown to French conscripts on this
account, but we can easily understand the disadvantage under which
they labour. I visited a tenant farmer on the other side of the
frontier, whose only son had lately died in hospital at Berlin. The
poor father was telegraphed for but arrived too late, the blow
saddening for ever an honest and laborious life. This farmer was well-
to-do, but had other children. How then could he pay the fine imposed
upon the defaulter? And, of course, French service involved lifelong
separation. Cruel, indeed, is the dilemma of the unfortunate _annexe_.
But the blood-tax is felt in other ways. During my third stay in
Germanised Lorraine the autumn manoeuvres were taking place. This
means that alike rich and poor are compelled to lodge and cook for as
many soldiers as the authorities choose to impose upon them. I was
assured by a resident that poor people often bid the worn-out men to
their humble board, the conscripts' fare being regulated according to
the strictest economy. In rich houses, German officers receive similar
hospitality, but we can easily understand under what conditions.

The annexed provinces are of course being Germanised by force.
Immigration continues at a heavy cost. Here is an instance in point.

When Alsace was handed over to the German Government it boasted of
absolute solvency. It is now burdened with debt, owing, among many
other reasons, to the high salaries received by the more important
German officials; the explanation of this being that the position of
these functionaries is so unpleasant they have to be bribed into such
expatriation. Thus their salaries are double what they were under
French rule. Not that friction often occurs between the German civil
authorities and French subjects; everyone bears witness to the
politeness of the former, but it is impossible for them not to feel
the distastefulness of their own presence. On the other hand, the
perpetual state of siege is a grievance daily felt. Free speech,
liberty of the press, rights of public meeting, are unknown. Not long
since, a peasant just crossed the frontier, and as he touched French
soil, shouted "Vive la France!" On his return he was convicted of
_lese majeste_ and sent to prison. Another story points to the same
moral. At a meeting of a village council an aged peasant farmer, who
cried "We are not subjects but servants of William II." Was imprisoned
for six weeks. The occasion that called forth the protest was an
enforced levy for some public works of no advantage whatever to the
inhabitants. Sad indeed is the retrospect, sadder still the looking
forward, with which we quit French friends in the portions of
territory now known as Alsace-Lorraine. And when we say "Adieu" the
word has additional meaning. Epistolary intercourse, no more than
table-talk, is sacred.



Who would quit Alsace without a pilgrimage to Saverne and the country
home in which Edmond About wrote his most delightful pages and in
which he dispensed such princely hospitality? The author of "Le Fellah
" was forced to forsake his beloved retreat after the events of 1870-
1; the experiences of this awful time are given in his volume
"Alsace," and dedicated to his son--_pour qu'il se souvienne_--in
order that he might remember. Here also as under that Lorraine roof I
felt myself in France. At the time of my visit the property was for
sale. French people, however, are loth to purchase estates in the
country they may be said to inhabit on sufferance, while rich Germans
prefer to build palatial villas within the triple fortifications and
thirteen newly constructed forts which are supposed to render
Strasburg impregnable.

The railway takes us from Strasburg in an hour to the picturesque old
town of Saverne, beautifully placed above the Zorn. Turning our backs
upon the one long street winding upwards to the chateau, we follow a
road leading into the farthermost recesses of the valley, from which
rise on either side the wooded spurs of the lower Vosges. Here in a
natural _cul-de-sac_, wedged in between pine-clad slopes, is as
delightful a retreat as genius or a literary worker could desire. On
the superb September day of my visit the place looked its best, and
warm was the welcome we received from the occupiers, a cultivated and
distinguished French Protestant family, formerly living at Srasburg,
but since the events of 1870-1 removed to Nancy. They hired this
beautiful place from year to year, merely spending a few weeks here
during the Long Vacation. The intellectual atmosphere still recalled
bygone days, when Edmond About used to gather round him literary
brethren, alike French and foreign. Pleasant it was to find here
English-speaking, England-loving, French people. Nothing can be
simpler than the house itself, in spite of its somewhat pretentious
tower of which About wrote so fondly. His study is a small, low-
pitched room, not too well lighted, but having a lovely outlook;
beyond, the long, narrow gardens, fruit, flower and vegetable, one
leading out of another, rising pine woods and the lofty peaks of the
Vosges. So remote is this spot that wild deer venture into the
gardens, whilst squirrels make themselves at home close to the house
doors. Our host gave me much information about the peasants. Although
not nearly so prosperous as before the annexation, they are doing
fairly well. Some, indeed, are well off, possessing capital to the
amount of several thousand pounds, whilst a millionaire, that is, the
possessor of a million francs or forty thousand pounds, is found here
and there. The severance from France entailed, however, one enormous
loss on the farmer. This was the withdrawal of tobacco culture, a
monopoly of the French State which afforded maximum profits to the
cultivator. With regard to the indebtedness of the peasant-owner, my
informant said that it certainly existed, but not to any great extent,
usury having been prohibited by the local Reichstag a few years
before. Again I found myself among French surroundings, French
traditions, French speech. Let me add, however, that I heard none of
the passionate regrets, recriminations, and wishes that had constantly
fallen on my ears ten years before. One prayer, and one only, seems in
every heart, on every lip, "Peace, peace--only let us have peace!" It
must be borne in mind that 20,000 French Alsatians quitted Strasburg
alone, and that those of the better classes who were unable to
emigrate sent their young sons across the frontier before the age of
seventeen. Thus, by a gradual process, the French element is being
eliminated from the towns, whilst in the country annexation came in a
very different guise.

This will be seen from the account of another excursion made with
French friends living in Strasburg.

It is a beautiful drive to Blaesheim, southwest of the city, in a
direct line with the Vosges and Oberlin's country. We pass the
enormous public slaughterhouses and interminable lines of brand-new
barracks, then under one of the twelve stone gates with double portals
that now protect the city, leaving behind us the tremendous earthworks
and powder magazines, and are soon in the open plain. This vast plain
is fertile and well cultivated. On either side we see narrow, ribbon-
like strips of maize, potatoes, clover, hops, beetroot, and hemp.
There are no apparent boundaries of the various properties and no
trees or houses to break the uniformity. The farm-houses and premises,
as in the Pyrenees, are grouped together, forming the prettiest,
neatest villages imaginable. Entzheim is one of these. The broad,
clean street, the large white-washed timber houses, with projecting
porches and roofs, may stand for a type of the Alsatian "Dorf." The
houses are white-washed outside once a year, the mahogany-coloured
rafters, placed crosswise, forming effective ornamentation. No manure
heaps before the door are seen here, as in Brittany, all is clean and
sightly. We meet numbers of pedestrians, the women mostly wearing the
Alsatian head-dress, an enormous bow of broad black ribbon with long
ends, worn fan-like on the head, and lending an air of great severity.
The remainder of the costume--short blue or red skirt (the colours
distinguishing Protestant and Catholic), gay kerchief, and apron--have
all but vanished. As we approach our destination the outlines of the
Vosges become more distinct, and the plain is broken by sloping
vineyards and fir woods. We see no labourers afield, and, with one
exception, no cattle. It is strange how often cattle are cooped up in
pastoral regions. The farming here is on the old plan, and milch cows
are stabled from January to December, only being taken out to water.
Agricultural machinery and new methods are penetrating these villages
at a snail's pace. The division of property is excessive. There are no
lease-holds, and every farmer, alike on a small or large scale, is an

Two classes in Alsace have been partly won over to the German rule;
one is that of the Protestant clergy, the other that of the peasants.

The Third Empire persistently snubbed its Protestant subjects, then,
as at the time of the Revocation, numbering many most distinguished
citizens. No attempts, moreover, were made to Gallicise the German-
speaking population of the Rhine provinces. Thus the wrench was much
less felt here than in Catholic, French-speaking Lorraine. Higher
stipends, good dwelling-houses and schools, have done much to soften
annexation to the clergy. An afternoon "at home" in a country
parsonage a few miles from Strasburg, reminded me of similar functions
in an English rectory.

At the parsonage of Blaesheim we were warmly welcomed by friends, and
in their pretty garden found a group of ladies and gentlemen playing
at croquet, among them two nice-looking girls wearing the Alsatian
_coiffe_ that enormous construction of black ribbon just mentioned.
These young ladies were daughters of the village mayor, a rich
peasant, and had been educated in Switzerland, speaking French
correctly and fluently. Many daughters of wealthy peasants marry
civilians at Strasburg, when they for once and for all cast off the
last feature of traditional costume. After a little chat, and being
bidden to return to tea in half an hour, we visited some other old
acquaintances of my friends, a worthy peasant family residing close
by. Here also a surprise was in store for me. The head of the house
and his wife--both far advanced in the sixties and who might have
walked out of one of Erckman-Chatrian's novels--could not speak a
word of French, although throughout the best part of their lives they
had been French subjects!

Admirable types they were, but by no means given to sentiment or
romance. The good man assured me in his quaint patois that he did not
mind whether he was French, German, or, for the matter of that,
English, so long as he could get along comfortably and peacefully! He
added, however, that under the former _regime_ taxes had been much
lower and farming much more profitable. The good folk brought out
bread and wine, and we toasted each other in right hearty fashion.
Over the sideboard of their clean, well-furnished sitting room hung a
small photograph of William II. On our return to our first host we
found a sumptuous five o'clock tea prepared for the ladies, whilst
more solid refreshments awaited the gentlemen in the garden.

Even in a remote corner of Alsace, memorialized by Germany's greatest
poet, we find pathetic clinging to France.

Everyone has read the story of Goethe and Frederika, how the great
poet, then a student at the Strasburg University, was taken by a
comrade to the simple parsonage of Sesenheim, how the artless daughter
of the house with her sweet Alsatian songs, enchanted the brilliant
youth, how he found himself, as he tells us in his autobiography,
suddenly in the immortal family of the Vicar of Wakefield. "And here
comes Moses too!" cried Goethe, as Frederika's brother appeared. That
accidental visit has in turn immortalised Sesenheim. The place
breathes of Frederika. It has become a shrine dedicated to pure,
girlish love.

A new line of railway takes us from Strasburg in about an hour over
the flat, monotonous stretch of country, so slowly crossed by
diligence in Goethe's time. The appearance of the city from this side
--the French side--is truly awful: we see fortification after
fortification, with vast powder magazines at intervals, on the outer
earthworks bristling rows of cannon, beyond, several of the thirteen
forts constructed since the war. The bright greenery of the turf
covering these earthworks does not detract from their dreadful
appearance. Past the vast workshops and stores of the railway station--
a small town in itself--past market gardens, hop gardens, hayfields,
beech-woods, all drenched with a week of rain, past old-world
villages, the railway runs to Sesenheim, alongside the high road
familiar to Goethe. We alight at the neat, clean, trim station (in the
matter of cleanliness the new _regime_ bears the palm over the old),


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