Holidays in Eastern France
Matilda Betham-Edwards

Part 1 out of 3

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[Illustration: ORNANS--VALLEY OF THE LOUE (The Country of the Painter


"Travelling in France without hotels, or guide-books," might, with very
little exaggeration, be chosen as a title to this volume, which is,
indeed, the record of one visit after another among charming French
people, and in delightful places, out of the ordinary track of the
tourist. Alike in the valley of the Marne--amongst French Protestants at
Montbeliard--at Besancon amid the beautiful scenery of the Doubs--at
Lons-le-Saunier, from whence so many interesting excursions were made
into the Jura--in the very heart of the Jura highlands--at Champagnole,
Morez, and St. Claude, it was my good fortune to see everything under
unique and most favourable auspices, to be no tourist indeed, but a
guest, welcomed at every stage, and pioneered from place to place by
educated ladies and gentlemen delighted to do the honours of their
native place. Thus it came about that I saw, not only places, but
people, and not only one class, but all, peasant and proprietor,
Protestant and Catholic, the _bourgeoisie_ of the towns, the
mountaineers of the highlands, the schoolmaster, the pastor, the cure.
Wherever I went, moreover, I felt that I was breaking new ground, the
most interesting country I visited being wholly unfamiliar to the
general run of tourists, for instance, the charming pastoral scenery of
Seine and Marne, the picturesque valleys of the Doubs and the Loue, and
the environs of Montbeliard and Besancon, the grand mountain fastnesses,
close-shut valleys, or _combes_, the solitary lakes, cascades, and
torrent rivers of the Jura.

Many of the most striking spots described in these pages are not even
mentioned in Murray, whilst the difficulty of communication renders them
comparatively unknown to the French themselves, only a few artists
having as yet found them out. Ornans--Courbet's birth and favourite
abiding place, in the valley of the Loue--is one of these. St.
Hippolyte, near Montbeliard, is another, and a dozen more might be named
equally beautiful, and, as yet, equally unknown. New lines of railway,
however, are to be opened within the next few years in several
directions, and thus the delightful scenery of Franche-Comte will, ere
long, be rendered accessible to all. For the benefit of those travellers
who are undaunted by difficulties, and prefer to go off the beaten track
even at the risk of encountering discomforts, I have reprinted, with
many additions, the following notes of visits and travel in the most
interesting part of Eastern France, which, in part, originally appeared
in "Frazer's Magazine," 1878.

In a former work, "Western France," I treated of a part of France which
was ultra-Catholic; in this one I was chiefly among the more Protestant
districts of the whole country, and it may be interesting to many to
compare the two.


CHAPTER I. The Valley of the Marne

CHAPTER II. Noisiel: the City of Chocolate

CHAPTER III. Provins and Troyes

CHAPTER IV. Among French Protestants at Montbeliard

CHAPTER V. St. Hippolyte, Morteau, and the Swiss Borderland

CHAPTER VI. Besancon and its Environs

CHAPTER VII. Ornans, Courbet's Country, and the Valley of the Loue

CHAPTER VIII. Salins, Arbois, and the Wine Country of the Jura

CHAPTER IX. Lons-le-Saunier

CHAPTER X. Champagnole and Morez

CHAPTER XI. St. Claude: the Bishopric in the Mountains

CHAPTER XII. Nantua and the Church of Brou


Itineraries.--Outlines of Franc-Comtois History. Notes on the Geology of
the Jura





How delicious to escape from the fever heat and turmoil of Paris during
the Exhibition to the green banks and sheltered ways of the gently
undulating Marne! With what delight we wake up in the morning to the
noise, if noise it can be called, of the mower's scythe, the rustle of
acacia leaves, and the notes of the stock-dove, looking back as upon a
nightmare to the horn of the tramway conductor, and the perpetual grind
of the stone-mason's saw. Yes! to quit Paris at a time of tropic heat,
and nestle down in some country resort is, indeed, like exchanging
Dante's lower circle for Paradise. The heat has followed us here, but
with a screen of luxuriant foliage ever between us and the burning blue
sky, and with a breeze rippling the leaves always, no one need complain.

With the cocks and the hens, and the birds and the bees, we are all up
and stirring betimes; there are dozens of cool nooks and corners if we
like to spend the morning out of doors, and do not feel enterprising
enough to set out on an exploring expedition by diligence or rail. After
the midday meal everyone takes a siesta, as a matter of course, waking
up between four and five o'clock for a ramble; wherever we go we find
lovely prospects. Quiet little rivers and canals winding in between
lofty lines of poplars, undulating pastures and amber cornfields,
picturesque villages crowned by a church spire here and there, wide
sweeps of highly cultivated land interspersed with rich woods,
vineyards, orchards and gardens--all these make up the scenery
familiarized to us by some of the most characteristic of French

Just such tranquil rural pictures have been portrayed over and over
again by Millet, Corot, Daubigny, and in this very simplicity often lies
their charm. No costume or grandiose outline is here as in Brittany, no
picturesque poverty, no poetic archaisms; all is rustic and pastoral,
but with the rusticity and pastoralness of every day.

We are in the midst of one of the wealthiest and best cultivated regions
of France moreover, and, when we penetrate below the surface, we find
that in manner and customs, as well as dress and outward appearance, the
peasant and agricultural population, generally, differ no little from
their remote country-people, the Bretons. In this famous cheese-making
country, the "Fromage de Brie" being the speciality of these rich dairy
farms, there is no superstition, hardly a trace of poverty, and little
that can be called poetic. The people are wealthy, laborious, and
progressive. The farmers' wives, however hard they may work at home,
wear the smartest of Parisian bonnets and gowns when paying visits. I
was going to say when at church, but nobody does go here!

It is a significant fact that in the fairly well to do educated
district, where newspapers are read by the poorest, where well-being is
the rule, poverty the exception, the church is empty on Sunday, and the
priest's authority is _nil_. The priests may preach against abstinence
from church in the pulpits, and may lecture their congregation in
private, no effect is thereby produced. Church-going has become out of
date among the manufacturers of Brie cheese. They amuse themselves on
Sundays by taking walks with their children, the _pater-familias_ bathes
in the river, the ladies put on their gala dresses and pay visits, but
they omit their devotions.

Some of these tenant-farmers, many of the farms being hired on lease,
possessors of small farms hiring more land, are very rich, and one of
our neighbours whose wealth had been made by the manufacture of Brie
cheese lately gave his daughter a 100,000 francs, L40,000, as a dowry.
The wedding breakfast took place at the Grand Hotel, Paris, and a
hundred guests were invited to partake of a sumptuous collation. But in
spite of fine clothes and large dowries, farmers' wives and daughters
still attend to the dairies, and, when they cease to do so, doubtless
farming in Seine et Marne will no longer be the prosperous business we
find it. It is delightful to witness the wide-spread well-being of this
highly-farmed region.

"There is no poverty here," my host tells me, "and this is why life is
so pleasant."

True enough, wherever you go, you find well-dressed, contented-looking
people, no rags, no squalor, no pinched want. Poverty is an accident of
rare occurrence, and not a normal condition, everyone being able to get
plenty of work and good pay. The habitual look of content written upon
every face is very striking. It seems as if in this land of Goshen, life
were no burden, but matter of satisfaction only, if not of thankfulness.
Class distinction can hardly be said to exist; there are employers and
employed, masters and servants, of course, but the line of demarcation
is lightly drawn, and we find an easy familiarity wholly free from
impoliteness, much less vulgarity, existing between them.

That automatic demureness characterizing English servants in the
presence of their employers, is wholly unknown here. There are
households with us where the servants might all be mutes for any signs
of animation they give, but here they take part in what is going on, and
exchange a word and a smile with every member of the household, never
dreaming that it should be otherwise. One is struck too here by the good
looks, intelligence, and trim appearance of the children, who, it is
plain, are well cared for. The houses have vines and sweet peas on the
wall, flowers in the window, and altogether a look of comfort and ease
found nowhere in Western France. The Breton villages are composed of
mere hovels, where pigs, cows, and poultry live in close proximity to
their owners, a dung-hill stands before every front door, and, to get
indoors and out, you have always to cross a pool of liquid manure. Here
order and cleanliness prevail, with a diffusion of well-being, hardly, I
should say, to be matched out of America.

Travellers who visit France again and again, as much out of sympathy
with its people's institutions as from a desire to see its monuments and
outward features, will find ample to reward them in Seine et Marne. On
every side we have evidence of the tremendous natural resources and
indefatigable laboriousness of the people. There is one point here, as
elsewhere in France, which strikes an agriculturist with astonishment,
and that is the abundance of trees standing amid cornfields and
miscellaneous crops, also the interminable plantation of poplars that
can be seen on every side, apparently without any object. But the truth
is, the planting of apple and pear trees in fields is no extravagance,
rather an economy, the fruit they produce exceeding in value the corn
they damage, whilst the puzzling line of poplars growing beside canals
and rivers is the work of the Government, every spare bit of ground
belonging to the State being planted with them for the sake of the
timber. The crops are splendid partly owing to the soil, and partly to
the advanced system of agriculture. You may see exposed for sale, in
little towns, the newest American agricultural implements, whilst the
great diversity of products speaks volumes for the enterprise of the

As you stroll along, now climbing, now descending this pleasantly
undulated country, you may see growing in less than an acre, a patch of
potatoes here, a vineyard there, on one side a bit of wheat, oats, rye,
and barley, with fruit-trees casting abundant shadow over all; on the
other Indian corn, clover and mangel-wurzel in the green state, recently
planted for autumn fodder; further on a poppy field, three weeks ago in
full flower, now having full pods ready for gathering--the opium poppy
being cultivated for commerce here--all these and many more are found
close together, and near them many a lovely little glen, copse, and
ravine, recalling Scotland and Wales, while the open hill-sides show
broad belts of pasture, corn and vineyard. You may walk for miles
through what seems one vast orchard, only, instead of turf, rich crops
are growing under the trees. This is indeed the orchard of France, on
which we English folk largely depend for our summer fruits. A few days
ago the black-currant trees were being stripped for the benefit of
Parisian lovers of _cassis_, a liqueur in high repute.

We encounter on our walks carts laden with plums packed in baskets and
barrels on their way to Covent Garden. Later on, it will be the peach
and apricot crops that are gathered for exportation. Later still,
apples, walnuts, and pears; the village not far from our own sends fruit
to the Paris markets valued at 1,000,000 francs annually, and the entire
valley of the Marne is unequalled throughout France for fruitfulness and
abundance. But the traveller must settle down in some delicious retreat
in the valley of the Marne to realize the interest and charm of such a
country as this. And he must above all things be a fairly good
pedestrian, for, though a land of Goshen flowing with milk and honey, it
is not a land of luxuries, and carriages, good, bad, or indifferent, are
difficult to be got. A countless succession of delightful prospects is
offered to the persevering explorer, who, each day, strikes out in an
entirely different direction. I have always been of opinion that the
best way to see a country is to make a halt in some good central point
for weeks at a time, and from thence "excursionize." By these means,
much fatigue is avoided, and the two chief drawbacks to the pleasure of
travel, namely, hotels and perpetual railway travel, are avoided as much
as possible.

Seine et Marne, if not one of the most picturesque regions in France,
abounds in those quiet charms that grow upon the sympathetic traveller.
It is not a land of marvels and pictorial attractions like Brittany.
There is no costume, no legendary romance, no stone array of Carnac to
entice the stranger, but, on the other hand, the lover of nature, in her
more subdued aspects, and the archaeologist also, will find ample to repay
them. It is not my intention to give a history of the ancient cities and
towns visited during my stay, or, indeed, to offer an itinerary, or any
other kind of information so amply provided for us in English and foreign
Handbooks. My object is merely to relate my own experiences in this and
other Eastern regions of France, for, if these are not worth having, no
rechauffe_ of facts, gleaned here and there, can be so; and I also intend
only to quote other authors when they are inaccessible to the general

With regard, therefore, to the history of the _departement_ of Seine et
Marne, constructed, in 1790, from the province of Brie, also from the
Ile de France, and the so called Gatinois Francais, I will say a few
words. Although it only boasts of two important historical monuments,
namely, the Cathedral of Meaux and the Chateau of Fontainebleau;
scattered about the country are noteworthy remains of different epochs,
Celtic, Roman, Merovingian, mediaeval; none, perhaps, of paramount
importance, but all interesting to the archaeologist and the artist.
Such remains as those of the Merovingian crypt at Jouarre, and the
various monuments of Provins, well repay the traveller who visits these
places on purpose, whilst, as he zig-zags here and there, he will find
many a village church of quaint exterior and rich Gothic decoration
within. Fontainebleau, being generally included in a visit to Paris, I
do not attempt to describe, but prefer to lead the traveller a little
off the ordinary track, on which, indeed, he wants no guide but Murray
and Joanne.

My rallying point was a pleasant country-house at Couilly, offering easy
opportunity of studying agriculture and rural life, as well as of making
excursions by road and rail. Couilly itself is charming. The canal,
winding its way between thick lines of poplar trees towards Meaux, you
may follow in the hottest day of summer without fatigue. The river,
narrow and sleepy, yet so picturesquely curling amid green slopes and
tangled woods, is another delightful stroll; then there are broad,
richly wooded hills rising above these, and shady side-paths leading
from hill to valley, with alternating vineyards, orchards, pastures, and
cornfields on either side. Couilly lies in the heart of the
cheese-making country, part of the ancient province of Brie from which
this famous cheese is named.

The Comte of Brie became part of the French kingdom on the occasion of
the marriage of Jeanne of Navarre with Philip-le-Bel in 1361, and is as
prosperous as it is picturesque. It also possesses historic interest.
Within a stone's throw of our garden wall once stood a famous convent of
Bernardines, called Pont-aux-Dames. Here Madame du Barry, the favourite
of Louis XV., was exiled after his death; on the outbreak of the
Revolution, she flew to England, having first concealed, somewhere in
the Abbey grounds, a valuable case of diamonds. The Revolution went on
its way, and Madame du Barry might have ended her unworthy career in
peace had not a sudden fit of cupidity induced her to return to Couilly
when the Terror was at its acme, in quest of her diamonds. The Committee
of Public Safety got hold of Madame du Barry, and she mounted the
guillotine in company of her betters, showing a pusillanimity that
befitted such a career. What became of the diamonds, history does not
say. The Abbey of Pont-aux-Dames has long since been turned to other
purposes, but the beautiful old-fashioned garden still remains as it

Couilly, like most of the ancient villages in Seine et Marne, possesses
a church of an early period, though unequal in interest to those of its
neighbours. It is also full of reminiscences of the last Franco-German
war. My friend's house was occupied by the German commander and his
staff, who, however, committed no depredations beyond carrying off the
bed-quilts and blankets, a pardonable offence considering the excessive
cold of that terrible winter.

Not far off, on a high hill, is a farm-house, known as the Maison
Blanche, in which Jules Favre gave utterance to the memorable words:
"Not an inch of our territory--not a stone of our fortresses," when in
conference with Bismarck and Moltke in 1870. It is said that a peasant
who showed them the way meditated assassinating all three, and was only
prevented by the fear of his village being made the scene of vengeance.
Already, German tourists are finding their way back to these country
resorts, and the sound of the German tongue is no longer unbearable to
French ears. It is to be hoped that this outward reconciliation of the
two nationalities may mean something deeper, and that the good feeling
may increase.

The diligence passes our garden gate early in the morning, and in an
hour and a half takes us to Meaux, former capital of the province of La
Brie, bishopric of the famous Bossuet, and one of the early strongholds
of the Reformation. The neighbouring country, _pays Meldois_ as it is
called, is one vast fruit and vegetable garden, bringing in enormous
returns. From our vantage ground, for, of course, we get outside the
vehicle, we survey the shifting landscape, wood and valley and plain,
soon seeing the city with its imposing Cathedral, flashing like marble,
high above the winding river and fields of green and gold on either
side. I know nothing that gives the mind an idea of fertility and wealth
more than this scene, and it is no wonder that the Prussians, in 1871,
here levied a heavy toll; their sojourn at Meaux having cost the
inhabitants not less than a million and a half of francs. All now is
peace and prosperity, and here, as in the neighbouring towns, rags,
want, and beggary are not found. The evident well-being of all classes
is delightful to behold.

Meaux, with its shady boulevards and pleasant public gardens, must be an
agreeable place to live in, nor would intellectual resources be wanting.
We strolled into the spacious town library, open, of course, to all
strangers, and could wish for no better occupation than to con the
curious old books and the manuscripts that it contains. One incident
amused me greatly. The employe, having shown me the busts adorning the
walls of the principal rooms, took me into a side closet, where,
ignominiously put out of sight, were the busts of Charles the Tenth and

"But," said our informant, "we have more busts in the garret. The
Emperor Napoleon III., the Empress and the Prince Imperial!"

Naturally enough, on the proclamation of the Republic, these busts were
considered at least supererogatory, and it is to be hoped they will stay
where they are. The Eveche, or Bishop's Palace, is the principal sight
at Meaux. It is full of historic associations, besides being very
curious in itself. Here have slept many noteworthy personages, Louis
XVI. and Marie Antoinette when on their return from Varennes, June 24th,
1791, Napoleon in 1814, Charles X. in 1828, later, General Moltke in
1870, who said upon that occasion,

"In three days, or a week at most, we shall be in Paris;" not counting
on the possibilities of a siege.

The room occupied by the unfortunate Louis XVI and his little son, still
bears the name of "La Chambre du Roi," and cannot be entered without
sadness. The gardens, designed by Le Notre, are magnificent and very
quaint, as quaint and characteristic, perhaps, as any of the same
period; a broad, open, sunny flower-garden below, above terraced walks
so shaded with closely-planted plane trees that the sun can hardly
penetrate them on this July day. These green walks, where the
nightingale and the oriole were singing, were otherwise as quiet as the
Eveche itself; but the acme of quiet and solitude was only to be found
in the avenue of yews, called Bossuet's Walk. Here it is said the great
orator used to pace backwards and forwards when composing his famous
discourses, like another celebrated French writer, Balzac, wholly
secluding himself from the world whilst thus occupied. A little
garden-house in which he ate and slept leads out of this delightful
walk, a cloister of greenery, the high square-cut walls of yew shutting
out everything but the sky. What would some of us give for such a
retreat as this! an ideal of perfect tranquillity and isolation from the
outer world that might have satisfied the soul of Schopenhauer himself.

But the good things of life are not equally divided. The present Bishop,
an octogenarian, who has long been quite blind, would perhaps prefer to
hear more echoes from without. It happened that in one party was a
little child of six, who, with the inquisitiveness of childhood,
followed the servant in-doors, whilst the rest waited at the door for
permission to visit the palace. "I hear the footsteps of a child" said
the old man, and bidding his young visitor approach, he gave him
sugar-plums, kisses, and finally his blessing. Very likely the innocent
prattling of the child was as welcome to the old man as the sweetmeats
to the little one on his knee.

The terraces of the Episcopal garden cross the ancient walls of the
city, and underneath the boulevards afford a promenade almost as
pleasant. It must be admitted that much more pains are taken in France
to embellish provincial towns with shady walks and promenades than in
England. The tiniest little town in Seine et Marne has its promenades,
that is to say, an open green space and avenues with benches for the
convenience of passers-by. We cannot, certainly, sit out of doors as
much as our French neighbours in consequence of our more changeable
climate, but might not pleasant public squares and gardens, with bands
playing gratuitously on certain evenings in the week in country towns,
entice customers from the public-house? The traveller is shown the
handsome private residences of rich Meldois, where in the second week of
September, 1870, were lodged the Emperor of Germany, the Prince
Frederick Charles, and Prince Bismarck. Meaux, if one of the most
prosperous, is also one of the most liberal of French cities, and has
been renowned for its charity from early times. In the thirteenth
century there were no fewer than sixty Hotels-Dieu, as well as hospitals
for lepers in the diocese, and at the present day it is true to its
ancient traditions, being abundantly supplied with hospitals, &c.

Half-an-hour from Meaux by railway is the pretty little town of La
Ferte-sous-Jouarre, coquettishly perched on the Marne, and not yet
rendered unpoetic by the hum and bustle of commerce. Here, even more
than at Meaux, the material well-being of all classes is especially
striking. You see the women sitting in their little gardens at
needle-work, the children trotting off to school, the men busied in
their respective callings, but all as it should be, no poverty, no dirt,
no drunkenness, no discontent; cheerfulness, cleanliness, and good
clothes are evidently everybody's portion. Yet it is eminently a working
population; there are no fashionable ladies in the streets, no
nursery-maids with over-dressed charges on the public walks; the men
wear blue blouses, the women cotton gowns, all belonging to one class,
and have no need to envy any others.

Close to the railway-station is a little house, where I saw an instance
of the comfort enjoyed by these unpretentious citizens of this thrifty
little town. The landlord, a particularly intelligent and well-mannered
person, was waiting upon his customers in a blue cotton coat, and the
landlady was as busy as could be in the kitchen. Both were evidently
accustomed to plenty of hard work, yet when she took me over the house
in order to show her accommodation for tourists, I found their own rooms
furnished with Parisian elegance. There were velvet sofas and chairs,
white-lace curtains, polished floors, mirrors, hanging wardrobes, a
sumptuous little bassinette for baby, and adjoining, as charming a room
for their elder daughter--a teacher in a day-school--as any heiress to a
large fortune could desire. This love of good furniture and in-door
comfort generally, seemed to me to speak much, not only for the taste,
but the moral tone of the family. Evidently to these good people the
home meant everything dearest to their hearts. You would not find
extravagance in food or dress among them, or most likely any other but
this: they work hard, they live frugally, but, when the day's toil is
done, they like to have pretty things around them, and not only to
repose but to enjoy.

La Ferte-sous-Jouarre is the seat of a large manufacture of millstones,
which are exported to all parts of the world, and it is a very thriving
little place. Large numbers of Germans are brought hither by commerce,
and now live again among their French neighbours as peacefully as before
the war. The attraction for tourists is, however, the twin-town of
Jouarre, reached by a lovely drive of about an hour from the little
town. Leaving the river, you ascend gradually, gaining at every step a
richer and wider prospect; below the blue river, winding between green
banks, above a lofty ridge of wooded hill, with hamlets dotted here and
there amid the yellow corn and luxuriant foliage. It is a bit of
Switzerland, and has often been painted by French artists. I can fancy
no more attractive field for a landscape-painter than this, who,
provided he could endure the perpetual noise of the stone-yards, would
find no lack of creature comforts.

The love of flowers and flower-gardens, so painfully absent in the West
of France, is here conspicuous. There are flowers everywhere, and some
of the little gardens give evidence of great skill and care. Jouarre is
perched upon an airy green eminence, a quiet old-world town, with an
enormous convent in the centre, where some scores of cloistered nuns
have shut themselves up for the glory of God. There they live, these
Bernardines, as they are called, as much in prison as if they were the
most dangerous felons ever brought to justice; and a prison-house,
indeed, the convent looks with its high walls, bars, and bolts. I had a
little talk with the sister in charge of the porter's lodge, and she
took me into the church, pointing to the high iron rails barring off the
cloistered nuns, with that imbecile self-satisfaction as much
inseparable from her calling as her unwholesome dress.

"There is one young English lady here," she said, "formerly a
Protestant; she is twenty-one, and only the other day took the perpetual

I wondered, as I looked up at the barred windows, how long this kind of
Suttee would be permitted in happy France, or, indeed, in any other
country, and whether in the life-time of that foolish English girl the
doors would be opened and she would be compelled to live and labour in
the world like any other rational being. This dreary prison-house,
erected not in the interests of justice and society, but in order to
pacify cupidity on one side and fanaticism on the other, afforded a
painful contrast to the cheerful, active life outside.

Close to the convent is one of the most curious monuments in the entire
department of Seine et Marne, namely, the famous Merovingian Crypt,
described by French archaeologists in the "Bulletin Monumental" and
elsewhere. It is well known that during the Merovingian epoch, and under
Charlemagne, long journeys were often undertaken in order to procure
marbles and other building materials for the Christian churches. Thus
only can we account for the splendid columns of jasper, porphyry, and
other rare marbles of which this crypt is composed. The capitals of
white marble, in striking contrast to the deep reds, greens, and other
colours of the columns, are richly carved with acanthus leaves, scrolls,
and other classic patterns, without doubt the whole having originally
decorated some Pagan temple. The chapel containing the crypt is said to
have been founded in the seventh century, and speaks much for the
enthusiasm and artistic spirit animating its builders. There is
considerable elegance in these arches, also in the sculptured tombs of
different epochs, which, like the crypt, have been preserved so
wonderfully until the present time. Other archaeological treasures are
here, notably the so-called "Pierre des Sonneurs de Jouarre," or Stone
of the Jouarre Bell-ringers, a quaint design representing two
bell-ringers at their task, with a legend underneath, dating from the
fourteenth century.

It must be mentioned that the traveller's patience may undergo a trial
here. When I arrived at Jouarre, M. le Cure and the sacristan were both
absent, and as no one else possessed the key of the crypt, my chance of
seeing it seemed small. However, some one obligingly set out on a voyage
of discovery, and finally the sacristan's wife was found in a
neighbouring harvest-field, and she bustled up, delighted to show
everything; amongst other antiquities some precious skulls and bones of
Saints are kept under lock and key in the sacristy, and only exposed on
fete days.

In the middle ages, Jouarre possessed an important abbey, which was
destroyed during the Great Revolution. There are also in a lovely little
island, in the river close to the town, remains of a feudal castle where
Louis XVI. and Marie Antoinette halted on their way to Paris after their
capture at Varennes. No one, however, need to have archaeological tastes
in order to visit these little towns; alike scenery and people are
charming, and the tourist is welcomed as a guest rather than a customer.
But whether at Jouarre, or anywhere else, he who knows most will see
most, every day the dictum of the great Lessing being illustrated in
travel: "Wer viel weisst hat viel zu sorgen--" "Who knows much has much
to look after." The mere lover of the picturesque, who cares nothing for
French history, literature, and institutions, old or new, will get a
superb landscape here, and nothing more.

Our resting place at Couilly, where, sheltered by acacia trees, we
hardly feel the tropical heat of July, is an admirable starting point
for excursions, each interesting in a different way. The striking
contrast with the homely ease and well to do _terre-a-terre_ about us is
the princely chateau of the Rothschilds at Ferrieres, which none should
miss seeing on any account whatever. With princely liberality also,
Baron Rothschild admits anyone to his fairy-land who takes the trouble
to write for permission, and however much we may have been thinking of
King Solomon, Haroun al Raschid, and the thousand and one nights, we
shall not be disappointed. The very name of Rothschild fills us with awe
and bewilderment! We prepare ourselves to be dazzled with gold and gems,
to tread on carpets gorgeous as peacock's tails, softer than eider-down,
to pass through jasper and porphyry columns into regal halls where the
acme of splendour can go no farther, where the walls are hung with rich
tapestries, where every chair looks like a throne, and where on all
sides mirrors reflect the treasures collected from different parts of
the world, and we are not disappointed.

Quitting the railway at the cheerful and wealthy little town of Lagny,
we drive past handsome country-houses, and well-kept flower-gardens,
then gradually ascend a road winding amid hill and valley to the
chateau, a graceful structure in white marble, or so it seems, proudly
commanding the wide landscape. The flower-gardens are a blaze of
colours, and the orange trees give delicious fragrance as we ascend the
terrace, ascend being hardly the word applicable to steps sloping so
easily upwards, so nicely adjusted to the human foot that climbing Mont
Blanc, under the same circumstances, would be accomplished without
fatigue. It is impossible to give any idea of the different kinds of
magnificence that greet us on every side, now a little Watteau-like
boudoir, having for background sky-blue satin and roses; now a
dining-hall, sombre, gorgeous, and majestic as that of a Spanish palace;
now we are transported to Persia, China, and Japan, the next we find
ourselves amid unspeakable treasures of Italian and other marbles.

To come down to practical details, it might be suggested to the generous
owner of this noble treasure-home of art that the briefest possible
catalogue of his choicest treasures would unspeakably oblige his
visitors. There is hardly a piece of furniture that is not interesting,
alike from an historic and artistic point of view, whilst some are
_chefs-d'oeuvre_ both in design and execution, and dazzlingly rich in
material. Among these may be mentioned a pair of chimney ornaments,
thickly hung with pendants of precious stones, a piano--which belonged
to Marie Antoinette--the case of which is formed of tortoiseshell,
richly decorated with gold; an inlaid cabinet, set with emeralds,
sapphires, and other jewels; another composed of precious stones; chairs
and couches crowned with exquisite tapestry of the Louis Quinze period;
some rare specimens of old cloisonne work, also of Florentine
mosaics--these forming a small part of this magnificent museum.

The striking feature is the great quantity and variety of rich marbles
in every part. One of the staircases is entirely formed of different
kinds of rare marble, the effect being extra-ordinarily imposing.
Elsewhere, a room is divided by Corinthian columns of jasper and
porphyry, and on every side are displayed a wealth and splendour in this
respect quite unique. Without doubt, nothing lends such magnificence to
interiors as marbles, but they require the spaciousness and princeliness
of such a chateau to be displayed to advantage.

Next in importance, as a matter of mere decoration, must be cited the
tapestries of which there is a rare and valuable collection, chiefly in
the hall, so called, where they are arrayed about the running gallery
surmounting the pictures. What this hall must be worth would perhaps
sound fabulous on paper, but it is here that some of the most precious
treasures are found; cabinets of ivory, ebony, gems, gold, and silver,
and the pictures alone represent a princess's dowry. Examples of some of
the greatest masters are here: Velasquez, Rembrandt, Rubens, Claude
Lorraine, the Caracci, Bordone, Reynolds, lastly among moderns, Ingres
and Hippolyte Flandrin. Much might be said about these pictures, if
space permitted, but they alone are worth making the journey from Paris
or Couilly to see.

We find a very pleasing Murillo and some exquisite little specimens of
the early German school in other parts of the chateau, although the gems
of the collection are undoubtedly the Bordones, Rembrandts, and
Reynoldses. But the _creme de la creme_ of Baron Rothschild's treasures
is not to be found in this sumptuous hall, in spite of tapestries,
pictures, marbles and rare furniture, nor in the state _salon_, but in
the dining-room, a marvellously rich and gorgeous apartment, where the
wealth of gold and splendid colours is toned down, and the eye is rather
refreshed than dazzled by the whole. On the walls, reaching from base to
ceiling, are hung a series of paintings on leather, known as the _Cuirs
de Cordoue_, leather paintings of Cordova. They are historic and
allegorical subjects, and are painted in rich colours with a great
abundance of gold on a dark background, the general effect being that of
a study in gold and brown.

As good luck would have it, immediately after my visit to Ferrieres, I
happened to hear of the Baron Davillier's learned little treatise on
this ancient leather-work, or _Guadamaciles_, variously called _cuir
d'or, cuirs dores, cuirs basanes_, &c. The history of these artistic
varieties is so curious, that I will give it in as few words as

Guadamacil, a Spanish word, signifying painted leather, is supposed to
have its origin in the city of Ghadames, Sahara, where M. Duveyrier the
eminent French explorer, was making scientific inquiries in 1860. The
Kadi knowing M. Duveyrier's interest in all that concerned the history
of this city in the desert, drew his attention to the following passage
in the geographical work of a learned Tunisian, dating from the sixth
century of the Hegira, that is to say, the twelfth of our era.
"Ghadames--from this city come the painted leathers or Ghadamesien." M.
Duveyrier accepted this etymology of the word as the most natural,
seeing that the Moors of Spain, and especially of Cordova, had constant
intercourse with the inhabitants of North Africa, and would naturally
receive these with other artistic curiosities. The Arab dictionary of
Freytag confirms M. Duveyrier's etymology, the author thus describing
Ghadames--"Nomen oppidi in Africa, unde pelles gudsamiticae appellatae

Whatever its origin, we find the fabrication of these _guadamaciles_
very flourishing at Cordova in the sixteenth century. The preparation of
sheep and goat-skins for artistic purposes was a source of considerable
commercial wealth to this city, and they were largely exported to
various parts of Europe and India. A writer of that period describes the
glowing effect of the Cordovan streets tapestried with the richly gilt
and painted skins hung out to dry before packing; whilst Cervantes is
supposed to have one in his mind, when thus describing the heroine of
one of his plays, "Enter Hortigosa, wearing a _guadamacile_, &c."
Rabelais also alludes to the subject in Pantagruel:--"De la peau de ces
moutons seront faictes les beaux maroquins, lesquels on vendra pour
maroquins Turquins ou de Montelimart, ou de Hespaigne."

The guadamaciles, although leather-work was fabricated in several cities
of France, also of Italy and Belgium, ever remained a speciality of
Spain, Seville, Barcelona, Lerida, Ciudad-Real, and Valladolid bearing
the palm after Cordova. Such works are characterized by elaborateness,
splendour of colour and richness of detail. The curious may consult the
_Recherches sur le Cuir dore, anciennement appele Cuir basane_, by M. de
la Queriere, also M. Jacquemart's _Histoire du Mobilier_, in which is
found a very exact representation of a specimen, probably Italian. The
art decayed in Spain after the expulsion of the Moors in 1610, but was
introduced in various parts of France by some of the exiled artists, and
it may be said to have died out in France about the end of the last

Senor Riano's handbook to the Spanish collection in the South Kensington
Museum gives a list with details of the specimens there exhibited,
numbering upwards of twenty panels and borders for furniture. These are
chiefly seventeenth century work-tables, exceedingly interesting and
valuable. All lovers of art, furniture, and decoration generally can but
echo M. Davilliers' hope that the art of painting and stamping on
leather may be ere long revived at Cordova.

So much for the artistic treat in store for those art-lovers who find
their way to the Chateau of Ferrieres, where none will fail to add to
his previous stock of knowledge. Art-lovers cannot study the exquisite
design, elaborate workmanship, and splendid materials of the furniture,
decoration, and general fittings up of such a palace without some
sadness. How little that is new and modern can here be compared with the
old, whether we regard mere carpentry detail or solidity! This is
strikingly illustrated in the Japanese cloisonne work of which there are
some choice specimens.

Two refinements of civilization will amuse the stranger; the first is a
railway in miniature from kitchens to dining-rooms, by means of which
the dishes are conveyed to the latter with the utmost possible dispatch.
The temper indeed of these happy diners should be ineffably serene,
considering that they can never be ruffled by soups or fish coming to
table one degree less hot than the most epicurean palate could desire.
Luxury can go no farther, unless, which may be invented some day, a
patent appetite and digesting apparatus were supplied, enabling host and
guests to sit down every day to the feasts spread before them with
undiminished relish and perfect impunity.

The second amusing, or rather surprising, fact is that of the luxurious,
though I venture to say somewhat floridly decorated ladies smoking room?
Were we dreaming? Or was it our informant who was but half awake or in
error? I believe not, and that the elegant and princely Chateau de
Ferrieres thus acknowledges the fact of lady smokers!



When not disposed to go far a-field in search of pleasure or
instruction, we find plenty to interest us close at hand. Even in this
quiet little village there is always something going on, a _fete
patronale_, a ball, a prize-distribution, or other local event. The
Ecole Communale for both boys and girls has just closed for the
holidays, so last Sunday--the season in July--the prizes were given away
with much ceremony. A tent was decorated with tricolour flags,
evergreens, and garlands, the village band escorted thither the Mayor
and Corporation, marching them in with a spirited air, the entire
community having turned out to see. I had already witnessed a
prize-distribution in the heart of Anjou, but how different from this!
Here at Couilly it was difficult to believe that the fashionable
Parisian toilettes around us belonged to the wives of small farmers, who
all the week were busy in their dairies, whilst the young ladies of all
ages, from five to fifteen, their daughters, might have appeared at the
Lady Mayoress's ball at Guildhall, so smart were they in their white
muslin frocks and blue and pink sashes and hair-knots. A few mob-caps
among the old women and blue blouses among the men were seen, but the
assemblage, as a whole, might be called a fashionable one--whilst at
Anjou, exactly the same class presented the homeliest appearance, all
the female part of it wearing white _coiffes_ and plain stuff gowns, the
men blue blouses and sabots. Nor was the difference less striking in
other respects. These sons and daughters of rich tenant-farmers, peasant
proprietors, or even day-labourers, are far ahead of the young people in
Anjou, and each would be considered a wonder in benighted Brittany. They
are, in fact, quite accomplished, not only learning singing, drawing and
other accomplishments, but are able to take part in dramatic
entertainments. Two performances were given by the boys, two by the
girls, a little play being followed by a recitation; and I must say I
never heard anything of the kind in a village-school in England.

These children acquitted themselves of their parts remarkably well,
especially the girls, and their accuracy, pure accent, and delivery
generally, spoke volumes for the training they had received; of
awkwardness there was not a trace. Of course there were speeches from
the Mayor, M. le Cure, and others, also music and singing, and a large
number of excellent books were distributed, each recipient being at the
same time crowned with a wreath of artificial flowers.

It is to be hoped that ere many years, thanks to the new law enforcing
compulsory education, the excellent education these children receive
will be the portion of every boy and girl in France, and that an adult
unable to read and write--the rule, not the exception, among the rural
population in Brittany--will be unheard of. A friend of mine from Nantes
recently took with her to Paris a young Breton maidservant, who had been
educated by the "Bonnes Soeurs," that is to say the nuns. What was the
poor girl's astonishment to find that in Paris everybody was so far
accomplished as to be able to read and write? Her surprise would have
been greater still, had she witnessed the acquirements of these little
Couilly girls, many of them, like herself, daughters of small peasant

It must be mentioned, for the satisfaction of those who regard the
progress of education with some concern, that the elegant bonnets and
dresses I speak of are laid aside on week days, and that nowhere in
France do people work harder than here. But when not at work they like
to wear good clothes and read the newspapers as well as their
neighbours. Take our laundress, for instance, an admirable young woman,
who gets up clothes to perfection, and who on Sunday exchanges her
cotton gown and apron for the smartest of Parisian costumes. The amount
of underclothes these countrywomen possess is sometimes enormous, and
they pride themselves upon the largest possible quantity, a great part
of which is of course laid by. They count their garments not by dozens
but by scores, and can thus afford to wait for the quarterly
washing-day, as they often do. It must be also mentioned that
cleanliness is uniformly found throughout these flourishing villages,
and, in most, hot and cold public baths. Dirt is rare--I might almost
say unknown--also rags, neither of which as yet we have seen throughout
our long walks and drives, except in the case of a company of tramps we
encountered one day. Drunkenness is also comparatively absent, in some
places we might say absolutely.

As we make further acquaintance with these favoured regions, we might
suppose that here, at least, the dreams of Utopians had come true, and
that poverty, squalor, and wretchedness were banished for ever. The
abundant crops around us are apportioned out to all, and the soil,
which, if roughly cultivated according to English notions, yet bears
marvellously, is not the heritage of one or two, but of the people. The
poorest has his bit of land, to which he adds from time to time by the
fruit of his industry, and though tenant-farming is carried on largely,
owing to the wealth and enterprize of the agricultural population, the
tenant-farmers almost always possess land of their own, and they hire
more in order to save money for future purchases. Of course they could
only make tenant-farming pay by means of excessive economy and
laboriousness, as the rents are high, but in these respects they are not

The fertility of the soil is not more astonishing than the variety of
produce we find here, though pasturage and cheese-making are their chief
occupations, and fruit crops are produced in other parts. We find, as
has been before mentioned, fruit-trees everywhere, corn, fruit, and
vegetables all growing with unimaginable luxuriance. The pastures are
also very fine, but we see no cattle out to graze; the harvest work
requires all hands, and, as there are no fences between field and
meadow, there is no one to tend them. The large heap of manure being
dried up by the sun in the midst of the farm-yard, has a look of
unthriftiness, whilst the small, dark, and ill-ventilated dairies make
us wonder that the manufacture of the famous Brie cheese should be the
profitable thing it is. At one farm we visited, we saw thirty-six
splendid Normandy cows, the entire milk produce of which was used for
cheese-making. Yet nothing could be worse than the dairy arrangements
from a hygienic point of view, and the absolute cleanliness requisite
for dairy work was wanting. These Brie cheeses are made in every farm,
small or great, and large quantities are sent to the Meaux market on
Saturdays, where the sale alone reaches the sum of five or six millions
of francs yearly. The process is a very simple one, and is of course
perpetually going on.

Our hostess, at one of the larger and more prosperous of these farms,
showed us everything, and regaled us abundantly with the fresh milk warm
from the cow. Here we saw an instance of the social metamorphosis taking
place in these progressive districts. The mistress of the house, a
bright clever woman, occupied all day with the drudgery of the
farm-house, is fairly educated; and, though now neatly dressed in plain
cotton gown, on Sunday dresses like any other lady for the promenade.
Her mother, still clinging to the past custom, appeared in short stuff
petticoat, wooden shoes, and yellow-handkerchief wrapped round her head;
while the children, who, in due time, will be trained to toil like their
neighbours, are now being well taught in the village school.

These people are wealthy, and may be taken as types of the farming class
here, though many of the so called _cultivateurs_, or proprietors,
farming their own land, live in much easier style; the men managing the
business, the ladies keeping the house, and the work of the farm being
left to labourers. The rent of good land is about fifty shillings an
acre, and wages, in harvest time, four francs with board. The farms,
while large in comparison with anything found in Brittany and Anjou, are
small, measured by our scale, being from fifty to two or three hundred

Steam-threshing has long been in use here; but, of course, not
generally, as the smaller patches of corn only admit of the old system;
and the corn is so ripe that it is often threshed on the field
immediately after the cutting; the harvesting process is rapid; we often
see only one or two labourers, whether men or women, on a single patch.
But there is no waiting, as a rule, for fine weather to cart away the
corn, and masters and men work with a will. We must, indeed, watch a
harvest from beginning to end to realise the laboriousness of a farmer's
life here. Upon one occasion, when visiting a farm of a hundred and
thirty acres, we found the farmer and his mother, rich people, both hard
at work in the field, the former casting away straw--the corn being
threshed by machinery on the field--the latter tying it up.

The look of cheerfulness animating all faces was delightful to behold.
The farmer's countenance beamed with satisfaction, and, one may be sure,
not without good cause. The farmhouse and buildings are spacious and
handsome, and, as is generally the case here, were surrounded by a high
wall, having a large court in the centre, where a goodly number of
geese, turkeys, and poultry were disporting themselves. There we found
only a few cows, but they were evidently very productive from the
quantity of cheeses found in the dairy.[Footnote: The curious in
agriculture never need fear to ask a question or two of these
flourishing farmers and farmeresses of Seine et Marne. Busy as they are,
they are never too busy to be courteous, and are always ready to show
any part of the premises to strangers.]

Sheep are not kept here largely, and grazing bullocks still less. The
farmer, therefore, relies chiefly on his dairy, next on his corn and
fruit crops, and, as bad seasons are rare, both these seldom fail him.
But these pleasant villages have generally some other interest besides
their rich harvest and picturesque sites. In some of the smallest, you
may find exquisite little churches, such as La Chapelle-sur-Crecy, a
veritable cathedral in miniature. Crecy was once an important place with
ninety-nine towers and double ramparts, traces of which still remain.

A narrow stream runs at the back of the town, and quaint enough are the
little houses perched beside it, each with its garden and tiny
drawbridge, drawn at night, the oddest sights of which a sketcher might
make something. A sketcher, indeed, must be a happy person here, so many
quiet subjects offering themselves at every turn. Many of these village
churches date from the thirteenth century, and are alike picturesque
within and without, their spires and gabled towers giving these leading
characters to the landscape. Nowhere in France do you find prettier
village churches, not a few ranking among the historic monuments of the
country. Here and there are chateaux with old-fashioned gardens and
noble avenues, and we have only to ask permission at the porter's lodge,
to walk in and enjoy them at leisure.

In one of these the lady of the house, who was sitting out of doors,
kindly beckoned us to enter, and we had the pleasure of listening, under
some splendid oaks, to the oriole's song, and of seeing a little cluster
of Eucalyptus trees, two surprises we had not looked for. The oriole, a
well known and beautiful American bird, also a songster that may be
compared to the nightingale, is indeed no stranger here, and, having
once heard and seen him, you cannot mistake him for any other bird. His
song is an invariable prognostic of rain, as we discover on further

The _Eucalyptus Globulus_, or blue gum tree, a native of Australia, and
now so successfully acclimatized in Algeria, the Cape, the Riviera, and
other countries, is said to flourish in the region of the olive only;
but we were assured by the lady of the house that it bears the frost of
these northern regions. I confess I thought her plantations looked
rather sickly, and considering that the climate is like that of Paris,
subject to short spells of severe cold in winter and sudden changes, I
doubt much in the experiment. But the health-giving, fever-destroying
Eucalyptus is not needed in this well-wooded healthy country, and the
splendid foliage of acacia, walnut, oaks, and birch leaves nothing to
desire either in the matter of shade or ornament. A lover of trees,
birds, and whispering breezes will say that here at least is a corner of
the Happy Fields of Homer, or the Islands of the Blest described by

Nowhere is summer to be more revelled in, more amply tasted, than in
these rustic villages, where creature comforts yet abound, and nowhere
is the _dolce far niente_ so easily induced. Why should we be at the
trouble of undertaking a hot, dusty railway journey in search of Gaelic
tombs, Gothic churches, or Merovingian remains when we have the essence
of deliciousness at our very door?--waving fields of ripe corn, amid
which the reapers in twos and threes are at work--picturesque figures
that seemed to have walked out of Millet's canvas--lines of poplars
along the curling river, beyond hills covered with woods, a clustering
village, or a chateau, here and there. This is the picture, partially
screened by noble acacia trees, that I have from my window, accompanied
by the music of waving barley and wheat, dancing leaves, and
chaffinches, tame as canaries, singing in the branches.

About a mile off is the little village of Villiers, which is even
prettier than our own, and which of course artists have long ago found
out. The wayside inn near the bridge, crossing the little river Morin,
bears witness to the artistic popularity of this quiet spot. The panels
of the parlour are covered with sketches, some in oil, some in
water-colour, souvenirs with which visitors have memorialized their
stay. Some of these hasty effects are very good, and the general effect
is heightened by choice old pottery, tastefully arranged above.
Villiers-sur-Morin would be an admirable summer resort for an artist
fond of hanging woods, running streams, and green pastures, and a dozen
more possessing the same attraction lie close at hand.

But, though within so easy a distance of Paris, life is homely, and
fastidious travellers must keep to the beaten tracks and high roads
where good hotels are to be found. When he goes into the by-ways, a
way-side inn is all that he must expect, and, if there is no
_diligence_, a lift in the miller's or baker's cart; the farmers' wives
driving to market with their cheese and butter are always willing to
give the stranger a seat, but money must not be offered in return for
such obligingness. We must never forget that, if these country folks are
laborious, and perhaps sordid, in their thriftiness, they are proud, and
refuse to be paid for what costs them nothing. The same characteristic
is very generally found in France.

Fishing is the principal amusement here, and shared by both sexes. What
the Marne and the Morin contain in the way of booty, we hardly know; but
it is certain that more cunning fish, whether perch, tench, or bream,
never existed, and are not, "by hook or by crook," to be caught.
Wherever we go, we find anglers sitting patiently by these lovely green
banks, and certainly the mere prospect they have before them--clear water
reflecting water-mill and lofty poplar trees and shelving banks now a
tangle of wild flowers--is enough to make such indolence agreeable. But,
after days and days of fruitless waiting for the prey that always eludes
them, we do wonder at such persistence. Is nothing then ever caught in
these pleasant streams, will ask the inquiring reader? Well, yes, I have
seen served at table perch the size of very small herrings, which it is
the French fashion to take between the fingers daintily, and, holding by
head and tail, nibble as children bite an apple. Whether indeed these
little fish are caught by the angler, I know not; but this is certainly
the way they are eaten--if inelegant, _honi soit qui mal y pense_.

Next to fishing, the favourite pastime here is swimming, also indulged
in largely by the gentler sex. The pedestrian, in his ramble along
winding river and canal, will be sure to surprise a group of
water-nymphs sporting in the water, their bathing costumes being
considered quite a sufficient guarantee against ill-natured comment. The
men are more careless of appearance, and, if they can get a good bathing
place tolerably hidden from the world, take their bath or swim in
nature's dress. In all these river-side towns and villages are public
baths, swimming schools, and doubtless the prevailing love of water in
these parts may partly account for the healthful looks and fine
physiques of the population. In fact, people are as clean here as they
are the reverse in Brittany, and the blue linen clothes, invariably worn
by the men, are constantly in the wash, and are as cool, comfortable and
cleanly as it is possible to conceive. English folks have yet to learn
how to dress themselves healthfully and appropriately in hot weather,
and here they might take a hint.

But no matter how enamoured of green fields and woodland walks, we must
tear ourselves away for a day to see the famous "Chocolate city" of M.
Menier, the modern marvel _par excellence_ of the county, and, as a
piece of the most perfect organization it is possible to conceive, one
of the wonders of the world. M. Menier has undoubtedly arrived at making
the best chocolate that ever rejoiced the palate; he has achieved far
greater things than this, in giving us one of the happiest and most
delightful social pictures that ever charmed the heart. Such things must
be seen to be realized, but I will as briefly as possible give an
account of what I saw.

Again, we make the pretty little town of Lagny our starting point, and,
having passed a succession of scattered farm-houses and wide
corn-fields, we come gradually upon a miniature town, built in red and
white; so coquettishly, airily, daintily placed is the City of Chocolate
amid orchards and gardens, that, at first sight, a spectator is inclined
to take it rather for a settlement of such dreamers as assembled
together at Brook Farm to poetize, philosophize, and make love, than of
artizans engaged in the practical business of life. This long street of
charming cottages, having gardens around and on either side, is planted
with trees, so that in a few years' time it will form as pleasant a
promenade as the Parisian boulevards. We pass along, admiring the
abundance of flowers everywhere, and finally reach a large open square
around which are a congeries of handsome buildings, all like the
dwelling houses, new, cheerful, and having trees and benches in front.
This is the heart of the "Cite," to be described by-and-by, consisting
of Co-operative Stores, Schools, Libraries, &c.; beyond, stands the
chateau of M. Menier, surrounded by gardens, and before us the
manufactory. The air is here fragrant, not with roses and jessamine, but
with the grateful aroma of chocolate, reminding us that we are indeed in
a city, if not literally a pile, of cocoa, yet owing its origin to the
products of that wonderful tree, or rather to the ingenuity by which its
resources have been turned to such account.

The works are built on the river Marne, and, having seen two vast
hydraulic machines, we enter a lift with the intelligent foreman deputed
to act as guide, and ascend to the topmost top of the many storied,
enormous building in which the cocoa berry is metamorphosed into the
delicious compound known as Chocolate Menier. This is a curious
experience, and the reverse of most other intellectual processes, since
here, instead of mounting the ladder of knowledge gradually, we find
ourselves placed on a pinnacle of ignorance, from which we descend by
degrees, finding ourselves enlightened when we at last touch the ground.

Our aerial voyage accomplished, we see process the first, namely, the
baking of the berry, this, of course, occupying a vast number of hands,
all men, on account of the heat and laboriousness required in the
operation. Descending a story, we find the cocoa berry already in a fair
way to become edible, and giving out an odour something like chocolate;
here the process consists in sorting and preparing the vast masses of
cocoa for grinding. Lower still, we find M. Menier's great adjunct in
the fabrication of chocolate, namely, sugar, coming into play, and no
sooner are sugar and cocoa put together than the compound becomes
chocolate in reality. Lower still, we find processes of refining and
drying going on, an infinite number being required before the necessary
firmness is attained. Lower still, we come to a very hot place indeed,
but, like all the other vast compartments of the manufactory, as well
ventilated, spacious, and airy as is possible to conceive, the workman's
inconvenience from the heat being thereby reduced to a minimum.

Here it is highly amusing to watch the apparently intelligent machines
which divide the chocolate into half-pound lumps, the process being
accomplished with incredible swiftness. Huge masses of chocolate in this
stage awaiting the final preparation are seen here and there, all
destined at last to be put half a pound at a time into a little baking
tin, and to be baked like a hot cross bun, the name of Menier being
stamped on at the same time. A good deal of manipulation is necessary in
this process; but we must go down a stage lower to see the dexterity and
swiftness with which the chief manual tasks in the fabrication of
chocolate are performed.

Here women are chiefly employed, and their occupation is to envelope the
half-pound cakes of chocolate in three papers, first silver, next white,
and finally sealing it up in the well-known yellow cover familiar to all
of us. These feminine fingers work so fast, and with such marvellous
precision, that, if the intricate pieces of machinery we have just
witnessed seemed gifted with human intelligence and docility, on the
other hand the women at work in this department appeared like animated
machines; no blundering, no halting, no alteration of working pace.
Their fluttering fingers, indeed, worked with beautiful promptitude and
regularity, and as everybody in M. Menier's City of Chocolate is
well-dressed and cheerful, there was nothing painful in the monotony of
their toil or unremitting application.

On the same floor are the packing departments, where we see the cases
destined for all parts of the world.

Thus quickly and easily we have descended the ladder of learning, and
have acquired some faint notion of the way in which the hard, brown,
tasteless cocoa berry is transformed into one of the most agreeable and
wholesome compounds as yet invented for our delectation. Of course, many
intermediate processes have had to be passed by, also many interesting
features in the organization of the various departments; these, to be
realized, must be seen.

There are one or two points, however, I will mention. In the first
place, when we consider the enormous duty on sugar, and the fact that
chocolate, like jam, is composed half of sugar and half of berry, we are
at first at a loss to understand how chocolate-making can bring in such
large returns as it must do--in the first place, to have made M. Menier
a millionaire, in the second, to enable him to carry out his
philanthropic schemes utterly regardless of cost. But we must remember
that there is but one Chocolate Menier in the world, and that in spite
of the enormous machinery at work, night and day, working day and
Sunday, supply can barely keep pace with demand. A staff of
night-workers are always at rest in the day-time, in order to keep the
machinery going at work, and, to my regret, I learned that the
work-shops are not closed on Sundays. M. Menier's work-people doubtless
get ample holidays, but the one day's complete rest out of the seven,
the portion of all with us, is denied them. By far the larger portion of
the Chocolate Menier is consumed in France, where, as in England and
America, it stands unrivalled. M. Menier may therefore be said to
possess a monopoly, and, seeing how largely he lavishes his ample wealth
on others, none can grudge him such good fortune.

Having witnessed the transformation of one of the most unpromising
looking berries imaginable into the choicest of sweetmeats, the richest
of the cups "that cheer but not inebriate;" lastly, one of the best and
most nourishing of the lighter kinds of food--we have to witness a
transformation more magical still, namely, the hard life of toil made
easy, the drudgery of mechanical labour lightened, the existence of the
human machine made hopeful, healthful, reasonable, and happy. Want,
squalor, disease, and drunkenness have been banished from the City of
Chocolate, and thrift, health, and prosperity reign in their stead.

Last of all, ignorance has vanished also, a thorough education being the
happy portion of every child born within its precincts. Our first visit
was to what is called the "Ecole Gardienne," or infant school--like the
rest kept up entirely at M. Menier's expense--and herein, the grandest
gift of organization is seen, perhaps, more strikingly than anywhere.
These children, little trotting things from three to five years old,
have a large playground, open in summer and covered in winter, and a
spacious school-room, in which they receive little lessons in singing, A
B C, and so on. Instead of being perched on high benches without backs,
and their legs dangling, as is the case in convent schools for the poor,
they have delightful little low easy-chairs and tables accommodated to
their size, each little wooden chair, with backs, having seats for two,
so that, instead of being crowded and disturbing each other, the
children sit in couples with plenty of room and air, and in perfect
physical comfort. No hollow chests, no bent backs, no crookedness here.
Happy and comfortable as princes these children sit in their chairs,
having their feet on the floor, and their backs where they ought to be,
namely, as a support.

Leading out of the school-room are two small rooms, where we saw a
pleasant sight; a dozen cots, clean and cosy as it is possible to
conceive, on which rosy, sturdy boys and girls of a year old were taking
their midday sleep. We next went into the girls' school, which is under
the charge of a certificated mistress, and where children remain till
thirteen or fourteen years of age, receiving exactly the same education
as the boys, and without a fraction of cost to the parents. The course
of study embraces all branches of elementary knowledge, with needlework,
drawing, history, singing and book-keeping. Examinations are held and
certificates of progress awarded. We found the girls taking a lesson in
needle-work--the only point in which their education differs from that
of the boys--and the boys at their drawing class; the school-rooms are
lofty, well-aired, and admirably arranged.

Adjoining the schools is the library, open to all members of the
community, and where many helps to adult study are afforded. On the
other side of the pleasant green square, so invitingly planted with
trees, stand the Cooperative Stores, which are, of course, an important
feature in the organization of the community. Here meat, groceries, and
other articles of daily domestic consumption are sold at low prices, and
of the best possible quality: the membership, of course, being the
privilege of the thrifty and the self-denying, who belong to the
Association by payment. I did not ask if intoxicating drinks were sold
on the premises, for such an inquiry would have been gratuitous. The
cheerful, tidy, healthful looks of the population proclaimed their
sobriety, and some excellent _sirop de groseille_ offered me in the
cottage of the foreman who acted as guide, showed that such delicious
drinks are made at home as to necessitate no purchases abroad.

There is also a Savings' Bank, which all are invited to patronize; six
and a half per cent being the incentive held out to those economisers on
a small scale. But neither the school, nor the Co-operative Store, nor
the Savings' Bank can make the working man's life what it should be
without the home, and it is with the home that alike M. Menier's
philanthropy and organization attain the acme. These dwellings, each
block containing two, are admirably arranged, with two rooms on the
ground-floor, two above, a capital cellar and office, and last, but not
least, a garden. The workman pays a hundred and twenty francs, rather
less than five pounds, a year for this accommodation, which it is hardly
necessary to say is the portion of very few artizans in France, or
elsewhere. The _Cite_, as it is called, being close to the works, they
can go home to meals, and, though the women are largely employed in the
manufactory, the home need not be neglected. It was delightful to
witness my cicerone's pleasure in his home. He was a workman of superior
order, and though, as he informed me, of no great education, yet
possessed of literary and artistic tastes. The little parlour was as
comfortable a room as any reasonable person could desire. There were
books on the shelves, and pictures over the mantelpiece. Among these,
were portraits of Thiers, Gambetta, and M. Menier, for all of whom their
owner expressed great admiration.

"Ah!" he said, "I read the newspaper and I know a little history, but in
my time education was not thought of. These children here have now the
chance of being whatever they like."

He showed me his garden, every inch of which was made use of--fruit,
flowers, and vegetables growing luxuriantly on this well-selected site.
The abundance of flowers was particularly striking, especially to those
familiar with certain districts in France, where the luxury of a flower
is never indulged in; M. Menier himself must have as strong a passion
for gardening as for philanthropy, judging from the enormous gardens
adjoining his handsome chateau, and perhaps his love of flowers--always
a most humanizing taste--has set the example. These brilliant
_parterres_, whether seen in the vast domains of the master or the
humble homesteads of the men, delightfully break the red and white
uniformity of the City of Chocolate, flowers above, around, on every
side. There is also a profusion of fruit and vegetables, land quite
recently laid under cultivation soon yielding returns in this favoured

Before quitting Noisiel we must remark that M. Menier possesses cocoa
and sugar plantations in the Southern States of America, and is thus
enabled to fabricate the best possible chocolate at the lowest possible
price. The cocoa-berry, sugar, and essence of vanilla alone form the
ingredients of this delicious compound, which for the most part is made
of one quality only. The amount of water power used daily, the quantity
of material consumed and chocolate manufactured, the entire consumption
throughout France, all these are interesting statistics, and are found
elsewhere--my object being a graphic description of M. Menier's
"Chocolaterie", and nothing further. The interest to general readers and
writers consists not so much in such facts as these as in the
astonishing completeness of the manufactory as a piece of organization,
and the great social and moral well-being of which it is made the
channel. Something more than mere business talent and philanthropy is
necessary to combine the material and moral forces we find at work here.
M. Menier must have gone into every practical detail, not only of
hygiene and domestic economy, but of education, to have put into working
order so admirable a scheme as his; and by living among his work-people
he is enabled to watch the result of his efforts. The handsome chateau,
with its magnificent garden in close proximity to the "Cite", preaches a
daily text, which we may be sure is more effective than any amount of
words. By his own capacity and exertions M. Menier has realized the
splendid fortune he now uses so philanthropically, and equally by this
same capacity and exertion only can his working men lift themselves in
the social scale. The children educated at Noisiel will have their
fortune in their own hands, since in France fortune and the highest
social distinctions are within reach of all; and, in thus educating her
future citizens, the great chocolate manufacturer is fulfilling the part
not only of a philanthropist but of a true patriot.

The French nation now recognise the fact, long since evident to
outsiders, that the last great contest between France and Germany was a
struggle less between two vast armed forces than between instruction and
alertness on the one hand, and ignorance and indolence on the other. Now
that French youth is urged and compelled to put its shoulder to the
wheel, and duty before pleasure, none can despair of the future of
France. Wherever I go, in whatever corner of the world I henceforth
taste the renowned Chocolate Menier, I shall be reminded of something
which will lend additional sweetness and flavour to it. I shall recall a
community of working people whose toil is lightened and elevated, whose
daily portion is made hopeful, reasonable, and happy, by an ever-active
sympathy and benevolence rarely found allied. More lessons than one will
be carried away by the least and most instructed visitor of the
flourishing little City of Chocolate on the banks of the Marne.

Church-going in this rich country is at all times a dreary affair, but
especially just now, when partly from the harvest work going on all
Sunday, and partly from lack of devotion, both Catholic and Protestant
places of worship are all but empty. For there is a strong Protestant
element here, dating from the epoch of the Revocation of the Edict of
Nantes, and in the neighbouring village of Quincey are a Protestant
Church and school. One Sunday morning I set off with two friends to
attend service in the latter, announced to take place at eleven o'clock,
but on arriving found the "Temple" locked, and not a sign of any coming
ceremonial. Being very hungry, after the long walk through cornfields
and vineyards, I went to a little baker's shop in search of a roll, and
there realized the hospitable spirit of these good Briards. The mistress
of the shop very kindly invited me into a little back room, and regaled
me with excellent household bread, Brie cheese, and the wine of the
country, refusing to be paid for her refreshments.

This little meal finished, I rejoined my friends at the church, which
was now open, and, in company of half a dozen school-children, we
quietly waited to see what would eventually take place. By-and-by, one
or two peasant-folks dropped in, picturesque old men and women, the
latter in black and blue dresses and mob-caps. Then the schoolmaster
appeared, and we were informed that it being the first Sunday in the
month, the pastor had to do duty in an adjoining parish, according to
custom, and that the schoolmaster would read the prayers and lessons
instead. A psalm was sung, portions of Scripture and short prayers were
read, another straggler or two joining the little congregation as the
service went on. The schoolmaster, who officiated, played the harmonium
and sang exceedingly well, finally read a brief exposition on the
portion of Scripture read, whereupon after further singing we broke up.

It was pleasant to find that the children, who looked particularly
intelligent, were in such good hands. These country pastors, like the
priests, receive very small pay from the State. How these isolated
communities can keep up their schools seems astonishing, and speaks well
for the zeal animating the Protestant body in France. As all the schools
are now closed in consequence of the harvest, we could not see the
children at work.

In the afternoon I went to the parish church of Couilly, whilst vespers
were going on. If the little Protestant assemblage I had just before
witnessed was touching, this was almost painful, and might have afforded
an artist an admirable subject for a picture. Sitting on a high stool,
with his back to the congregation, consisting of three old women, was
the priest, on either side the vergers, one in white stole, the other in
purple robe and scarlet cap, all these chanting in loud monotonous
tones, and of course in Latin, now and then the harmonium giving a faint
accompaniment. On either side of these automatic figures were rows of
little boys in scarlet and white, who from time to time made their
voices heard also. As a background to this strange scene, was the
loveliest little Gothic interior imaginable, the whiteness of aisle and
transept being relieved by the saffron-coloured ribs of the arches and
columns; the Church of Couilly being curious without and beautiful
within, like many other parish churches here. After a time, one of the
vergers blew out the three wax lights on a side altar, and all three
retired, each scurrying away in different directions with very little
show of reverence.

How different from the crowded churches in Brittany, where, whether at
mass or vespers, hardly standing-room is to be found! How long
Catholicism will hold its sway over the popular mind there depends, of
course, greatly on the priests themselves, who, if ignorant and
coarse-mannered, at least set their flocks a better example in the
matter of morals than here. The less said about this subject the better;
French priests are, whichever way we regard them, objects of
commiseration, but there can be no doubt that the indifference shown to
religion in the flourishing _departement_ of Seine et Marne has been
brought about by the priests themselves and their open disregard of
decorum. Their shortcomings in this respect are not hidden, and their
domestic lives an open book which all who run may read.

Some of them, however, occupy their time very harmlessly and profitably
in gardening and beekeeping, their choicest fruits and vegetables, like
those of their neighbours, going to England. We went one day, carrying
big baskets with us, to visit the cure of a neighbouring village famous
for his green-gages, and certainly the little _presbytere_ looked very
inviting with its vine-covered walls and luxuriant flower-gardens. The
cure, who told us he had been gardening that morning from four till six
o'clock, received us very courteously, yet in a business-like way, and
immediately took us to his fruit and vegetable garden some way off. Here
we found the greatest possible profusion and evidence of skilful
gardening. The fruit-trees were laden, there were Alpine strawberries
with their bright red fruit, currants, melons, apricots, &c., and an
equal variety of vegetables. Not an inch of ground was wasted, nor were
flowers wanting for adornment and the bees--splendid double sun-flowers,
veritable little suns of gold, garden mallows, gladiolas and others; a
score and more of hives completed the picture which its owner
contemplated with natural pride.

"You have only just given your orders in time, ladies," he said; "all my
green-gages are to be gathered forthwith for the English market. Ah!
those English! those English! they take everything! our best fruit--and
the island of Cyprus!"

Whereupon I ventured to rejoin that, at least if we robbed our French
neighbours of their best fruit, our money found its way into the
grower's pocket. Of course these large purchases in country places make
home produce dearer for the inhabitants; but as the English agents pay a
higher price than others, the peasants and farmers hail their appearance
with delight. The fruit has to ripen on its way, and to enjoy a
green-gage, or melon, to the full, we must taste it here. In the autumn
the fine pears imported to Covent Garden from these villages sometimes
fetch nine sous, four-pence halfpenny each, this being the whole-sale
price. No wonder that in retail we have to pay so much.

The cure in question makes a good deal by his bees, and the honey of
these parts is first-rate. On the whole, small as is their pay, these
parish priests cannot be badly off, seeing that they get extra money by
their garden produce, and largely, also, by baptismal and other church
fees. Then of course it must be remembered that nothing is expected of
them in the way of charity, as is the case with our clergy.

"Nous recevons toujours, nous ne donnons jamais," was the reply of a
French bishop on being asked an alms by some benevolent lady for a

Scattered throughout these fertile and prosperous regions are ancient
towns, some of which are reached by separate little lines of railway,
others are accessible by road only. Coulommiers is one of these, and
though there is nothing attractive about it, except a most picturesque
old church and a very pretty public walk by the winding river, it is
worth making the two hours' drive across country for the sake of the
scenery. As there is no direct communication with Couilly, and no
possibility of hiring a carriage at this busy season, I gladly accepted
a neighbour's offer of a seat in his "trap," a light spring-cart with
capital horse. He was a tradesman of the village, and, like the rest of
the world here, wore the convenient and cleanly blue cotton trousers and
blue blouse of the country. The third spare seat was occupied by a
neighbouring notary, the two men discussing metaphysics, literature, and
the origin of things, on their way.

We started at seven o'clock in the morning, and lovely indeed looked the
wide landscape in the tender light--valley, and winding river, and
wooded ridge being soon exchanged for wide open spaces covered with corn
and autumn crops. Farming here is carried on extensively, some of these
rich farms numbering several hundred acres. The farm-house and
buildings, surrounded with a high stone wall, are few and far between,
and the separate crops cover much larger tracts than here. It was
market-day at Coulommiers, and we passed by many farmers and farmeresses
jogging to market, the latter with their fruit and vegetables, eggs and
butter, in comfortable covered carts.

Going to market in France means, indeed, what it did with us a hundred
years ago; yet the farmers and farmers' wives looked the picture of
prosperity. In some cases, fashion had so far got the better of
tradition, that the reins were handled by a smart-looking lady in hat
and feathers and fashionable dress, but for the most part by
toil-embrowned homely women, with a coloured handkerchief twisted round
their heads and no pretention to gentility. The men, one and all, wore
blue blouses, and were evidently accustomed to hard work, but for all
that it was easy to see that they were possessed both of means and
intelligence. Like the rest of the Briard population, they are fine
fellows, tall, with regular features and frank good-humoured

Some of these farmers and millers give enormous dowries to their
daughters. A million francs is sometimes heard of, and in our own
immediate neighbourhood we heard of several rustic heiresses who would
have a hundred thousand. Many a farmer, tenant-farmer, too, who toils
with his men, has, irrespective of his earnings as a farmer, capital
bringing in several thousand francs yearly; in fact, some of them are in
receipt of what is considered a fair income for an English curate or
vicar, but they work all the same.

At Coulommiers, there is nothing to see but a fine old church with an
imposing tower, rising from the centre of the town. I went inside, and,
though the doors stood wide open, found it empty, except for a little
market-girl, who, having deposited her basket, was bent, not on prayer,
but on counting her money. In Brittany, on market-days, there is never a
lack of pious worshippers; here it is not so, the good folks of Seine et
Marne evidently being inclined to materialism. The interior of this
picturesque church is very quaintly coloured, and, as a whole, it is
well worth seeing.

Like many other towns in these parts, Coulommiers dates from an ancient
period, and long belonged to the English crown. Ravaged during the
Hundred Years' War, the religious wars and the troubles of the League,
nothing to speak of remains of its old walls and towers of defence.
Indeed, except for the drive thither across country, and the fruit and
cheese markets, it possesses no temptations for the traveller.
Market-day is a sight for a painter. The show of melons alone makes a
subject; the weather-beaten market-women, with gay coloured handkerchief
twisted round their heads, their blue gowns, the delicious colour and
lovely form of the fruit, all this must be seen. Here and there were
large pumpkins, cut open to show the ripe red pulp, with abundance of
purple plums, apples and pears just ripening, and bright yellow
apricots. It was clear _les Anglais_ had not carried off all the fruit!
At Coulommiers, as elsewhere, you may search in vain for rags, dirt, or
a sign of beggary. Every one is rich, independent, and happy.



Few travellers in this part of Eastern France turn off the Great
Mulhouse line of railway to visit the ancient city of Provins, yet none
with a love of the picturesque can afford to pass it by. Airily, nay,
coquettishly perched on its smiling, green eminence, and still possessed
of an antique stateliness, in striking contrast with the busy little
trim town that has sprung up at his feet, Provins captivates the
beholder by virtue alike of its uniqueness and poetic charm; I can think
of nothing in my various travels at all like this little Acropolis of
Brie and Champagne, whether seen in a distance in the railway, or from
the ramparts that still encircle it as in the olden time. It is indeed a
gem; miniature Athens of a mediaeval princedom, that although on a small
scale boasted of great power and splendour; tiny Granada of these
Eastern provinces, bearing ample evidence of past literary and artistic

You quit the main line at Longueville, and in a quarter of an hour come
upon a vast panorama, crowned by the towers and dome of the still proud,
defiant-looking little city of Provins, according to some writers the
Agedincum of Caesar's Commentaries, according to others more ancient
still. It is mentioned in the capitularies of Charlemagne, and in the
Middle Ages was the important and flourishing capital of Basse-Brie and
residence of the Counts of Champagne. Under Thibault VI., called Le
Chansonnier, Provins reached its apogee of prosperity, numbering at that
epoch 80,000 souls. Like most other towns in these parts, it suffered
greatly in the Hundred Years' War, being taken by the English in 1432,
and retaken from them in the following year. It took part in the League,
but submitted to Henry IV. in 1590, and from that time gradually
declined; at present it numbers about 7,000 inhabitants only.

The rich red rose, commonly called Provence rose, is in reality the rose
of Provins, having been introduced here by the Crusaders from the Holy
Land. Gardens of the Provins rose may still be found at Provins, though
they are little cultivated now for commercial purpose; Provence, the
land of the Troubadours, has therefore no claim whatever upon rose
lovers, who are indebted instead to the airy little Acropolis of
Champagne. Thus much for the history of the place, which has been
chronicled by two gifted citizens of modern time, Opoix and Bourquelot.

It is difficult to give any idea of the citadel, so imposingly
commanding the wide valleys and curling rivers at its foot. Leaving the
Ville Basse, we climb for a quarter of an hour to find all the
remarkable monuments of Provins within a stone's throw--the College,
formerly Palace of the Counts of Champagne, the imposing Tour de Cesar,
the Basilica of St. Quiriace with its cupola, the famous _Grange aux
Dimes_, the ancient fountain, lastly, the ruined city and gates and
walls, called the Ville Haute. All these are close together, but
conspicuously towering over the rest are the dome of St. Quiriace, and
the picturesque, many pinnacled stronghold vulgarly known as Caesar's
Tower. These two crown, not only the ruins, but the entire landscape,
for miles around with magnificent effect. The tower itself, in reality
having nothing to do with its popular name whatever, but the stronghold
of the place built by one of the Counts of Champagne, is a picturesque
object, with graceful little pinnacles connected by flying buttresses at
each corner, and pointed tower surmounting all, from which now waves
proudly the Tricolour flag of the French Republic. A deaf and dumb girl
leads visitors through a little flower-garden into the interior, and
takes them up the winding stone staircase to see the cells in which
Louis d'Outremer and others are said to have been confined. For my own
part, I prefer neither to go to the top and bottom of things, neither to
climb the Pyramids nor to penetrate into the Mammoth caves of Kentucky.
It is much more agreeable, and much less fatiguing, to view everything
from the level, and this fine old structure, called Caesar's Tower, is
no exception to the rule. Nothing can be more picturesque than its
appearance from the broken ground around, above, and below, and no less
imposing is the quaint straggling indescribable old church of St.
Quiriace close by, now a mere patchwork of different epochs, but in the
twelfth and thirteenth centuries one of the most remarkable religious
monuments in Brie and Champagne. Here was baptized Thibault VI., the
song-maker, the lover of art, the patron of letters, and the importer
into Europe of the famous Provence rose; of Thibault's poetic creations
an old chronicler wrote:

"C'etait les plus belles chansons, les plus delectables et melodieuses
qui oncques fussent ouises en chansons et instruments, et il les fit
ecrire en la salle de Provins et en celle de Troyes."

Close to this ancient church is the former palace of Thibault, now a
"College Communal," for classic and secondary instruction. Unfortunately
the director had gone off for his holiday taking the keys, with
him--travellers never being looked for here--so that we could not see
the interior and chapel. It is superbly situated, commanding from the
terrace a wide view of surrounding country. Perhaps, however, the most
curious relics of ancient Provins are the vast and handsome subterranean
chambers and passages which are not only found in the _Grange aux Dimes_
literally Tithe-Barn, but also under many private dwellings of ancient

Those who love to penetrate into the hovels of the earth may here visit
cave after cave, and subterranean chamber after chamber; some of these
were of course used for the storage and introduction of supplies in time
of war and siege, others may have served as crypts, for purposes of
religious ceremony, also a harbour of refuge for priests and monks,
lastly as workshops. Provins may therefore be called not only a town but
a triple city, consisting, first, of the old; secondly, of the new;
lastly, of the underground. Captivating, from an artistic and
antiquarian point of view, as are the first and last, all lovers of
progress will not fail to give some time to the modern part, not,
however, omitting the lovely walls round the ramparts, before quitting
the region of romance for plain matter of fact. Here you have unbroken
solitude and a wide expanse of open country; you also get a good idea of
the commanding position of Provins.

A poetic halo still lingers round the rude times of Troubadour and
Knight, but fortunately no such contrast can now be found--at least in
France--as there existed between court and people, lord and vassal. The
princelings of Brie and Champagne, who lived so jollily and regally in
this capital of Provins, knew how to grind down the people to the
uttermost, and levied toll-tax upon every imaginable pretext. The Jew
had to pay them for his heresy, the assassin for his crime, the peasant
for his produce, the artizan for his right to pursue a handicraft.

Now all is good feeling, peace, and prosperity in this modern town,
where alike are absent signs of great wealth or great poverty. As yet I
am still in a region without a beggar.

Provins affords an excellent example of that spirit of decentralization
so usual in France, and unhappily so rare among ourselves. Here in a
country town, numbering between seven and eight thousand inhabitants
only, we find all the resources of a capital on a small scale; Public
Library, Museum, Theatre, learned societies. The Library contains some
curious MSS. and valuable books. The Theatre was built by one of the
richest and most generous citizens of Provins, M. Gamier, who may be
said to have consecrated his ample fortune to the embellishment and
advancement of his native town. Space does not permit of an enumeration
of the various acts of beneficence by which he has won the lasting
gratitude of his fellow-townsmen; and on his death the charming villa he
now inhabits, with its gardens, library, art and scientific collections,
are to become the property of the town. The Rue Victor Garnier has been
appropriately named after this public-spirited gentleman.

There are relics of antiquity to be found in the modern town also; nor
have I given anything like a complete account of what is to be found in
the old. No one who takes the trouble to diverge from the beaten track
in order to visit this interesting little city--Weimar of the
Troubadours--will be disappointed. I may add, by the way, that the
_Hotel de la Boule d'Or_, though homely, is comfortable, and that in
this out of the way corner the English traveller is invited to partake
of the famous "Biere de Bass."

From Provins to Troyes is a three hours' journey by rail; and at Troyes,
no matter how impatient the tourist may be to breathe the air of the
mountains, he must stop awhile. Here there is so much to see in the way
of antiquities that several days might be spent profitably and
pleasantly, but for the hotels, of which I have little favourable to
say. "Dear and dirty," is the verdict I must pass on the one recommended
to me as the best; the fastidious traveller will do well, therefore, so
to arrange his journey as to reach Troyes at early morning, and start
off again at night; though, of course, such an arrangement will only
allow of a hasty glimpse of the various treasures offered to him. Take
the churches, for instance. Besides the Cathedral, there are six old
churches, each of which has some especial interest, and all deserve to
be seen in detail. Then there are picturesque mediaeval houses, one of
the first libraries in France, a museum, picture-gallery, &c.

The town itself is cheerful, with decorative bits of window-gardening,
hanging dormers, abundance of flowers growing everywhere, and much life
animating its old and new quarters. The Cathedral, which rises grandly
from the monotonous fields of Champagne, just as Ely towers above the
flat plains of our Eastern counties, is also seen to great advantage
from the quays, though, when approached nearly, you find it hemmed in
with narrow streets. Its noble towers, surmounted by airy pinnacles, and
its splendid facade, delight the eye no less than the interior--gem of
purest architecture blazing from end to end with rich old stained glass.
No light here penetrates through the common medium, and the effect is
magical; the superb rose and lancet windows, not dazzling, rather
captivating the vision with the hues of the rainbow, being made up, as
it seems, with no commoner materials than sapphire, emerald, ruby,
topaz, amethyst, all these in the richest imaginable profusion. Other
interiors are more magnificent in architectural display, none are
lovelier than this, and there is nothing to mar the general harmony, no
gilding or artificial flowers, no ecclesiastical trumpery, no
meretricious decoration. We find here the glorious art of painting on
glass in its perfection, and some of the finest in the Cathedral, as
well as in other churches here, are the work of a celebrated Troyen,
Linard Gonthier.

A sacristan is always at hand to exhibit the treasury, worth, so it is
said, some millions of francs, and which is to be commended to all
lovers of jewels and old lace. The latter, richest old guipure, cannot
be inspected by an amateur, or, indeed, a woman, without pangs. Such
treasures as these, if not appropriated to their proper use, namely
dress and decoration, should, at least, be exhibited in the Town Museum,
where they might be seen and studied by the artistic. There are dozens
of yards of this matchless guipure, but, of course, few eyes are ever
rejoiced by the sight of it; and as I turned from one treasure to
another, gold and silver ecclesiastical ornaments, carved ivory coffers,
enamels, cameos, embroideries, inlaid reliquaries and tapestries, I was
reminded of a passage in Victor Hugo's last poem--_Le Pape_--wherein the
Pope of his imagination, thus makes appeal to the Cardinals and Bishops
in conclave:

"Pretre, a qui donc as-tu pris tes richesses? Aux pauvres.
Quand l'or s'enfle dans ton sac, Dieu dans ton coeur decroit;
Apprends qu'on est sans pain et sache qu'on a froid.
Les jeunes filles vont rodant le soir dans l'ombre,
Tes rochets, tes chasubles, aux topazes sans nombre,
Ta robe en l'Orient dore s'epanouit,
Sont de spectres qui sont noirs et vivant la nuit.
Que te sert d'empiler sur des planches d'armoires,
Du velours, du damas, du satin, de la moire,
D'avoir des bonnets d'or et d'emplir des tiroirs
Des chapes qu'on dirait couvertes de miroirs?
Oh! pauvres, que j'entends raler, forcats augustes,
Tous ces tresors, chez vous sacres, chez nous sont injustes;
Ce diamant qui met a la mitre un eclair,
Cette emeraude me semble errer toute la mer,
Ces resplendissements sombres de pierreries,
C'est votre sang ...
... Brodes d'or, cousus d'or, chausses d'or, coiffes d'or,
Nous avons des saints Jeans et des saintes Maries,
Que nous emmaillottons dans des verroteries,
Nous depensons Golconde a vetir le neant,
... Pretres, votre richesse est un crime flagrant.
Vos erreurs sont-ils mechants? Non, vos tetes sont dures,
Freres, j'avais aussi sur moi ce tas d'ordures,
Des perles, des onyx, des saphirs, des rubis,
Oui, j'avais sur moi, partout, sur mes habits,
Sur mon ame; mais j'ai vide bien vite
Chez les pauvres."

The sacristan exhibited a tooth of St. Peter and skulls of the saints,
but these are treasures we can look on without envy. This little
Museum--as, indeed, the Treasury may be called--exposed at the Paris
Exhibition of 1867 one of its richest objects, the reliquary of St.
Bernard and St. Malachi, a chef-d'oeuvre of the twelfth century; but as
some of the jewels were stolen upon that occasion, nothing this year,
very naturally, found its way from Troyes Cathedral to the Trocadero.

Close to the Cathedral are the Town Library, Museum, and Picture
Gallery, the two first well worth careful inspection. The famous Library
has largely contributed to the historic galleries of the Trocadero; but,
nevertheless, many exquisite specimens of binding, printing, and
illuminating remain; whilst the windows are adorned with most curious
and beautiful old glass paintings from the hand of the gifted Linard
Gonthier before mentioned. It is hardly necessary to say that strangers
are admitted to all the privileges of the reading-room without any form
whatever. The library contains a hundred and some odd thousand volumes,
besides between two and three thousand rare MSS.

The present population of Troyes is forty thousand; and I am not aware
of any small town in England so well off in the matter of books. The
Museum is divided into several sections, and, though of recent date, it
possesses some interesting and valuable collections. Near the Library
and Museum is the most beautiful old church in Troyes, St. Urbain, but
as it is unfortunately in the hands of the restorer, we can see nothing
of the interior, and the splendid Gothic facade is partly hidden by
scaffolding. The traveller may next proceed on a voyage of discovery,
coming upon the picturesque Hotel de Ville; quaint relics of mediaeval
architecture, and half a dozen old churches, all noteworthy from some
point of view.

It is impossible to do more than suggest the rewards that await such an
explorer. Troyes, like Angers and Poitiers, abounds in architectural
treasures and historical souvenirs; and all these cities cannot be
visited too soon. Restoration and renovation are here, as elsewhere, the
order of the day, and every year takes something from their character
and charm. Two objects, particularly striking amongst so many, shall be
mentioned only, as no mere description can convey any idea of the whole.
The first is the entrance hall of the Hotel Vauluisant, the features of
which should be photographed for the benefit of art-schools and
art-decorators generally. The first is a magnificent oak ceiling; the
second, a Renaissance chimney piece in carved wood, no less magnificent.
The solidity, richness of design, and workmanship of both ceiling and
mantel-piece afford an invaluable lesson to artists, whilst beholders
can but examine them without a feeling of sadness.

How little we have in modern art-furniture and decoration to be compared
with such an achievement: Here we find that cost, labour, and display
went for nothing, and artistic perfection alone was aimed at. Not far
from the Hotel Vauluisant is Ste. Madeleine, the most ancient church in
Troyes, originally Gothic, but now, what with dilapidations and
restorations, a curious medley of all various styles. To its
architecture, however, the traveller will pay little heed, his whole
attention being at once transferred to the famous jube, or rood-loft, or
what passes by that name. Bather let me call it a curtain of rare lace
cut out in marble, a screen of transparent ivory, a light stalactite
roof of some fairy grotto!

On entering, you see nothing but this airy piece of work, one of the
daintiest, richest creations of the period, the achievement of Juan
Gualde in the sixteenth century. The proportions of the interior seem to
diminish, and we cannot help fancying that the church was built for the
rood-loft, rather than the rood-loft for the church, so dwarfed is the
latter by comparison. The centre aisle is indeed bridged over by a piece
of stone-carving, so exquisite in design, so graceful in detail, so airy
and fanciful in conception, that we are with difficulty brought to
realize its size and solidity. This unique rood-loft measures over six
yards in depth, is proportionately long, and is symmetrical in every
part, yet it looks as if a breath were only needed to disperse its
delicate galleries, hanging arcades, and miniature vaults, gorgeous
painted windows forming the background--jewels flashing through a veil
of guipure. English travellers may be reminded that Shakespeare's
favourite hero, Henry V., was married to Katherine of France in the
ancient church of St. Jean at Troyes, now the oldest congeries of
different kinds of architecture. The betrothal took place before the
high altar of Troyes Cathedral. Lovers of old stained glass must visit
St. Nizier and other old churches here; all possess some peculiar
interest either within or without.

Troyes--from the standard weight of which we have our Troy weight--is
the birth-place of many illustrious men. Mignard the painter, Girardon,
sculptor, whose monument to Richelieu in the church of the Sorbonne will
not fail to be visited by English travellers, and of the famous painter
on glass, Linard Gonthier, who had engraved on his tomb that he awaited
the Last Day,

"Sans peur d'etre ecrase."

Among minor accomplishments of the Troyen of to-day, it may be mentioned
that nowhere throughout all France--land _par excellence_ of good
washing and clear-starching--is linen got up to such perfection as at
Troyes. The _Blanchisserie Troyenne_ is unhappily an art unknown in
England. It is curious that, much as cleanliness is thought of among
ourselves, we are content to wear linen washed and ironed so execrably
as we do. Clean linen in England means one thing, in France another; and
no French maid or waiter would put on the half-washed, half-ironed linen
we aristocratic insulars wear so complacently. Here indeed is a field
for female enterprize!

From Troyes to Belfort is a journey best made by night-mail express, as
there is little to see on the way; nor need Belfort--famous for its
heroic defence under Danfert, and its rescue from Prussian grasp by the
no less heroic pleadings of Thiers--detain the traveller. It is pleasant
to find here, as at Troyes, a Rue Thiers, and to see Thiers' portrait in
every window. If there is one memory universally adored and respected
throughout France, it is that of the "petit bourgeois." No one who gets
a glimpse of Belfort with its double ramparts and commanding position,
will wonder at Thiers' pertinacity on the one hand, and Bismarck's
reluctance on the other. Fortunately the "petit bourgeois" gained his
point, and the preservation of Belfort to France was the one drop of
comfort in that sea of misery.



Half-an-hour's railway journey brings me to the quaint little town of
Montbeliard in the Department of Le Doubs, whose friends' friends give
me hearty welcome, and I feel in an hour as much at home as if I had
known it all my life. My friends had procured me a little lodging,
rather, I should say, a magnificent _appartement_, consisting of
spacious sitting and bedroom, for which I pay one franc a-day. It must
not be supposed that Montbeliard is wanting in elegancies, or that the
march of refinement is not found here. The fact is, the character of
the people is essentially amiable, accommodating, and disinterested, and
it never enters into their heads to ask more for their wares, simply
because they could get it, or to make capital out of strangers. A franc
a day is what is paid in these parts by lodgers, chiefly officers, and
no more would be asked of the wealthiest or unwariest. You find the same
spirit animating all classes, tradesmen, hotel-keepers, and others, and
doubtless this is to be traced to several causes. In the first place,
Montbeliard is one of the most enlightened, best educated, and most
Protestant _departements_ of all France. Le Doubs, part of the ancient
Franche-Comte, is so Protestant, indeed, that in some towns and villages
the Catholics are considerably in the minority, as is even the case
still at Montbeliard.

So late as the French Revolution, the Comte of this name belonged to
Wuertemberg, having passed over to that house by marriage in the
fourteenth century. In 1792, however, it became amalgamated with the
French Kingdom, and fortunately escaped annexation in the last
Franco-German War. Protestantism early took root here, the Anabaptist
Doctrine especially, and in the present day Montbeliard numbers several
Protestant and only one Catholic church; the former belonging severally
to the Reformed Church, the Lutheran, Anabaptists, also two or three
so-called _Oratoires_, or Chapels of Ease, built and supported by
private individuals. We find here the tables strangely turned, and in
France the unique spectacle of four Protestant pastors to one Catholic
priest! At one time the Protestant body numbered two-thirds of the
entire population, now the proportion is somewhat less. This still
strong Protestant leaven, and the long infiltration of German manners
and customs has doubtless greatly modified the character of the
inhabitants, who, whether belonging to the one denomination or the
other, live side by side harmoniously.

We find a toleration here absolutely unknown in most parts of France,
and a generally diffused enlightenment equally wanting where Catholicism
dominates. Brittany and Franche-Comte (including the Departments of Le
Doubs, Haute Saone, and Jura), offer a striking contrast; in the first
we find the priest absolute, and consequently superstition, ignorance,
dirt, and prejudice the prevailing order of the day; in the last we have
a Protestant spirit of inquiry and rationalistic progress, consequently
instruction making vast strides on every side, freedom from bigotry, and
freedom alike from degrading spiritual bondage and fanaticism.

In the highly instructive map published by the French Minister of
Instruction, Franche-Comte is marked white and Brittany black, thus
denoting the antipodes of intellectual enlightenment and darkness to be
found in the two countries. Here, indeed, we find ourselves in a wholly
different world, so utterly has a spirit of inquiry revolutionized
Eastern France, so long has her Western province been held in the grip
of the priest. Furthermore, we have evidence of the zeal animating all
classes with respect to education on every side, whilst it is quite
delightful to converse with a Montbeliardais, no matter to which sect he
belongs, so unprejudiced, instructed, and liberal-minded are these
citizens of a town neither particularly important, flourishing, nor
fortunate. For nine months Montbeliard had to support the presence of
the enemy, and though the Prussian soldiery behaved very well here, the
amiable, lively little town was almost ruined.

It is no less patriotic than enlightened; republican ideas being as
firmly implanted here as any where in France. You see portraits of M.
Thiers and Gambetta everywhere, and only good Republican journals on the
booksellers' stalls. It would be interesting to know how many copies of
the half-penny issue of _La Republique Francaise_ are sold here daily;
and whereas in certain parts of France the women read nothing except the
_Semaine Religieuse_ and the _Petit Journal_, here they read the
high-class newspapers, reviews, and are conversant with what is going on
in the political and literary world at home and abroad. Indeed, the
contrast is amazing between female education, so called, in
ultra-Catholic and ultra-Protestant France. In Brittany, where the young
ladies are educated by the nuns, you never see or hear of a book. The
very name of literature is a dead letter, and the upper classes are no
better instructed than the lower. In Franche-Comte, girls of all ranks
are well educated, young ladies of fortune going in for their _brevet_,
or certificate, as well as those who have their bread to win. They are
often familiar with the German and English languages, and above all are
thoroughly conversant with their own literature, as well as
book-keeping, arithmetic, French history, elementary science, &c.

This little town of eight thousand inhabitants possesses an intellectual
atmosphere in which it is possible to breathe. Wherever you go you find
books in plenty and of the best kind, and this difference is especially
noteworthy among women. I find the young ladies of Montbeliard as
familiar with the works of Currer Bell and Mrs. Gaskell as among
ourselves. Miss Yonge is also a favourite, and unlike a large class of
novel-readers in England, standard works are not neglected by them for
fiction. No matter at what time you enter the public library here, you
are sure to find ladies of all ages coming to change their books, the
contents of this library, be it remembered, consisting chiefly of French
classics. The mingled homeliness, diffusion of intelligence and
aesthetic culture seen here, remind me of certain little German cities
and towns. People living on very modest means find money for books,
whereas in certain parts of France no such expenditure is ever thought
of, whilst dress and outward show are much less considered.

Naturally, this diffusion of culture raises the tone of conversation and
society generally, and its influence is seen in various ways. Music is
cultivated assiduously, not only by women of the better ranks, but by
both sexes of all, especially among the work-people. The Musical Society
of Montbeliard consists of a very respectable orchestra indeed, and is
composed of amateurs, mostly young men, recruited from the working as
well as middle classes. This Society gives open-air concerts on Sunday
afternoons, and one evening in the week, to the great delectation of the
multitude, who upon these occasions turn out of doors _en masse_ to
enjoy the music and the company of their neighbours. The "Societe
d'Emulation" is another instance of the stimulus given to scientific,
literary, and artistic pursuits by a Protestant spirit of inquiry. This
Society was founded in 1852 by a few _savants_, in order to develope the
public taste for science, art, and letters.

It now numbers two hundred and forty-three members, and has been
instrumental in founding a museum containing upwards of eighty thousand
archaeological specimens, besides botanical, and geological, and other
collections. It is particularly rich in this first respect, few
provincial museums having such complete illustrations of the
pre-historic and also Gallo-Roman periods. The flint, bronze, and iron
epochs are here largely represented, some of the large leaf-shaped flint
instruments being particularly beautiful specimens. The excavations at
Mandeure--a short drive from Montbeliard--the Epomanduoduum of the
Romans--have afforded a precious collection of interesting objects,
pottery, small bronze groups of figures, ornaments, terra-cottas, &c.;
at Mandeure are to be seen the ruins of the ancient city, amphitheatre,
baths, tombs, the vestiges of a temple, and other remains; but
excavations are still going on under the direction of the learned
President of the "Societe d'Emulation," M. Fabre, and further
treasure-trove is looked for.

This charming little museum, so tastefully arranged in the old Halles,
by M. Fabre, is open on Sunday afternoon on payment of two sous, but in
order to promote a love of science among the young, schools are admitted
gratuitously, and within the last ten weeks of summer thirty-nine
teachers, and seven hundred and forty-eight pupils of both sexes, had
availed themselves of the privilege. During the Prussian occupation in
1870-71, a sum of 323,950 francs was exacted from the town, and the
museum and library, after being valued at a considerable sum, were
seized as pledges of payment. Seals were set on the collections, and
Prussian soldiery guarded the treasures which had been collected with so
much zeal and sacrifice. The sum was not paid, but the library and
museum were not forfeited, to the satisfaction of all.

There is a charming little Theatre also at the back of the
Hotel-de-Ville, where occasional representations by good Parisian
companies are given. The decorations are by the hand of one of the
artists who decorated the Grand Opera in Paris. He happened to be at
Montbeliard, and, taking a kindly interest in the town, offered to do it
for a nominal price. Years passed and the promise was forgotten, but, on
being reminded of it, the artist, with true French chivalry, redeemed
his word, and the decorations of the Montbeliard Theatre are really a
magnificent monument of artistic liberality. Montbeliard is as sociable
as it is advanced, and one introductory letter from a native of the
friendly little town, long since settled in Paris, opened all hearts to
me. Everyone is helpful, agreeable, and charming. My evenings are always
spent at one pleasant house or another, where music, tea, and
conversation lend wings to the cheerful hours. The custom of keeping the
_veillee_, familiar to readers of the gifted Franc-Comtois writer,
Charles Nodier, is common here among all classes, people quitting their
homes after their early supper--for, according to German habit, we dine
at noon and sup at seven here--to enjoy the society of their neighbours.

Delightful recollections did I carry away of many a _veillee_, and of
one in particular, where a dozen friends and their English guest
assembled in the summer-house of a suburban garden, there to discuss
art, music, literature, and politics, over ices and other good things
despatched from the town. We had looked forward to a superb moonlight
night with poetic effects of river, chateau, and bridges flooded in


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