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Two Summers in Guyenne by Edward Harrison Barker

Part 3 out of 5

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some twenty miles below Perigueux, rose, on the opposite side of the river,
high cliffs of white limestone with wooded brows. The chateau was on a
small island formed by a curve of the river under the cliffs, and a short
canal drawn across the loop to facilitate the navigation of the Isle.

A very lazy kind of navigation it was. Two or three barges would pass in a
day on their way to Perigueux or Bordeaux. They were of considerable size,
and were capable of some sea-faring, but their masts were now laid flat,
and they were towed along at the rate of two or three yards a minute by
a lean and melancholy horse that had ceased to care for cursing, and was
almost indifferent to beating. As the navigation had been nearly killed by
the railway, the canal was allowed to fill itself with water-plants, which
were interesting to me, but exceedingly hurtful to the temper of the
bargees. They vented their fury upon the engineer, who was absent, and the
horse that was present--unfortunately for the poor brute, for somehow he
seemed to be looked upon as a representative of the negligent functionary.

'You appear to be having a bad time,' said I one day to a great dark bargee
who was streaming from every pore, as much from bad temper as from the
exertion of cracking his whip, and whose haggard horse looked as if he
would soon break off in the middle from the strain of trying to move the
barge, which was stuck in the weeds.

'A bad time of it! I believe you. _Sacr-r-r-re!_ If I could only send that
pig of an engineer to Noumea I should be a happy man!'

If wishes could have wafted him, he would have gone farther than New
Caledonia long before.

One day, far on in the summer, this engineer actually appeared upon the
canal in his steam yacht, and there was great excitement in the country.
The peasants left their work in the fields and ran to the banks to gaze at
him. He did not go very far before he got stuck in the weeds himself. Then
he reversed his engine, made back as fast as he could, and was seen no

But I am going on too fast. I have not yet described the chateau. The
picture of it is clearly engraved upon the memory, and a very pretty
picture I still think it; more so now, perhaps, than when the reality was
before me, for such is the way of the mind. I can see the extinguisher
roofs of the small towers through openings in the foliage rising from a
sunny space enclosed by trees. I can see the garden, with its old dove-cot
like a low round tower, its scattered aviaries, its rambling vines that
climb the laden fruit-trees, its firs, magnolias, great laurels, its
glowing tomatoes and melons, its lettuces and capsicums and scattered
flowers, all mingled with that carelessness which is art unconscious of
its own grace; its daedalian paths, its statues so quaintly placed in
unsuspected corners, its--well, the picture is finished, for now begins the
effort to recall its details. The eye's memory is a judicious painter that
never overcrowds the canvas. I can see on that side of the building, which
looks upon a much wilder garden, where peach and plum trees stride over
grassy ground adjoining the filbert-grove that dwindles away into the
wooded warren, a broad line of tall nettles in the shade against the wall.
Hard by, on the line--so it was said--of the filled-up moat, is a row of
ancient quinces, with long crooked arms, green, gray, or black with moss
and lichen, stretching down to the tall grass, where in the dewy hours of
early darkness the glow-worms gleam.

This little chateau was never a stronghold to inspire an enemy with much
respect; it was rather a castellated manor-house, dating from the times
when even the residences of the small nobility were fortified. Marred as it
had been by alterations made in the present century without any respect for
the past, it was still very interesting. In one of the towers, said to be
of the fourteenth, and certainly not later than the fifteenth, century, was
a chapel on the ground-floor with Gothic vaulting, and which still served
its original purpose. A contemporaneous tower flanking the entrance
contained the old spiral staircase leading to the upper rooms. I often
lingered upon it in astonishment at the mathematical science shown in its
design, and the mechanical perfection of its workmanship. What seemed to be
a slender column round which the spiral vaulting turned was not really
one, for each of the stone steps was so cut as to include a section of the
column as a part of its own block. The contrivances by which this staircase
_en colimacon_ was made to hold together, and to hold so well as to have
lasted several hundred years, with a promise to continue in the same way
another century or two, were deftly hidden from the eye of those unversed
in such technicalities. In the hollow at the foot of the stairs was what
I took to be a very old and rough christening font, such as I had seen in
village churches. But it was not that; it was called a _pierre a l'huile_.
Its purpose a long time ago was to receive the oil taken from the first
pressing of walnuts after the annual gathering. Then the priests came and
fetched what they wanted of it to serve for the rites of the Church during
the year.

All this summer we lived out of doors, except at night. Even Rosalie, our
servant, did most of her cooking in the open air with the aid of a portable
charcoal stove, which she placed in the shade of some noble plane-trees
that were planted by accident on the day of Prince Louis Napoleon's _coup
d'etat_. They were already tall and strong when his Will-o'-the-wisp, which
he had mistaken for a star, sank in the bloody swamp of Sedan. When the
rising wind announced a storm, the swaying branches shed their dry bark,
which was piled upon the hearth indoors, where a cheerful blaze shot up if
by chance the rain fell and the air grew chilly. But very seldom did even a
shower come to moisten the parched land and cool the heated air. Thus the
plane-trees came to look upon the stove beneath them as a fixture.

These open-air kitchens are by no means uncommon in Southern France during
the hot months. I have a pleasant recollection of dining one scented
evening in May with my friend the Otter at Beynac in his garden
terraced upon rocks above the Dordogne. The table was under a spreading
chestnut-tree in full bloom. Not many yards away the swarthy Clodine had
her kitchen beneath an acacia. Strange as it may seem, the hissing of
her frying-pan as she dropped into it the shining fish did not mingle
unpoetically with the murmur of lagging bees overhead and the soothing
plaint of the river running over its shallows below. Nor, when the purple
flush faded on the water's face, and little points of fire began to show
between branches laden with the snow of flowers, did the fragrant steam
that arose from Clodine's coffee-pot make a bad marriage with the amorous
breath of all the seen and unseen blossoms. What is there better in life
than hours such as those?

But now I am by the Isle. The plane-trees are on the edge of a little dell,
in the centre of which is a smooth space encircled by many trees, forming a
dense grove. A rough table has been set up here with the aid of planks and
tressels. It is our dining-table, and the centre of the grove is our
_salle a manger._ Wrens and blackcaps hop about the branches of the
filbert-bushes, and when the _metayer's_ lean cat comes sneaking along,
followed by a hungry kitten that is only too willing to take lessons in
craft and slaughter, the little birds follow them about from branch to
branch, scolding the marauders at a safe distance, and giving the alarm to
all the other feathered people in the grove. Here the nightingales warble
day and night until they get their young, when, finding that hunting for
worms and grubs to put into other beaks than their own is very prosaic
business, they only sing when they have time to fly to some topmost twig
and forget that they are married.

When the sun is near setting, a sound very different from the warble of a
bird is heard close by. It is some leader of a frog orchestra in the sedges
of the canal giving the first note. It is like a quirk of gluttony just
rousing from the torpor of satisfaction. The note is almost immediately
taken up by other frogs, and the croaking travels along the canal-banks as
fire would if there were a gale to help it. But the music only lasts a few
minutes, for the hour is yet too early for the great performance. The frogs
are only beginning to feel a little lively. It is when the sun has gone
quite down, and the stars begin to twinkle upon the water, that the ball
really opens. Then the gay tumult seems to extinguish every other sound,
and to fill the firmament. Oh! they must have a high time of it, these
little green-backed frogs that make so much noise throughout the warm
nights of June. Sometimes I creep into my canoe and paddle by the light of
moon or stars as noiselessly as I can along the fringe of sedges and flags
and bullrushes, hoping to watch them at their gambols. But the frog is a
very sly reptile, and you must stay up very late indeed in order to be a
match for him in craft, unless you dazzle his eyes with the light of a
torch or lantern. Then he is a fool in the presence of that which is out of
the order of his surroundings, and his amazement or curiosity paralyzes his
muscles. It is in this way that those who want the jolly frog just to eat
his hind-legs _a la poulette_ or otherwise catch him with the hand, unless
they have the patience and the cruelty to fish for him with a hook baited
with a bit of red flannel.

Now I will speak of my own hermitage, my ideal nook for writing, reading,
and doing nothing, which, after much wandering and vain searching, I found
at length here. Yes, I found it at last; and I much fear that I shall never
find another like it. It lay at the back of the chateau, beyond the shaded
nettles and the ancient quinces. My ordinary way to it was through a piece
of waste, which, with unintentional sarcasm, was called the 'Little Park.'
It was overgrown by burdocks, to which it had been abandoned for years--who
could tell how many?--and was rambled over by turkeys, guinea-hens, and
other poultry. Then I passed through a little gate, crossed another bit of
waste that was neither lawn nor field, skirted a patch of buckwheat, and
entered a small wood or shrubbery, where plum and filbert trees grew with
oaks and beeches, until I came to water. This was the _vivier_ of the
chateau--fishpond, long drawn out like a canal, and fed by a spring, but
which had been left to itself until it was nearly shaded over by alders
and other trees. At the end farthest from all habitations was a little
structure built of stones, open on one side, and with small orifices in
the three remaining walls. These could be closed, and yet they were not
windows. Their purpose was much more like that of loopholes in a mediaeval
barbican. They were to enable the man inside to watch the movements
of migratory birds, and to send his shot into the thick of them when,
unsuspecting danger, they chanced to come within range. The little building
was an _affut_. Near to it was a sort of fixed cage, intended for decoy
birds, but it had long been without tenants when I took possession of this
refuge from all the human noises of the world. The other sounds did not
worry me, although they often drew me from my work. The splash of a fish
would take me to the water's edge, where I would watch the small pikes
lying like straight roots that jut from the banks under water. The cooing
of the little brown turtles in the trees overhead, the movements of a pair
of kingfishers that would often settle close by upon an old stump, the
magpies and jays, and especially the oriels, would make my thoughts
wander amongst the leaves while the ink was drying in the pen. The oriels
tantalized me, because I could always hear them in the crests of the trees,
until, about the middle of August, they went away on their long journey
to the South, but could very rarely catch sight of their gold and black
plumage. Although they will draw near to gardens to steal fruit when they
have eaten the wild cherries, they are among the most suspicious and wary
of birds.

The oriel is a strange singer. It generally begins by screeching harshly;
then follow three or four flute-like notes, which seem to indicate that the
bird could be a musician if it would only persevere. But it will not take
the trouble. It goes on repeating its 'Lor-e-oh!' just as its tree-top
companions, the cicadas, keep up their monotonous creaking.

From my cabin I could see all the lights, colours, and shadows of the day
change and pass, but the sweetest music of the summer hours was heard when
the soft sunshine of evening fell in patches on the darkening water, and
on the green grass on each side of the brown path strewn with last year's
trodden leaves.

Sometimes a hedgehog would creep across the narrow path, shaded with
nut-bushes, oaks, and alders towards the water, and at night--I was often
there at night--the glow-worms gleamed all about upon the ground, and there
were mysterious whisperings whose cause I could not trace. Yes, it was an
ideal literary hermitage, but as perfection is not to be found anywhere
on land or water, even this spot had its drawback. There were too many
mosquitoes. My friend the owner of the chateau often said to me, '_La
moustigue de l'Isle n'est pas mechante;_' but on this point I could not
agree with him. I bore upon me visible signs of its wickedness; but in
course of time I and the '_mostique de I'Isle_' lived quite harmoniously
together in the little shanty under the trees.

Where the weedy and shady avenue leading to the chateau made an angle with
the highroad, there was often a caravan or tilt-cart stationed for days
together. Sometimes it was the travelling house of a tinker and his family;
in which case the man was generally to be seen working outside upon his
pots and pans in the shade of a tree. Sometimes it belonged to a party of
basket and rustic-chair makers, who gathered the reeds and hazel-sticks
that they needed as they passed through the country. Some were gipsies, and
some were not; but all were baked by the sun almost to the colour of Moors.
Having a taste for nomadic life myself, I used to stay and talk to these
people from time to time; but none of them interested me so much as the
wandering cobbler and his dog, whose acquaintance I had made higher up the
country amongst the rocks.

I can still see them both in the shade of the old gateway; the man seated
in the entrance of the little tower, where, at the top of the spiral
staircase, is the village prison; the dog lying with his nose upon his paws
just within the line drawn by the gateway's shadow across the dazzling
road. They both came one evening and took up their position here with as
much assurance as if it had been theirs by right of inheritance. They soon
set to work, the man mending boots and shoes, and the dog making himself
disagreeable to all the male members of the canine population for a
couple of miles or so around. Until the cobbler's companion settled down
comfortably, he had several exhilarating fights with local dogs that looked
upon him as an intruder and an impostor. He really was both. He had no
great courage, but he had grown impudent and daring from the day that he
had first worn a collar armed with spikes. When his enemies had taken a few
bites at this, they came to the conclusion that there was something very
wrong in his anatomy. After the first encounter they were not only willing
to leave him alone, but were exceedingly anxious to 'cut' him when they met
him unexpectedly. They approached the gateway as little as possible; but
when they were obliged to pass it, they drew their tails under them, showed
the whites of their eyes, and having crept very stealthily to within ten
yards or so of the archway where the interloper appeared to be dozing, they
made a valiant rush towards the opening. Notwithstanding these precautions,
the cobbler's dog, which had been watching them all the while out of the
corner of one eye, was often too quick for them.

Man and dog were ludicrously alike both in appearance and character. The
beast was one of the ugliest of mongrels, and the man might well have been
the final expression of the admixture of all races, whose types had been
taken by destiny from the lowest grades of society. They were both grizzly,
thick-set, and surly. They both seemed to have reached the decline of
life with the same unconquerable loathing of water, except as a means of
quenching thirst. The dog, although some remote bull-dog ancestor had
bequeathed him short hair, had bristles all over his face just like his
master. They were a couple of cynics, but they believed in one another, and
loved one another with an affection that was quite edifying. The dog wished
for nothing better than to lie hour after hour near his master, hoping
always, however, for an occasional fight to keep him in health and spirits.
The cobbler did nothing to make himself liked by the inhabitants, but he
could afford to work more cheaply than others who were 'established,' and
who had a wife and children to keep; consequently the pile of old boots and
shoes that looked quite unmendable rose in front of him, and for three or
four weeks he remained in the same place stitching and tapping. Having
locked up his things at night in the tower--he had obtained permission to
make this use of it--he disappeared with his dog, and what became of them
until next day was a mystery.

I admired the blunt independence and practical philosophy of this homeless
man. Although he was disagreeable to others, he was on good terms with
himself, and seemed quite satisfied with his lot. If, when he had named his
price for mending a pair of shoes, anybody tried to beat him down, he would
say, 'Take them and mend them yourself!' His incivility obtained for him a
reputation for honesty, and his prices were soon accepted without a murmur.
He talked to nobody unless he was obliged to do so, and by his moroseness
he came to be respected. I managed to draw him into conversation once by
feigning to be much impressed by the comeliness and amiable nature of his
dog, and he then told me that he had been wandering ever since he was a boy
in Languedoc and Guyenne, stopping in a village as long as there was
work to do and then moving on to another. Wherever people wore boots or
shoes--if it were only on Sundays--there was always something to be done by
working cheaply.

The silent cobbler might have kept his open-air shop longer than he did in
the shadow of the mediaeval gateway, if his dog had not quarrelled with the
sole representative of police authority for having put on his gala uniform,
which included a cocked-hat and a sword. For this want of respect the
animal was imprisoned in the room of the tower, to the great joy of all the
other dogs, but to the intense grief of his master, who found it impossible
to turn a deaf ear to the plaintive moans that reached him from above. And
thus it came to pass that they went away together rather suddenly in search
of a gateway somewhere else, the dog earnestly praying, after his fashion,
that it might not be one with a tower.

One June morning, soon after sunrise, twenty-seven mowers came to the
chateau to cut the grass in the great meadow lying between the river under
the cliffs and my moat--I called it mine because it was almost made over to
me for the time being, together with the bit of wood and the cabin. Each
mower brought with him his scythe, an implement of husbandry which in
France is in no danger of being classed with agricultural curiosities of
the past. Here the reaping and the mowing machine make very little progress
in the competition between manual and mechanical labour. In the southern
provinces, few owners of the soil have ever seen such contrivances. People
who cling to the poetic associations of the scythe and the sickle--and who
does not that has been awakened by their music in his childhood?--must not
cry out against the laws which have caused the land of France to be divided
up into such a multitude of small properties, for it is just this that
preserves the old simplicity of agriculture as effectually as if some
idyllic poet with a fierce hatred of all machines were the autocratic ruler
of the country. Whether the nation gains or loses by such a state of things
is a question for political economists to wrangle over; but that the
artist, the seeker of the picturesque, the romantic roamer, and the
sentimental lover of old custom gain by it can hardly be denied.

Some of the mowers were men of sixty, others were youths of seventeen or
eighteen: all were contented at the prospect of earning nothing, but of
being treated with high good cheer. Now, victuals and drink are a great
deal in this life, but not everything, and these men would not have come
on such terms had they not been moved by a neighbourly spirit. They were
themselves all landowners, or sons of landowners. Had wages been given, two
francs for the day would have been considered high pay, and the food would
have been very rough. No turkeys would have had their throats cut; no
coffee and rum would have been served round. In short, this haymaking day
was treated as an annual festival.

A goodly sight was the long line of mowers as their scythes swept round and
the flowery swathes fell on the broad mead in the tender sunshine, while
the edges of the belt of trees were still softened by the morning mist.
After the mowers, all the workers employed on the home-farm, men, women,
and boys, entered the field to turn the swathes, which in a few hours were
dried by the burning sun. On the morrow a couple of oxen drew a creaking
waggon into the field, and when the angelus sounded from the church-tower
in the evening the haymaking was over. But I have not yet described the
mowers' feast.

At about ten o'clock the big bell that hangs outside the chateau is rung,
and the mowers, dropping their scythes, leave the field and troop into the
great kitchen, which has changed so little for centuries. The pots and pans
hanging against the walls, and the pieces of bacon from the beams, have
been renewed, but not much else. There is the same floor paved with stones,
now much cracked and worn into hollows, the same hearth and broad chimney
with hanging chain; and the long table and benches stretching from end to
end, although their age is uncertain, were certainly fashioned upon the
exact model of others that preceded them. Richard Coeur-de-Lion, when
campaigning in Guyenne, may have sat down many a time to such a table as
this, and to just such a meal as the one that is about to be served to the
mowers, with the exception of the coffee and rum.

Let us take a look into the great caldrons, which appear to have come out
of Gargantua's kitchen. One contains two full-sized turkeys and several
fowls, another a leg of pork, and a third a considerable portion of a calf.
Then there is a caldron of soup, made very 'thick and slab.' Home-baked
loaves, round like trenchers, and weighing 10lb. each, are on the side
table, together with an immense bowl of salad and a regiment of bottles
filled with wine newly drawn from the cask.

In the evening, when all the grass has been cut, there is another and a
greater feast. The work being done, the men linger long at the table.
Then all the household is assembled in the great kitchen, including the
_chatelain_ and _chatelaine_, and the young men who are known to have
voices are called upon to sing. They do not need much pressing, for what
with the heat of the sun during the day, then the wine, the coffee and rum,
their blood is rushing rather hotly through the veins. One after another
they stand up on the benches and give out their voices from their sturdy
chests, which are burnt to the colour of terra-cotta. They make so much
noise that the old warming-pan trembles against the wall. Although they
all speak patois among themselves, they are reluctant to sing the songs of
Perigord in the presence of strangers. The young men are proud of their
French, bad as it is, and a song in the cafe-concert style of music and
poetry fires their ambition to excel on a festive occasion like this,
whilst their patois ditties seem then only fit to be sung at home or in the
fields. At length, however, they allow themselves to be persuaded, and
they sing in chorus a 'Reapers' Song,' composed long ago by some unknown
Perigourdin poet, who was perhaps a jongleur or a troubadour. The notes are
so arranged as to imitate the rhythmic movements of the reaper: first the
drawing back of the right arm, then the stroke of the sickle, and lastly,
the laying down of the cut corn. There is something of sadness as well as
of joy in the repeated cadences of the simple song, and it moves the heart,
for now the old men join in, and the sound gathers such strength that the
little martins under the eaves must be pressing troubled breasts against
their young.

This chateau had remained in the same family for centuries, and the actual
owner, although by no means indifferent to the noble exploits of his
ancestors, had long ago settled down to the life of an agricultural
gentleman, and devoted what energy may have come down to him from the
Crusaders to the cultivation of tobacco, the improvement of stock, the
rearing of pigeons and poultry, the planting of trees, and a great deal
more belonging to the same order of interest. He was a strongly marked type
of the _gentilhomme campagnard_, in whom blue blood combines perfectly with
rustic tastes and simplicity of manners. Like most men who live greatly to
themselves, he had his hobbies, and they were all of a very respectable
kind. One was to surround himself with trees; another was to have all kinds
of captive birds about him. I was never able to know exactly how many
aviaries he possessed, for I was always finding a fresh one curiously
hidden in some neglected corner. He liked to mix up all sorts of birds
together, such as pigeons, doves--tame and wild--blackbirds, linnets,
canaries, chaffinches, sparrows, tomtits--no, the tomtits had been turned
out. I asked why.

'Because,' said M. de V., 'there is no bird so wicked for its size as the
titmouse. It pecks other birds with which it is shut up so often in the
same part of the head that at length it makes a hole and picks out the

He used to catch his birds by means of a long net, and his favourite place
for spreading it was along the side of the patch of buckwheat which was
sown to feed the captives. He was a true lover of birds, and by observing
them had stored up in his mind a fund of curious knowledge respecting their
characters and habits. He only worked a portion of his land with the aid
of the servants of the chateau; the rest was farmed on the system of
_metayage_, for which he had a very strong liking. He said it was far
preferable from the landlord's point of view to leasing, because the owner
of the soil remained absolute master of his property. He could take care
that nothing was done which did not please him, for the _metayer_ or
_colon_ was on no firmer footing than that of an upper servant. If the
landlord was not satisfied with the manner in which his land was treated,
or if he suspected his _metayer_ of trying to take an unfair advantage of
him in the division of proceeds, all he had to do was to change him for
another. But it was the interest of both to work well together, and it
was the duty of the landlord to assist the _metayer_ as much as possible,
especially when times were hard.

On this estate the _colons_ were housed free, but they paid one-third of
the taxes. At the time of sowing, the seed was found by the landlord, but
the colon returned half of the amount when the crop was gathered.

_Metayage_, or the system of sharing results between the landowner and the
labouring peasant, still flourishes in France, notwithstanding the severe
denunciations passed upon it by various writers. If it were a very bad
system, it would have fallen into disuse long before now, for although the
French have a tendency to keep their wheels in old ruts, they are as keen
as any other people in protecting their own interests. It is a system that
would soon become impossible without trustfulness and honesty. On both
sides there must be fair dealing. The _colon_ must feel that the landlord
will help him in time of trial and need, and the landlord must feel that
the _colon_ is not trying to cheat him. In the great majority of cases, the
man who does the ploughing, the sowing and the harvesting quite realizes
that honesty with him is the best policy, and the owner of the soil knows
that it is to his interest to support his _metayer_, and encourage him with
judicious aid when the times are bad. The _metayer_, who has hope of making
a little money over and above what is barely sufficient to support himself
and his family, and knows that results will depend largely upon his
own sagacity and industry, works with a steady zeal that it would be
unreasonable to expect of the hired labourer, who, having his measured
wage always in his mind's eye, has no incentive to do more than what is
rigorously expected of him.

It may happen that the _metayer_, with all his labour--carried sometimes
to an extreme that degrades the man physically and mentally--and all
his frugality, which so often entails constitutional enfeeblement and
degeneration, because the nutrition is not sufficient to correct the
exhaustion of toil, obtains really less value for his work than an English
farm labourer, and is not so well housed; but, on the other hand, he enjoys
a large amount of liberty and independence, and has the hope, if he is
young, of being able to save money, buy some land, and become his own
master. A _metairie_ is seldom so large as to be beyond the working
capabilities of a man and his family. In Guyenne an estate of a few
hundred acres, if the land is productive, is often divided up into several

Farm labourers are not an overfed or overpaid class in Perigord. Food that
is almost bread and vegetables, and a wage of one franc a day, are the
ordinary conditions on which men work from sunrise to darkness. Lodging is
not always included. I have known men in the full vigour of life earning
only the equivalent of ninepence halfpenny a day, paying rent out of it,
and presumably supporting a wife and children.

The daily life at the chateau was quite old fashioned in its simplicity.
Everybody rose with the sun, or very soon afterwards. At nine o'clock the
bell in the court rang for the principal meal, which was called dinner.
Kings dined at about the same hour in the times of the Crusaders. Early in
the afternoon the bell rang again. This was for _collation_, a very light
repast, which was often nothing more than salad or fruit and a _frotte_--a
piece of crusty bread rubbed with garlic. At about seven o'clock the bell
rang for supper.

The small chateaux with which the whole country hereabouts is strewn,
notwithstanding that most of them have been partially rebuilt or grossly
and wantonly mangled without a purpose such as the rational desire of
increasing homely comfort may excuse, even when combined with no respect
for the past, nevertheless contain numerous details that call up in the
mind pictures of the life of old France. In the rat-haunted lofts and
lumber-rooms may still be seen, worm-eaten and covered with dust, the
_cacolet_--a wooden structure shaped like the gable roof of a house, and
which, when set upon a horse's back, afforded sitting accommodation for two
or three persons on each side. There are people who can still remember, on
the roads of Perigord, the _cacolets_ carrying merry parties to marriage
feasts and other gatherings. In a few of the great dining-rooms the visitor
will still notice the _alcove volante_--a bedstead, that is a little house
in itself, put into a cosy quiet nook where a person can get into bed
without being observed by others in the room. A pretty sentiment caused it
to be especially reserved for the grandmothers, who, stretched upon the
warm feathers on the winter evenings, could rest their weary limbs while
listening to the talk of their descendants and friends, until drowsiness
began to make confusion of the present and the past, and then they would
pull the cords which closed the curtains and go to sleep. Poor old ladies,
now in their graves under the paving-stones of little churches or beneath
the grass of rural cemeteries, how happy for them that they did not dream
of the future in their snug alcoves near the fire--of a revolution that
would kill or scatter their descendants, and of the strangers to their
blood who would lie in their beds!

The detached dovecot is seen in almost every old manorial garden. Although
pigeons are seldom kept in it, the structure has been preserved because of
its usefulness for various purposes and the solidity of its masonry. In
some of them is to be seen the old spiral ladder or staircase winding like
a serpent round the interior wall from the ground to the domed or pointed
roof. By means of this ladder the pigeons could be easily taken from their
nests as they were wanted. These great dovecots are an interesting remnant
of feudalism. Down to the Revolution the right of keeping pigeons was still
a _droit seigneurial_. To those who enjoyed the privilege, the business was
therefore a profitable one, for the birds fed largely at other people's

It is rare to find the ancient walls and towers which stud the hills that
rise above these valleys in the hands of families who owned them even in
the last century. Terror of the Revolutionists caused most of the small
nobility of the country to forsake their homes and lands, which were
consequently sold by the State _revolutionnairement_, and they who acquired
them were thrifty, sagacious people of the agricultural, mercantile, or
official class, whose political principles bent easily before the wind that
was blowing, and whose savings enabled them to profit by the misfortunes of
those who had so long enjoyed the advantages of a privileged position. The
descendants of the men who seized their opportunity, and who purchased the
estates of the refugees--often at the price 'of an old song'--generally
cultivate anti-Republican politics, for they have the best of reasons to
be suspicious of the 'great and glorious principles' by virtue of which
property was made to change hands so unceremoniously at the close of the
last century.

The present owners of most of the country houses in Perigord, whether they
belong to the old families or the new families, whether they put the noble
particle before their names or not, have very much the same habits and
manners. Not a few of them have never been to Paris, and in speech they
often use old French forms, which sound strange in the ears of the
modernized society of the North. Although the accent is often drawling
or sing-song, their language is more grammatically correct than that now
ordinarily used in conversation. They observe the true distinction of the
tenses with an exactitude that sounds stiff and pedantic to those French
people who move about, and who consider that they live in the 'world.' To
the unprejudiced foreigner, however, it is not unpleasant to hear this
old-fashioned literary French spoken in an easy, simple manner that removes
all suspicion of affectation.

In the relations of master and servant, something of the old regime still
survives. The master still says _tu_ and _toi_ to his servant; but if the
latter were to take the liberty of replying with the same pronoun, his
insolence would be considered quite unpardonable. And yet no people appear
to be troubled less with false pride than the class of whom I am speaking.
Relatively large landowners, whose names count for a good deal in the
district, think there is nothing derogatory in sending a maidservant to
market to sell the surplus fruit and eggs. Those who buy are equally
practical. They haggle over sous with their friends' servant just as if she
were a peasant driving a bargain on her own account. It is the exception,
however, when to this keen appreciation of money warm-hearted hospitality
and disinterested kindness are not joined.

There was a chateau combining the country house, the farm, and the ruin on
the summit of the steep hill that rose above our little island just beyond
the river. It often tempted me to climb to it, and one day at the end
of summer I wended my way up the stony path. I met with that courteous
reception which so rarely fails in France to place the visitor completely
at his ease. I was surprised to find how extensive the ramparts were, and
how easily the castle behind the modern house could have been rendered
habitable. But all the windows were open to the weather. A Gothic chapel
with groined vaulting at the base of one of the towers had been turned into
a coach-house. Following an old servant who carried a lantern along a dark
passage leading to an _oubliette_, I saw what looked like a large cattle
trough, and inquired the use of it in such a place. It was put to no
purpose now, was the reply, but it was intended for keeping a whole bullock
in salt. In the tumultuous ages it was always necessary to be prepared to
take immediate measures in view of a siege, and at no period more than
during the wars of religion, when the owners of these castles, whether they
were Huguenots or Catholics, had to be continually on the alert. When there
was fighting to be done, a salted bullock gave less trouble than a live

The old man, having tied a string to the top of the lantern, let it down
through the round hole of the _oubliette_ until it touched the ground many
feet below. Then he told me that, when the dungeon was discovered years
ago, immediately beneath the opening an old tree was found stuck about with
rusty blades and spikes, with their points turned upwards. This story was
confirmed by others.

In the garden on the edge of the cliff the myrtle flourished in a little
Provence sheltered from the cold winds; the physalis--beautiful southern
weed--now laid its large bladders of a vivid scarlet along the edges of the
paths, and the walls flamed with the red fruit of the pomegranate.

The most important feudal ruin in this district is that of the Chateau
de Grignols, the cradle of the Talleyrand family. It was raised by Hely
Talleyrand, Seigneur de Grignols, at the close of the twelfth century. Much
of the outer wall and a few fragments of the interior buildings remain.

I lived a good deal upon the water when I was not in my hermitage under the
trees or wandering across country. I found in the water an ever-growing
interest and charm. It often drew me from my work, for my canoe was on the
canal only a few paces from my dwelling. On each side the high banks were
glorious with their many-coloured clothing of summer flowers. There were
patches of purple thyme, of blue stachys, and yellow gallium; there were
countless spikes of yellow agrimony and heads of wild carrot, and white
ox-eyes looked out from amidst the long grasses like snowflakes of summer.
Near the water's edge, mingling with sedges, flags, marsh-mallows,
bur-reed, and alisma, were the golden flowers of the shrubby lysimachia
in dense multitudes, while from the canal itself rose many a spike of
water-stachys, with here and there blossoming butomus, near the fringe of
the banks. Then there were the pond-weeds, and other true water-plants,
whose summer luxuriance nearly stopped the navigation of the canal, and
whose pollen in July, collecting near the locks, lay there upon the water
like a thick scum. As my little boat moved over them, I could note all the
wondrous beauty and delicacy of the strange foliage that lives below the
air, and preserves so much of the character of the earliest vegetation of
the earth.

It is twilight, and I am paddling up to the river, gliding now along by one
bank and now by another. A humming-bird moth, that seems to have been just
created, for the eye cannot follow its movement in the dusky air, appears
suddenly upon the topmost flower of a stachys, and in another moment it has
vanished. Upon the broader and more open river the day appears to revive.
There is a faint lustre upon the distant chalky hills and their corn-fields
that rise against the quiet sky. But the pale moon just above them is
brightening; already the rays are glinting upon the water. A little later
the boat is moving up a long brilliant track, where small waves lap and
quiver like liquid fire. It is now night, and the forms of the alders in
the air and on the water have become weird and awful. I often come alone
at this hour, or later, to be filled with the horror of them. There is a
strong fascination in their terrible and fantastic shapes, which may be
because the sublime and the horrible are so thinly separated. Rarely does
the same tree wear the same ghostly appearance when seen a second time, and
a shape that may seem to one person appallingly life-like may convey no
meaning to another.

Had the gendarmes met me while water-wandering at night, they would
certainly have concluded that I was a fish-poacher. All fishing by night
in French rivers and streams is illegal, but it is much practised

There are many carp in the Isle, weighing from fifteen to twenty pounds,
but they are very rarely caught. The river is full of very deep pools,
caused by the washing away of the sand down to the solid rock, and the carp
seldom get within reach of a net except when they are stirred up and washed
out of their lairs in time of flood. Then, when an old fish gets entangled
in a net, it is almost certain to break through it, so that it is not with
a feeling of pure pleasure that the fisherman recognises by the weight and
tug that he has thrown his meshes over one of these monsters. Nor does any
better success attend the angler--at all events, the angler who is known in
these parts. It is quite an extraordinary event when a carp weighing more
than five pounds is taken with the line. The bait commonly used is boiled
maize or a piece of boiled chestnut. There is another method of hooking
these fish which I have seen practised on the quays at Perigueux. The
fisher has a very strong rod, and also a strong line many yards long, at
the end of which is fastened, not a bait, but a piece of lead two or three
inches in length. To this large hooks are fixed, which barbs turned in all
directions. The man, whose eyes have become very keen with practice, sees
some carp coming up or going down the stream, and, throwing the plummet far
out into the river, he draws it rapidly through the water, across the spot
where he believes the fish then to be. It is not often that he feels a tug,
but he does sometimes, and then follows a deadly struggle, which may result
in his landing a splendid carp that is worth more than he might earn by any
other industry in two days.

Among the peasants in this part of Perigord there is a deeply-engrained
superstitious horror of what is called a _rencontre_. If a person falls
suddenly ill, especially if his sickness be not a familiar ailment, he will
begin to probe his memory, and to ask himself if he has lately sat upon a
stone or the stump of a tree. If he remembers having done so, he murmurs,
unless he should be free from the popular superstition, 'Ah! I thought so.
This is a _rencontre!_'--by which he means that he has met one of the three
unholy reptiles, the snake, the toad, or the lizard, although it was hidden
under the stone or stump.

'Marie,' said I to an old farm woman who was hobbling about with a
rheumatic leg, 'what is the matter?'

Oh, mossieu,' said she, 'it's a _rencontre_. I sat down the other day upon
a stone.'

This made me inquire what was meant by a _rencontre_.

I will only set down a few impressions of Perigueux, there being already
quite enough written respecting the ancient capital of the Petrocorii.
The upper part of the town commands a pleasant view of the valley of the
curving Isle, with the wooded hills that lead away towards the upper and
wilder country of Perigord; but it is in the lower town near the river,
where the odours are strong, that the interest really lies. Here is the
cathedral of St. Front, a church in the Byzantine style of the tenth
century, and closely imitated from St. Mark's at Venice. It is impossible
to see it now, however, without regret and disappointment. In many it stirs
both sorrow and anger. It is no longer one of the most precious monuments
of old France. What we see now on the site of St. Front is a new church,
scrupulously rebuilt, it is true, according to the original plan, and with
a great deal of the original material, but its interest is that which
belongs to a model: its venerable character, with all the associations of
the past, is gone. Whether those responsible for the complete demolition of
the ancient structure when it threatened to fall and become a heap of ruins
were right or wrong in their decision is a technical question on which very
few persons are now competent to give an opinion. The plan of the church is
a Greek cross, and, like St. Mark's and St. Sophia's, it has five domes;
but the building has, nevertheless, a feature of its own which makes it one
of the most original of churches. It possesses a Byzantine tower.

[Illustration: THE TOUR DE VESONE.]

In common with many towns of Southern France, Perigueux shows remarkable
vestiges of different races and dominations. Remnants of Roman or
Gallo-Roman architecture stand with others that belong to the dawn of
mediaeval art, and others, again, that are marked by the florid and
graceful fancy of the Renaissance. The ruins of the amphitheatre are
insignificant compared to those at Nimes and Arles, and there is no
beautiful example of Roman art like the Maison Carree at Nimes; but there
is an exceedingly curious monument of antiquity, which was long a puzzle to
archaeologists, but which is now generally believed to be the _cella_ of
a Gallo-Roman temple dedicated to the city's tutelary divinities. It is
called the Tour de Vesone, and, indeed, it was supposed for centuries to
have been originally a tower. Its cylindrical shape and its height (ninety
feet) give it all the appearance of one. It is built of rubble, faced
inside and out with small well-shaped stones, and has chains of brick in
the upper part. The circle of the tower is no longer complete, for about a
fourth of the wall has been broken down from top to bottom. The ground
is strewn with fragments of immense columns and entire capitals, some
Corinthian, others Tuscan. These, doubtless, were parts of the peristyle,
which, with the exception of such scattered fragments, has quite
disappeared. There is something decidedly barbaric in the fantastic
structure that has come down to us, and it is difficult to understand the
motive of its height. Such a cylinder rising far above the peristyle could
not have had a classic effect. This ruin stands in an open field, and the
foulness of the spot, although quite in accordance with the Southern manner
of showing respect for antiquities, is nevertheless a disgrace to the
ideals of modern Vesunna.

Another curiosity of the lower town is the ruin of a very early mediaeval
castle, said to have been built by Wulgrin, surnamed Taillefer, the first
of the hereditary Counts of Perigord. Close to this picturesque ruin is
one of the ancient gateways of the town. It goes by the name of La Porte
Normande, but its slightly pointed arch disposes of the suggestion that the
Normans were in some manner concerned in its construction.


What interested me most at Perigueux was something that very few strangers,
or even townspeople, for that matter, ever see, because, it is hidden from
public view. This is a considerable fragment of one of the early walls
of the town, which, tradition says, was thrown up in great haste at the
approach of the Normans during one of the incursions of these adventurers
up the valley of the Dordogne and, its tributary, the Isle, in the tenth
century. It is a bit of wall that speaks to us in a language by no means
common. It is not built of stones such as could be found anywhere in all
ages, but is put together with the fragments of temples and palaces which
even now tell of the power and splendour of Rome. The shafts of fluted
columns, capitals wearing the acanthus, pieces of cornice and frieze, all
mortared together with undistinguishable rubbish, bear testimony in the
quiet garden of the Ursuline convent to the vanity of human works. Vesunna,
splendid city of Southern Gaul, completely Latinized, with native poets,
orators, and historians speaking and writing the language of Virgil and
Cicero, raised temples, palaces, thermae, and a vast amphitheatre to be
used centuries later as material for building a wall to keep out the
Northern barbarians!



From Perigueux I made my way to Brantome in the neighbouring valley of the
Dronne--a tributary of the Isle, which nobody who has not stifled the love
of beauty in his soul can see without feeling the sweet and winning charm
of its gracious influence. Between the two valleys are some fifteen miles
of chalky hills almost bare of trees, a dreary track to cross at any time,
but especially detestable when the dust lies thick upon the white road and
the summer sun is blazing overhead. But how delightful is the contrast
when, going down at length from these cretaceous uplands, where even the
potato plants look as if they had been whitewashed, you see below the
verdant valley of the Dronne, that seems to be blessed with eternal spring,
the gay flash of the winding stream, the grand rocks that appear to be
standing in its bed, and the cool green woods that slope up to the sky
beyond! The pleasure grows as you descend, and when at length you reach the
little town you are quite enchanted with the grace and elegance, the poetic
and romantic charm, of the scene. Although the church, with its tower half
built upon a rock, dates from the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the
influence of the sixteenth century is so strong that no other is felt. The
eye follows the terraces with graceful balustrades in the shadow of old
trees, dwells on the fanciful Renaissance bridge, that looks as if its
first intention was to span the stream in the usual manner, but, having
gone some distance across, changed its mind, and turned off at an abrupt
angle; then the little pavilion in the style of Francis I., connected with
a machicolated gateway, fixes the attention. There is something in the air
of the place which calls up the spirit of Shakespeare, of Spenser, and
of all the poets and romancers of the sixteenth century; you feel that
everything here belongs to them, that you are in their world, and that
the nineteenth century has nothing to do with it. Upon these balustraded
terraces, beside the limpid river full of waving weeds, you can picture
without effort ladies in farthingales and great ruffs, gentlemen in high
hose and brilliant doublets; you can almost hear the lovers of three
centuries ago kissing under the trees--lovers like Romeo and Juliet, who
kissed with a will and meant it, and who were afraid of nothing. But
Brantome has clearer and more precise associations with letters than
such as these, which belong purely to the imagination. Its name has been
inextricably entangled with literature by Pierre de Bourdeilles, Seigneur
de Brantome, author of the famous and scandalous 'Memoires'--terrible
chronicles of sixteenth-century venality, intrigue, and corruption, written
in a spirit of the gayest cynicism. Brantome--he is known to the world by
no other name now--was the spiritual as well as the temporal lord here, for
he was abbot of the ancient abbey which was founded on this spot in the
eleventh century or earlier. His ecclesiastical function, however, was
confined to the enjoyment of the title and benefice, for if ever man was
penetrated to the marrow by the spirit of worldliness, it was Pierre de
Bourdeilles. What he has written about the women of his time is something
more than the critical observations of a chronicler who was also a caustic
analyst of the female character. Such was his cynicism that he, the Abbot
of Brantome, laughed in his sleeve at the horrible strife of Catholics and
Huguenots in his own and neighbouring provinces. It is true that he fought
at Jarnac against Coligny, but the admiral had met him in the court of the
Valois before these wars, and knew him to be an _abbe joyeux_, without
prejudices, if ever there was one. The astute chronicler played his cards
so well as to keep on safe terms with both sides, and it was by this
diplomacy of their lord and abbot that the inhabitants of Brantome escaped
the sword and the rope when Coligny and his terrible German mercenaries
entered the weakly-defended place on two occasions in 1569. On the first of
these Coligny was accompanied by the young Henry of Navarre and the Prince
of Orange. They were all made very welcome by Brantome, and treated by him
with 'good cheer' in his abbey. He was rewarded for his diplomatic talent,
for he tells us that no harm was done to his house, nor was a single image
or window broken in the church. No doubt he had turned to good profit his
distant relationship with Madame de Coligny. On the second occasion the
admiral merely hurried through Brantome with his _reitres_ in full flight
after the bad defeat at Montcontour.

The abbey church of Brantome is not without beauty, but it is the tower
that is the truly remarkable feature. It was raised in the eleventh
century, and although the architect--probably a monastic one--observed the
prevailing principle of Romanesque taste, he showed so much originality in
the design that it served as a model, which was much imitated in the Middle
Ages. It is not only one of the oldest church towers in France, but its
position is one of the most peculiar, it being built, not on the church,
but behind it, and partly grafted upon the rock.

[Illustration: THE ABBEY OF BRANTOME.]

Of the old abbey little remains; but there is a cavern, formerly in
communication with the conventual buildings, which contains sculptures cut
upon the rock in relief, which are a great curiosity to ecclesiologists.
They are the work of the monks, who used this old quarry as a chapel, and,
it would appear, likewise as an ossuary in a limited sense, if the rows of
square holes cut in the rock were to serve as niches for skulls, as some
have maintained. One of the compositions in relief has given rise to
discussion among archaeologists. The first impression that it conveys is
that of an exceedingly uncouth representation of the Last Judgment, but
the Marquis de Fayolle's explanation, namely, that the idea which the
sculptor-monk endeavoured to work out here was the triumph of Death over
Life, meets with fewer objections. There are three figures or heads
symbolizing Death, of which the central one wears a diadem that bristles
with dead men's bones. Immediately below is Death's scutcheon emblazoned
with allegorical bearings. On each side of this is a row of heads rising
from the tomb, in which a pope, an emperor, a bishop, and a peasant are
to be recognised. In the middle part of the composition are two kneeling
angels blowing trumpets, and above these is a vast and awful figure,
apparently unfinished, and scarcely more human in its shape than some
stalagmites I have met underground. Are we to see here the Eternal Father,
or Christ sitting in final judgment? It depends upon the interpretation
placed upon the work of the monk, who, with slow and painful effort, gave
fantastic life to his solemn thoughts in the gloom of this old quarry, from
which stone had been taken to build the church. He was a rude artist, such
as might have belonged to the darkest age, but certain ornamental details
of the bas-relief indicate that he was a man of the sixteenth century. The
walls of the cavern have been blackened by the damp, and these awful shapes
reveal themselves but slowly to the eye, so that they look like a vague and
dreadful company of ghosts advancing from the darkness.

A visit to this sepulchral cavern gives an appetite for lunch at the good
inn which is hard by, and at whose threshold sits or did sit a very fat,
broad-faced landlord, seemingly fashioned upon the model of an ideal
tapster of old time. Here a _friture_ of the famous gudgeons of the Dronne
is placed before the guest, whether the fishing be open or closed, and a
magistrate would feel as much aggrieved as anybody if the law were not
laughed at when its observance would lay a penalty upon his stomach. At
the hospitable board of this inn I made the acquaintance of a somewhat
eccentric gentleman who lived alone in a large old house, where he pursued
the innocent occupation of hatching pheasants with the help of hens. In
almost every room there was a hen sitting upon eggs or leading about a
brood of little pheasants. This gentleman was more sad than joyous, for he
could not take his handkerchief from his pocket without bringing out the
corpse of a baby pheasant with it--one that had been trodden to death by a
too fussy foster-mother. I owe him a debt for having led me a charming walk
by moonlight to see a dolmen--the largest and best preserved of all those I
had already seen in Southern France and elsewhere.

It was not without a little pang that I broke away from the spell of
coquettish Brantome and began my wanderings down the valley of the Dronne.
A few miles below the little town the stream passes into the shadow of
great rocks. I looked at these with something of the regret that one feels
when awaking from a long dream of wonderland. I knew that they were almost
the last vestiges towards the west, in the watershed of the Gironde, of
the stern jurassic desert, gashed and seamed with lovely valleys, and deep
gorges full of the poet's 'religious awe,' where I had spent the greater
part of three long summers. And now, on the outskirts of the broad plain or
gradual slope of undulating land that leads on from the darker and rockier
Perigord, through the greenness of the lusty vine--led captive from the New
World and rejoicing in the ancient soil of France--or the yellow splendour
of the sunlit cornfields, towards the sea that rolls against the pine-clad
dunes, I felt tempted to turn from my course and go back to my naked crags
and stone-strewn wastes. But I did not go back. Life being so short in this
world of endless variety, we cannot afford to return upon our path.

A little beyond where the double line of rocks ended, I saw a round tower
of unusual height with machicolations and embattlements, in apparently
perfect preservation, rising from the midst of what once must have been a
fortress of great strength, which on the side of the river had no need of a
moat, for it was there defended by the escarped rock, to the edge of which
the outer ramparts were carried. This was the castle of Bourdeilles, the
seat of the family of which the Abbe de Brantome was a younger son. I was
soon able to get a closer view of it. It is one of the most instructive
remnants of feudalism in Perigord, and one of the most picturesque, by the
contrast of its great gloomy keep and frowning ramparts with the peaceful
beauty of the valley below. The tall _donjon_, 130 feet high, and most of
the outer wall, are of the fourteenth century. The inner wall encloses a
sixteenth-century mansion, marked with none of the picturesqueness of the
Renaissance period, but heavy and graceless. In the interior, however, are
sculptured chimney-pieces and other interesting details. This residence was
built by the sister-in-law of Pierre de Bourdeilles. The burg itself, which
lies close to the castle and is much embowered with trees, has something of
the open, spacious, and decorative air of Brantome. It tells the stranger
that it has known better days. The broad terrace, planted with trees so as
to form a _quinconce_, where the people stroll and gossip in the summer
evenings, is quite out of keeping with a little place that has scarcely
more than a thousand inhabitants.


Near the castle gateway is the 'Logis des Senechaux,' a small building of
the fifteenth century with turrets capped by extinguisher like roofs, and
within a stone's throw of this is a small church, dating from the twelfth
century, the artistic interest of which has been lamentably deteriorated by
renovation and scraping. The influence of the Byzantine cathedral that rose
in the old Roman city by the Isle spread far, and numerous churches in
Perigord bear witness to the imitative zeal which it inspired, especially
in the application of domes to the vaulting of the nave. This arrangement
is frequently to be found in connection with the pointed arch, and such is
the case at Bourdeilles. The apse is beautiful, with its five tall windows
and its columns with Corinthian capitals in the intervening wall spaces.
Although the church is in no style that is recognised as pure, it is
typical of one that has been developed in the district, and which is by no
means without grace; but the scraping that it has undergone has robbed it
of the proper tint and tone of its age, and the ideal interest that belongs
to this.

But here is something from which the gray mantle that the centuries have
silently spun has not been lifted. I have gone down to the waterside to
follow the stream onward, and am held by the quiet charm of a half Gothic
bridge that was thrown across it five or six hundred years ago; the
miller's house just below, with its bright little garden flaming with
flowers a few inches above the water, and two great wheels turning slowly,
slowly, as if time and change and the rush of life were the vain words of
tiresome fools. On the side of the bridge looking up-stream, each pier is
built out in the form of a sharp angle This was intended to lessen the push
of the current upon the masonry in time of flood. A great many old bridges
in Guyenne show a similar design.

My road had now on one side the reedy Dronne, and on the other overleaning
rocks topped with trees or shrubs, whose foliage reached downward as if it
were ever troubled by the futile longing to touch the cool green water, and
every little ridge or shelf was marked out by a line of ancient moss.
Old alders had plunged their roots deep into the banks of the river, and
wherever the sunshine struck upon the upper leaves was a cicada scratching
out its monotonous note in joyous frenzy.

A long range of densely-wooded, rocky cliffs now stretched along the right
bank; but I, keeping to the road on the other side, soon left the stream
and rose upon a hill dotted with low juniper bushes. The scene in the
widening valley below was full of summer light and gladness. Men were
mowing, and women were turning the fallen swathes in the waterside meadows,
and upon all the slopes above were patches of yellow corn ready for the
sickle. In the green depth between the hills the river flowed vaguely on in
the shadow of tall poplars, and was sometimes hidden by its reeds.

Here and there upon the higher ground, half concealed by walnut-trees, were
small chateaux or farmhouses, with a castellated air derived from great
dovecots and towers, which last once served for the defence of the
manor-house or the little castle. When the fury of the religious wars
followed upon that tidal wave of dilettantism and sensuality which swept
over Europe from the south to the north, and which we call the Renaissance,
and when Huguenots and Leaguers gave such frequent dressings of blood to
the vineyards of Perigord, every house and church that was in any way
fortified was used as a stronghold in the event of sudden attack.

From the broad landscape I turn to the wayside flowers: the agrimony, the
little lotus, the candy-tuft--getting rare now that I have left the arid
stony region--the blue scabious, and, pleasanter than all, the purple
patches of dwarf thyme.

It was not yet evening when I came to Lisle, a rather large village near
the Dronne. Here I fell in with a plasterer, and he being a good-tempered
man, with some spare time on his hands, he offered to show me before dinner
the picturesque ruin of an old bridge, known in the district as the Pont
d'Ambon. On our way to the river he talked much, and especially about his
village, in which he took a very lively interest. It had not changed its
principles, he said, for a hundred years.

'And what are its principles?'

'Republican. We don't go to church here, although there is no ill-will
towards the cure.'

'And is all the country about here Republican?'

'Oh no, not at all. There is a village close by that is full of religion.
We are often called savages. When the cure asked the commune to give him
200 francs a year for saying an extra mass on Sundays, the majority of the
inhabitants signed their names to a paper offering him 300 francs a year if
he would say no mass at all.'

I said to myself that the cure of Lisle was not to be envied the piece of
vineyard that he had been sent to look after. I had often heard stories
such as this. Faction fighting provides the chief intellectual stimulus in
many a village and small town of France. Where Republicanism is strong, the
mayor's party is often at bitter feud with those who share the views
and uphold the authority of _M. le cure_. The sign that the 'advanced'
Republicans give of their political faith is never to set foot inside the
church unless it be at a wedding or a funeral. But what is especially
worth the attention of the philosophical observer is the extent to which
prevailing ideas in politics and religion differ in the same district.
Within a few miles of a commune where Republicans and Freethinkers have
complete control of local affairs, may be another that is altogether
Royalist or Bonapartist, and where the cure is both popular and powerful.
There is, moreover, a very marked difference in the character of the
inhabitants of neighbouring places. In one the prevailing characteristic
may be mildness and affability of manners, whereas in another it may
be truculence and incivility. Neither the influence of politics nor of
religion sufficiently accounts for these differences in character. They
seem to rest rather upon obscure and remote causes, such as racial and
congenital tendencies. All this is especially observable in the South of
France, where the present population has been formed from the blood of so
many races, which is very unequally mixed even to this day.

When my talkative plasterer left the subject of local politics, he took up
that of the moon. Like all country people, whether in France or in England,
he had the strongest faith in the influence of the moon upon the weather.
He, moreover, maintained that moonbeams had a very corrosive and
destructive action upon zinc. This fact, he said, had come under his
observation scores of times in his business, which was that of roofing as
well as plastering.

Thus talking, we came to the bridge, or, rather, its sole remaining arch,
now almost completely hidden by ivy, briars, and other vegetation, by
which it has been gradually overgrown. The plasterer had a sense of the
picturesque, and he had not over-rated the beauty of this spot. A little
below the early Gothic arch, from which the briars reached down to the
water, was an old mill, in the shadow of a high, overleaning rock, and
great trees made a vaulting over the grassy lane, at the end of which the
turning-wheel could be seen, with just a sparkle of evening sunshine upon
the dropping water.

The inn where I put up that night was a substantial hostelry, containing
all that was needful for the entertainment of man and beast. Had I been a
_Procureur de la Republique_ the law could not have been broken in a more
solicitous manner than it was in my behoof. Not only did I have gudgeons,
_en temps prohibe_, but also partridge. It was not until the bones were
carried out that I felt that I had missed an excellent opportunity of
setting a good example by declining to eat partridge in the month of June.

I must have been put into the best bedroom, for among other works of art
which it contained was a bridal wreath of orange-blossoms under a glass.
I surmised that when it decked the head of my hostess, her form would not
have taken up so much room in the kitchen as when I saw it downstairs,
passing with a slow and dignified movement in the midst of the saucepans
and platters. I have often slept in rooms where there have been bridal
orange-blossoms under glass. They always interest me, just as the faded
family photographs do which so frequently deck the walls of the same room.
They get me on the lines of thought or sentiment which make us enter when
we are by ourselves into all that is human.

The next morning, after seeing the church--a Romanesque and Gothic
structure of considerable beauty--I returned to the Dronne, and, after
crossing it, continued upon the road eastward until I saw the picturesque
ruins of the Chateau de Marouette upon a hill above me. Then I left the
road, and climbed the hill by a rocky path. This castle, dating from the
close of the sixteenth century, shows a blending of feudal architecture
with the Renaissance style. In this respect it is like many others in the
district, but it is truly remarkable in having preserved an outer wall,
strengthened with round towers at intervals, and enclosing two or three
acres of land. The fortress was raised by a Baron de Jarnac, and must
have been one of the last built to combine the double character of family
residence and stronghold. The outer and inner ramparts, and the high,
frowning, machicolated keep, perched upon the rock and overlooking the
valley, prove that it was truly a _chateau-fort_, and one that ought to
have been able to give a very good account of itself. A fantastic effect
has been produced by attaching a plain modern house without any character
to the best-preserved parts of the ruin. Agriculture must possess the
thoughts of those who are now living there. The wide space between the
outer and inner walls, as I saw it in the early sunshine of the June
morning, was a level floor of golden ears, nearly ready for the reaper.

A storm overnight had moistened the earth; the breath that came from the
flowery banks and the glistening leaves of oak and chestnut was very fresh;
all the birds that could sing were singing; the sound of the sweeping
scythe and the voices of mowers rose from the valley, and the spirit of
peace and gladness was over the land.

I took a road somewhat at random, and it led me by many windings away from
the Dronne, up hills, where there were vines but no cornfields, and where
the wayside trees were chiefly plums, laden with fruit fast purpling. And
as I looked at the plums I thought of the time when, after being dried in
the sun, they would become 'prunes,' and be scattered about the world, many
of them, perchance, in England, where children would buy them with their
pennies, as I had bought others myself, when I never supposed that I should
walk by the trees that bore them under southern skies.

A road-mender whom I passed saluted me with the words, '_Bon soir!_'
although the hour was eight in the morning. In these parts, however, _bon
soir_ is frequently said at all hours. It is a colloquial peculiarity.
Another is to address or speak of a gentleman and a lady as '_Ces

At length I reached a plateau, where I saw not far off, in a hollow
surrounded by cornfields and fruit-trees, such a number of red roofs that
I concluded I must have come to the little town of Montagrier. A young
peasant soon undeceived me: I was near the village of Grand-Brassac. It was
clear that I had gone much farther from the Dronne than I had intended,
but, after all, it mattered little where I wandered. I now said that I
would see Grand-Brassac, and that I might find something there worth the
walk. I was rewarded beyond aught that I had expected or hoped for.

Here I found a very remarkable Byzantine-Gothic church of the thirteenth
century, with a richly decorated front in strong contrast to the defensive
motive so clearly expressed by the solidity of the structure, the smallness
of the windows, and especially by the height of the entrance--some ten feet
above the level of the ground. It is reached by steps. Over the doorway,
which has a pointed arch ornamented with a star moulding, is a semicircular
compartment containing several figures in high relief, the central one of
which represents the Virgin enthroned. No satisfactory explanation of
the others has yet been found. Beneath the compartment is a row of very
fantastic bracket-heads, supposed to represent the Vices. Above it is
a canopy with sculptured medallions on the under-surface, where the
symbolical Lamb may be recognised amongst winged dragons and other
monsters. Close to these is a monkey playing on the violin. Above this
canopy is another, shaped like a low gable, and forming the upper frame of
a further set of figures in relief, larger than those in the compartment
below. The central and highest figure is that of Christ teaching. The
Virgin is kneeling on the right, and St. John on the left. St. Paul is
shown with the book of his Epistles, and St. Peter, wearing a bishop's
mitre, is holding his keys. Among other details of this curious facade
is the figure of a kneeling knight in a coat of mail. Upon the exterior
side-walls are Roman arches _en saillie_, resting upon corbels and very
wide pilaster-strips that are almost buttresses. In the interior, the
Byzantine influence is very apparent in the three domes, which combine with
the Gothic vaulting of the narrow, dimly-lighted nave. The main walls are
carried so high as to hide the roof of the domes, and this goes far to give
to the church that air of a mediaeval fortress which at once impresses the

As the fortune of the road had cast me upon this village, I made up my mind
to accept pot-luck here, for the morning was no longer young, and I knew
not how far I might have to trudge before finding better quarters. So I
resolved to take my chance at what looked like the best inn in the place,
although it was a very rustic hostelry that would have repelled a wanderer
less seasoned than myself to the vicissitudes of the highways and byways. I
had, however, a cool little back-room with whitewashed walls to myself,
and through the small square window near the table where I sat I could see
something of the sunny world, with bits of tiled roof and green foliage,
as well as the lemon-coloured butterflies that fluttered from garden to
garden. There was no lack of food in the auberge, for a pig had been very
recently killed. There were several dishes, but they were all made up
from the same animal. When something fresh came, I thought, 'This, at all
events, must be mutton or veal'; but although it may have been cunningly
disguised with tomatoes or garlic, I perceived that it was pork again. It
was long after this adventure that I could look at a pig with a lenient and
unprejudiced mind.

When I left Grand-Brassac, I so shaped my course as to return to the valley
of the Dronne, but at a point much lower than that where I had last crossed
the river. The weather was now very sultry; not a breath of wind stirred,
and thunder-clouds were gathering in the sky. As the sun glared between the
layers of vapour, the cicadas screamed from the tops of the walnut-trees,
while I upon the dazzling white road felt that there was no need of so much

A great dark cloud with fiery fringe now stretches far up the sky from the
south, and there is a constant long-drawn-out groan of distant thunder.
This storm is no loiterer; it is coming on at a rapid pace, and it will be
a fierce one. Still, the haymakers keep in the meadow hard by the road,
working for dear life to fill the waggon, to which a pair of oxen are
harnessed, and to get it safely to the village on yonder hill before the
floodgates of heaven are opened. I hasten on to this village, and reach
it just before the rain begins to fall. It is almost deserted; everybody
appears to be in the fields.

On the very top of the hill is a little old church surrounded by cypresses
and acacias, and as the sun, about to vanish within the folds of the cloudy
pall that is already drawn up to its flaming edge, darts burning rays upon
the still motionless leaves, the cicadas again scratch out their note with
the blind zeal of fiddlers who have made too merry at the marriage-feast.

According to my wont, I pay a visit to the dead, who lie scattered all
around the old church. Scattered do I say? Why, the very ground on which I
walk is made up of them. When another dead villager is buried, what occurs
is merely a displacement of human remains. As one body goes down, the bones
and dust of others come up to the surface. Wherever I walk I see bones, and
if I were an anatomist I could tell the use and place of each in the human
economy. One might well suppose that in these rural districts, where land
is of so little value, there would be but slight disturbance of dead men's
bones. Observation, however, tells a very different story. These country
churchyards are very small, and nobody but the stranger seems to think that
there is any reason why they should be larger. There is little or no buying
of graves 'in perpetuity' here, and very little grave-marking, except by
mounds and wooden crosses. Years pass quickly, while the briar and the
thistle and the bindweed grow apace, like the new interests and affections
that spring up in the minds and hearts of the mourners. Who are they who
carry flowers to the graves of their grandfathers?

Think of the population of an entire village being swallowed up every
fifty or seventy years by this patch of ground that would make but a small
garden, and of this movement going on century after century! It is surely
no matter for marvel that it has become as difficult to hide the bones as
the pebbles whenever a bit of soil has been lately turned. They lie
even about the sides of the rough path that goes round the church. Some
fragments are so honeycombed that they are as light in the hand as
touchwood; others have undergone little, if any, chemical change. Here
people must often walk upon the bones of their not very remote ancestors;
but they know, if they think about the matter at all, that their turn will
come to be similarly treated by their own descendants. There is no better
place for meditating upon all the vanities than one of these old rural
cemeteries. Turn not away, you other wanderers who may chance to stray into
these little fields consecrated to the dead, and excuse your unwillingness
to reflect by muttering, 'Horrible!' There is nothing horrible, after all,
in these poor bones. What matters it whether they are bleached by the sun
or blackened by the clay? It is good for you and for me to see them here,
and to realize how soon all men are forgotten, how quickly their bones,
mingling with others, give no more clue to the individual life to which
they once belonged than a particle of dust that dances in the sunbeam does
to the matter from which it parted.

It is not good, however, to stay moralizing in a cemetery until a
thunderstorm bursts over your head. I remained so long here that I had to
run for refuge in a manner quite out of keeping with my solemn train of
thoughts. I entered the first doorway that I saw open, and thus I found
myself in a cobbler's shop. The cobbler was seated on a stool at a low
table covered with tools and odds and ends in the middle of the room,
sewing a boot, which he held to his knee with a strap passed under his
foot. His apprentice was sitting near munching a piece of bread. Both
looked up with an astonished, not to say startled, expression when I
appeared simultaneously with a dazzling flash of lightning, followed
immediately by a terrific thunder-clap. The thought expressed in the eyes
of the cobbler as he looked up was, 'Are you a thunderbolt, or Robert the

I spoke to him and calmed him; but although he was satisfied that I was
human, he evidently could not make me out. Nor was this surprising, for
the village--St. Victor by name--lies quite off the track of all but the
inhabitants of a small district. The man, however, made me welcome,
and offered me a chair. The sky was now the colour of dull lead,
the lightning-flashes were almost momentary, and the thunder roared
incessantly. Mingling with this sound and that of the splashing rain was
another--the clang and scream of the bell in the church-tower. It was rung
as the tocsin, with that quick and wild movement which had startled me
elsewhere in the depth of night with the cry of 'Fire! Fire!' The bell,
however, was not rung now to give the alarm of fire, and to summon
everybody to lend a helping hand in extinguishing the flames, but to
persuade the storm either to go somewhere else or to act with moderation.
This old custom--now dying out--is no doubt founded on the religious belief
that when the church bell is rung with faith a storm will do no harm; but
the country people join to the religious idea the notion that the vibration
of the atmosphere, caused by the ringing, dissipates the storm or turns it
in another direction. Unfortunately for the ancient custom, churches have
frequently been struck by lightning at the time when the bells were being
rung, and science is positive in declaring that the electric fluid is
attracted by an artificial commotion of the atmosphere. On the _causses_ of
the Quercy, the peasants place bottles of holy water on the tops of their
chimneys as a protection against lightning. The idea is that the evil
power will not strike the dwelling of those who put up a sign that their
habitation is blessed. These bottles on the chimney-tops puzzled me
greatly, until at length I inquired the reason why they were there.

There was to me something exceedingly grand and elevating in this storm
that raged upon the hilltop, while the bell in the open tower, tossing like
a cask on the sea, proclaimed over all the house-tops and the fields the
fierceness of the struggle between the celestial guardians of the church
and village, and the demons that thronged the air. I felt that I might
never have such an opportunity as this again, and wished to make the most
of it. The cobbler nearly lost his temper at seeing me so wickedly elated.
Perhaps he thought that I might draw down a judgment upon myself, and that
he ran some risk of being included in it for having harboured me. He not
only looked frightened, but frankly owned that he was afraid. He was one
of those men--of whom I have known several--who can never overcome their
horror of a thunderstorm. At length the storm began to move off and the
bell stopped ringing; then the cobbler became quite cheerful. He brought
out a great jar of spirit distilled from plums, and insisted upon my
drinking some with him. He also invited me to 'break a crust,' but this
offer I declined. Before I took leave of the good-natured man, he seemed to
have fairly shaken off the bad impression I had made upon him by watching a
thunderstorm with interest and pleasure.

The sky having cleared, I continued my journey towards Riberac, and reached
the Dronne when the stormy day was ending without a cloud. There was hardly
a breath of wind to shake the drops from the still dripping leaves, and the
last groan of distant thunder having died away, there would have been deep
silence but for the warbling of blackbirds and nightingales.


I am now at Riberac--the Ribeyrac of Dante's commentators, who generally
prefer to abide by the old spelling. One might expect this ancient little
town to offer much interest to the archaeologist, but it does not. Its
interest lies almost wholly in its literary associations of Arnaud Daniel,
and of him mainly because Dante chanced to meet him in purgatory. Here
was the castle--there is nothing of it now--where the thirteenth-century
troubadour was born whom Petrarch described as '_Il grande maestro
d'amore,_' and whom Dante made Guido speak of as a poet in these words of
unqualified praise:

'Questi ch' io ti scerno
Fu miglior fabbro del parlar materno:
Versi d'amore e prose di romanzi
Soverchio tutti.'

Dante having asked for the name on earth of this gifted soul, the
troubadour replied in the tongue that he had learned from his mother's lips
at Riberac:

'Jeu sui Arnaulz che plor e vai cantan.'

Arnaud's modern critics admire him less than did Dante and Petrarch; but he
had a gift of sweet song, and he owed it doubtless in no small measure
to the influence of the lovely Dronne, on whose banks he must have often
rambled in childhood--that season when impressions are unconsciously laid
up which shape the future life of the intellect. No Englishman should pass
through Arnaud's birthplace with indifference, for he was the first to put
into literary form the story of Lancelot of the Lake.

Although Arnaud Daniel's castle has quite disappeared, much of the church,
that was almost a new one in his time, still remains. It was originally
Byzantine-Romanesque, but in the sixteenth century it underwent fantastic
restoration, and was badly married to another style without a name. What
struck me most on entering was the religious darkness through which one
sees the suspended lamp of the sanctuary gleaming like a star, and behind
it the dim outline of the altar. This crypt-like appearance is explained
by the absence even of a single window in the apse, which is covered by a
semi-dome. The Romanesque tower is very low and broad, with a broach spire
roofed with stones.

What a contrast to the deep shadow of the church was the brilliant white
light that I met outside, and to the grave-like silence the sawing sound of
the cicadas, drunk with sunshine, in the neighbouring tree-tops!

I set out from Riberac to cross that tract of country between the Dronne
and the Isle which is known as the Double. It is still one of the most
forlorn wildernesses in all France; but, like the Camargue, it has been
much changed of late years by drainage and cultivation, and is destined
to become productive and prosperous. For incalculable centuries it had
remained a baneful solitude, overgrown with virgin forest, except in
the hollows between the low hills, which succeed one another like the
undulations of the sea; and here, almost hidden in summer by tall reeds
and sedges, lay the pools and bogs that poisoned the air and rendered
the climate abominable. In the midst of this marshy, cretaceous desert,
stretching between the Isle and its tributary, the Dronne, and close to a
wretched fever-stricken village called Echourgnac, a small community of
Trappist monks established themselves in 1868. They did not go there merely
as ascetics fleeing from the world, but also as philanthropists, prepared
to sacrifice their lives for the good of humanity. Their mission was to
drain and to cultivate this most unhealthy part of the Double, and to
improve the condition of the peasants who eked out a miserable existence
there. With what success the monks have applied themselves to their task
of changing the climate by drainage, and assisting the peasants in their
struggle, is proved by the sentiments of the people towards them. When,
under the Third Republic, the unauthorized religious orders were expelled
from France, the inhabitants of the Double threatened to resist by force
any official interference with the Trappists at Echourgnac, and the
agitation was so great that the counsel given by the local authorities
to the Government was to leave these monks alone. It was acted upon. The
Trappists, like the Carthusians, were left undisturbed in this and in other
parts of the country.

When I had turned south-westward, on the road to Montpont, I saw nothing
for five or six miles that corresponded to what I had been told of the
Double. Yellow corn-fields and green meadows covered the fertile plain. It
was not until I had passed the village of St. Vauxains, and had reached the
top of the line of hills beyond, that the character of the country changed
decisively. Now, as I left the broad and favoured valley, and reached
the brow of the hilly range that helps to keep the water stagnant and
imprisoned in the Double, meadow and corn-field grew scarcer and scarcer,
and then passed altogether into the wooded moorland. Cultivation returned
at intervals, then vanished again. I was upon an undulating plateau with
far-off higher hills closing the horizon all around. The reclaimed land was
in the hollows or upon the surrounding slopes; but here, too, the scrubby
forest might be seen stretching for miles without a break. The heat was
intense, and the sky had become stormy.

When I left Riberac the blue above was without a spot, but now heavy masses
of cloud were hovering in the sky. As yet there was not wind enough to
rustle a leaf, and the dwarf oaks gave little shelter from the ardent sun.
The air that rose from the heather and bracken was like the breath of a
furnace. There were a few scattered cottages and farm-buildings, lying
chiefly near the road, and the turkeys and geese that roamed around them
were a sign that they were inhabited; but I rarely saw a human being.

I was resting awhile by a reedy pool fringed with gorse and heather, and
was listening to the oriels answering one another upon their Pan-pipes,
when I saw coming towards me a figure which might have disturbed me very
much had I been living in those days when--if there is any truth in
legendary lore--the devil only needed half a pretext for forcing his
society upon lonely travellers. This man--for man it was--had a face
so overgrown with coal-black hair that very little could be seen of
it excepting the eyes and nose. Beard, whiskers, and moustache were
inseparably mixed up. What skin was visible through the matted jungle of
hair was little less swarthy than a Hindu's. All the upper part of this
astonishing head was hidden by a large hat of black straw, shaped like
an inverted washing-basin. The rest of the figure was clad in a frock of
dark-brown serge, with hanging hood. Not expecting to see a Trappist where
I was, I was startled for a moment by the apparition, but I quickly guessed
that this was one of the brothers of the still distant monastery who had
been sent out on some little expedition into the district. As he passed,
he raised his hat just enough to show that the close-cropped black hair
beneath it was turning gray.

The road led me through a little village where there was an old Romanesque
church. There were numerous archivolts over the broad portal, and above
these was a horizontal dog's-tooth moulding with grotesque heads at
intervals; but time had effaced most of the carving. All about the church
the long grass and gaudy mulleins stood over the bones of men and women
who, like their parents before them, had clung to their old homes in the
midst of the pestilential marshes, suffering continually from malaria,
watching their children grow paler and paler, and yet never thinking of
surrender. What a strange combination of heroism, obstinacy, and stupidity
do we find in human nature! But now things had changed here. There was an
air of prosperity in the village, and the people said that the fever had
almost left them.

While crossing another bit of wild and deserted country, I saw the dark
gleam of poisonous pools nearly hidden by sallows and reeds. The vibration
of my footsteps disturbed the vipers that lay near the hot road; they slid
down the banks and curved out of sight amongst the roots of the heather.
These reptiles abound in the Double; conditions that are baneful to men are
healthful to them. The sighing of the pines added to the sadness of the
land, for these trees now appeared in clumps along the way-side, and the
storm-wind had begun to blow. The sun was shining obliquely through a
dun-coloured haze when I reached the village of Echourgnac in a
cultivated valley. Here the cattle and the green fields were signs of
the cheese-making industry carried on at the monastery. The conventual
buildings were now visible on the top of the neighbouring hill, with the
church spire higher against the sky than all the rest. I made my way
towards this little fortress of asceticism hidden from the world amidst the
woods and marshes.

I had made up my mind to spend the night with the Trappists, even if I was
obliged to accept their charity and to allow myself to be classed with
those tramps who have no literary pretext for their vagabond ways. Indeed,
I had been given to understand by all to whom I had spoken on the subject
in the district, that the reverend fathers gave money sometimes to the
wayfarer, but accepted none in return for food and shelter. That part of me
in which the conventional is concentrated said: 'Stop at the inn;' but the
other part, which has the curiosity and the errantry of the man who has
never been perfectly civilized, said: 'Go on, and whatever happens pass the
night with the Trappists.'

Having reached the monastery gate, the next thing to do was to pull the
bell. The porter opened first his wicket and then the door. The superior
could not be approached for a quarter of an hour, so I was asked to wait
in the lodge. Thus I had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the
porter. Although he was very much in religion, having been a brother at
Echourgnac since the foundation, he might be termed without disrespect 'a
jolly old soul.' He was, as he said, a man who had no pretensions whatever
to be learned. His lack of book knowledge made him all the more natural.
His age appeared to be about sixty-five, but he had a body that was still
robust and vigorous under his dirty brown frock, although he had been
living so many years on bread and cheese and vegetables, and short commons
withal. The post of porter must have helped him not a little to bear up
against the discipline, for it allowed him the use of his tongue, and the
rule of silence would have been a more severe trial to him than to many
another. He poured out some beer for me from a great stone jar that he kept
near at hand. I had heard that the Trappists of Echourgnac added to their
other accomplishments the arts of beer-brewing and wine-making, and was
therefore not surprised by the porter's kindly offer; but when I noticed
the yellow colour and soup-like consistency of the fluid that he poured out
for me, I was sorry that I had accepted it.

'It is a little thick,' said the Trappist, whose keen eyes had noticed that
there was a lack of warmth in the manner in which I took the glass from his
hand, 'but the beer is good. It is rather new.'

'It must be very nourishing,' I replied, after heroically draining the cup
of tribulation.

'Have some more?' said this good-natured Trappist as he raised the jar
again. I saved myself from a second dose by an energetic '_Merci!_' and
changed his thoughts by asking him if he had been a long time at the

'I was one of the first lot who came here in July, 1868. There were
twenty-two of us in all, _peres et freres_, and two or three weeks
afterwards seventeen were down with fever. You can have no idea of what it
was here five-and-twenty years ago. The country was unfit for human beings.
The people went shivering about in the heat of summer wrapped up as they
would be in the depth of winter. It was pitiful to see them.'

He then entered into details respecting the clearing of the land, the
draining of the pools, etc. Suddenly remembering the flight of time, he
disappeared with my card, and left me in charge of the lodge. Presently he
came back, and told me that the reverend father was unwell, and could not
see anybody, but that I could pass the night in the monastery if I wished
to do so. The porter led me through a great farmyard, then through a
doorway into a room, in the centre of which was a large table, and in
the corners were four very small and low wooden bedsteads with meagre
mattresses, a couple of sheets, and a coloured quilt.

When we entered, two men were seated at the table eating bread and
cheese and drinking home-brewed beer. One was quite young, perhaps
five-and-twenty, and it was to him that the brother who parleyed with the
outer world at the gate introduced me, with the recommendation that he
should do all in his power for me, adding, with an emphasis by which he
gained my friendship for ever: '_Je reponds sur vous._' The young man said
that as soon as he had finished his own meal he would see to my supper. I
begged him to take his time, as I was in no hurry.

The good porter, still solicitous, asked where I was going to sleep, and
the young man, who I afterwards learnt was a postulant, pointed to a bed
in one of the corners. I was then left with my two new acquaintances. The
postulant had very soon finished, and having brushed the crumbs off his
part of the bare board with his hand, he disappeared, to see what he could
find for me in the kitchen. The man who remained also brought his meal to
a close, but he did not whisk the crumbs away; he brushed them into little
heaps, and, wetting his forefinger, raised them by this means to his mouth.
He was about fifty; his chin was shaved, but he wore whiskers, and a long
rusty overcoat hung nearly down to his heels. He was very quiet, and I
thought he looked like a repentant cabman. There was something about the
man that excited my curiosity, but I felt that, considering where I was, it
would be very bad taste to put any leading questions to him respecting his
history. I nevertheless found a way of getting into conversation with him,
and he did not need much persuasion to talk. He was rather incoherent,
but I gathered from what he said that he had wandered a good deal from
monastery to monastery, now in the world and now almost 'in religion,'
without finding anchorage anywhere.

'The world,' he said, 'is like a rotten plank, and we are like smoke that
comes and goes. If we do not think of eternity, we are shipwrecked.'

Feeling, perhaps, that something in the world was a little more solid after
the bread and cheese and beer than it was before, he was working himself up
to a communicative humour, and I was beginning to hope that I should
soon know what sort of a character he really was, when the return of the
postulant changed his ideas as effectually as if a bucket of water had been
thrown in his face. When he ventured to speak again, the younger man told
him that it was six o'clock, and that the whole community was now expected
to observe the rule of silence.

'Do not be angry,' he added, as he heard the other mutter something that
escaped me.

'I am not angry,' replied the owner of the long coat as he glided softly
out of the room.

I was now alone with the postulant, who made matters pleasanter for me by
giving a generous interpretation to the rule of silence in so far as it
applied to himself. He told me that, as I had come after the hour of the
second meal, the _frere cuisinier_ was not in the kitchen, but at _salve;_
consequently there was no possibility of getting even an omelet made
for me. After looking, however, into all the corners of the kitchen, my
providential man had discovered some cold macaroni, which he presented to
me in a small tin plate. I do not know how it had been cooked, but its
very dark colour made me suspicious of it. Although I knew it was quite
wholesome, I thought it safer to leave it untouched, and to be satisfied
with bread and cheese. Now, this cheese, made by the Trappists of the
Double upon the Port-Salut recipe, which is a secret of the Order, is of
excellent quality, and deserves its reputation. The monastery bread, made
from the wheat grown by the monks, was of the substantial and honest kind
which in England would probably be called 'farmhouse bread,' although the
great wheel or trencher-shaped loaves of the French provinces might cause
some surprise there. My meal, therefore, might have been worse than it was,
and as it was given to me for nothing, it would have been very bad manners
not to appear pleased. The truth is, the novelty of my position--that of
a tramp taken in and fed on charity--amused me so much that I found
everything perfect. I had an idea 'at the back of the head' that I should
find a way of squaring matters financially with the holy men, but I did
not wish to tell it even to myself then. I must confess that when a black
bottle was placed beside the bread and cheese on the bare table, I was weak
enough to hope that it contained some of the excellent white wine which I
was told the Trappists made; but when the liquor came out the colour of pea
soup, I recognised the religious beer which had already disappointed me. As
I could get nothing better, and the water being distinctly bad, the most
sensible thing to do was to be reconciled to the beer, and in this I
succeeded very fairly. Necessity is not the mother of invention only. The
wine, I afterwards learnt, is only drunk at the convent in winter. Much of
it is sold to priests for sacramental use.

When I had taken the keen edge off my hunger, I began to feel a fresh
interest in the postulant. Somehow, he did not appear to me to be of the
stuff out of which monks, especially Trappists, are made, although I know
that in all that relates to the interior workings of a man there are
no outward signs to be relied upon. There is puzzle enough in our own
contradictions to discourage us from trying to find consistency in others;
but we try all the same. We have a fine sense of proportion and harmony
when we analyze our fellow-beings, but none whatever when we turn the
faculty introspectively. The sanctimonious undertone in which this young
man spoke struck me as being false, for there was nothing in him that I
could discover which linked him to the ascetic ideal of life. But then the
question arose, Why was he there? He was strong and healthy; he had a deep
colour on his cheeks, and a humorous twinkle in his eye. He did not look as
if he had been crossed in love, or had received any of the scars of passion
such as might account for his wish to become a Trappist. He had seen
something of the world. He had been to Chili, among other countries, and
the war there had ruined his prospects, so he told me. I concluded, from
what he said, that on his return to France he had sought a temporary refuge
with the Trappists, and that he preferred to remain under the shelter that
he had found there rather than run the risk of worse in the struggle for
life outside. Becoming more confidential, he told me that what was most
difficult to be borne by those in his position was the rule of absolute
submission and obedience.

I had not been at the table long, when this postulant glided out of the
room, saying:

'I will see if there is a way of getting another bottle of beer.'

Presently he returned with a bottle under his arm, and then I learnt that
the abbot had given orders that I was to pass the night _dans la chambre
de Monseigneur._ The prospect of sleeping in the bishop's bed furnished me
with a conscientious reason for not drawing the cork from the second
bottle of monastic barley-brew; but my companion, who was more or less in
religion, did not give me a chance of refusing, for he drew it himself and
filled two glasses.

'_Nous allons trinquer,_' said he.

We clinked glasses, and talked with greater freedom, although the postulant
still spoke under his breath--it was a habit that he had fallen into. We
were interrupted by a scuffling outside, and by the opening of the door. A
couple of monks in brown frocks were on the threshold. A small gray-bearded
brother with a bent back held in one hand a pewter plate and in the other
a little basin of the same metal. He was the _frere cuisinier_, who had
returned from _salve_, and he had come to offer me some vegetable soup
and some more macaroni, both of which I declined. Not a word did these
Trappists say, but they carried on with the postulant a conversation in
dumb show as to what my requirements would be on the morrow. They stroked
their noses, rubbed their fingers together, and grimaced so expressively
all on my account that I was much amused, and would have liked to laugh
outright; but I durst not in such company.

When they had left I took a stroll outside, for as yet I felt no
inclination to go to bed, notwithstanding that a bishop had slept upon the
same mattress that was waiting for me. Keeping within the convent bounds,
where no woman is allowed to set her foot--that troublesome foot whose
imprint may be found on most of the paths that lead to a Trappist monastery
in the obscure forest of human motives--wandering beyond the buildings,
but still within the enclosure, I came to a bit of waste land covered with
heather and gorse that overlooked the wooded wilderness towards the west,
as a headland bluff overlooks the sea.

The sun had set, and the wild spirits of the storm had drawn a translucent
drapery of vapour from the dark thundercloud hovering overhead to where the
fringe of the forest broke the blood-stained bar upon the horizon's verge,
and this luminous orange-coloured curtain was crossed every moment upwards
and downwards by silvery shafts of lightning. Such an effect of sunset
combined with storm was like a new revelation of nature, and the sublimity
of the spectacle would have held me fast to the patch of wild heath if the
rain had not begun to fall in splashes. The long summer day was over, and
the night came forth in trouble and with gushing tears. The roar of the
thunder grew louder, and the flash of the lightning brightened every

I returned to the monastery, and found the postulant quite anxious to
have done with me, and to put me into the bishop's room. He was
sleepy--everybody gets sleepy in these country places at about nine
o'clock, irrespective of canonical hours, whereas I grow livelier, like
a night-bird, as the dusk deepens. All the monks must have been in their
cells snoring with the clear conscience which is the gift of the day that
has been well filled up when I reluctantly entered the only room in the
place that had any pretension to comfort, but which to me was like a
prison. I was making an effort to acquire the virtue of resignation, when
the postulant spoilt the mood by speaking again of beer. Had he picked up
in his wanderings the notion that an Englishman could not live unless he
were kept well supplied with beer, or had he formed an exaggerated idea of
the seductiveness of the strange but innocent liquor that the Trappists
brewed? Whatever his thoughts may have been, he darted away in spite of my
endeavour to stop him, and presently reappeared with another black bottle.
I knew that he had not obtained it without diplomacy, and that he had made
my unquenchable thirst the excuse; but by this time I had perceived that
his solicitude was not wholly unselfish. He muttered something about
'charity' as he filled a glass for me, notwithstanding my refusal; then
vanished with the bottle. He had promised to wake me at two o'clock for

When left alone, I made an inspection of the bishop's room. It was spacious
enough for fifty people to dance in, and the furniture would not have been
greatly in the way. The stones which made the floor had no carpet, not even
the _descente de lit_, which in France is considered indispensable even
when the floor is of wood. In the corner was a low wooden bedstead with
dingy curtains suspended from a rafter, and a paillasse of maize-leaves
with a thin wool mattress above it. Coarse hempen sheets and a coloured
coverlet completed the bedding. By the side against the wall was a broad
_prie-Dieu_, with a lithograph just above it of the Holy Child bearing the
cross. A plain table in the centre without a cloth, a _secretaire_ with
high crucifix attached, another bare table with washing-basin, jug, and
folded towel, with a few chairs and several religious prints, made up the

This room was on the ground-floor, and looked out upon a long covered
terrace, with the farmyard immediately beyond. I opened the sashes--I had
already prevailed upon the postulant not to fasten the shutters--and,
having blown out the candle, I lit my pipe. I suppose if I had had any
sense of propriety I should have refrained from smoking in the bishop's
room; but what was I to do, a prisoner there at nine o'clock in the
evening, and not a bit sleepy? If it had been a fine evening, I do not
think I could have resisted the temptation to jump out of the window and to
stroll back to the patch of imprisoned moor. First a cat and then a great
dog came sneaking along, and I tried to get on friendly terms with them
from the window; but they, too, seemed to have renounced the world, with
all its pomps and vanities, to conform to the Trappist rule, for each of
them looked at me with pity and reproach out of the corner of the eye, and
described a wide semicircle, at the risk of getting wet, in order not to
be drawn into conversation. But the storm, at all events, had not been
silenced; the thunder growled and groaned, and every half-minute the
lightning lit up all the stones and puddles of the great farmyard, beyond
which my vision was cut off by the roofs of the outbuildings.

Notwithstanding the unpleasantness of being shut up, I felt that if the
management of the weather had been left to me I could not have arranged
things better for my first night in a Trappist monastery. Here I was in the
midst of the desolation of the Double under the same roof with men who were
driven into this shelter by the desolation of their souls. Tempest-tossed
by the conflict of the spirit and the flesh, wounded, perhaps, by secret
griefs and humiliations, strong, perchance, in the eyes of others, while
never sure of themselves from one hour to another, putting out upon the
same sea again and again only to be thrown back upon the same desert shore,
they at length settled down here, and they must have done so with the calm
conviction that they had found the medicine to suit their kind of sickness
in a life of incessant punishment of self and labour for others.

It was about eleven when I felt tired enough to lie down. I had not been in
this position long when something bit me. I thought I knew the enemy, but
I dared not whisper its name even to myself, for I was overcome by its
condescension. From a bishop to me was a fall in the social scale that
ought to have made the most voracious insect tremble on the edge of the
precipice. Maybe it did tremble before it yielded to temptation and forgot
its dignity.

The storm continued all night with intervals of calm. A little before two
o'clock the bell was rung for matins. The clang of the metal must have been
heard clear and shrill far over the Double, even when the storm seemed to
be rending the black sails of the clouds asunder. The postulant fetched me,
as he had promised, and he led me through a labyrinth of passages to the
church. Although the building was almost in darkness, I could see that
it was in the Pointed style, and that it was marked by a cold elegance
befitting its special purpose. The nave was divided near the middle by a
Gothic screen of wood artistically carved, although the ornamental motive
had been kept in subjection. The half that adjoined the sanctuary was
somewhat higher than the other, and here the Trappist fathers had their
stalls. The brothers' stalls were in the lower part. I was led to a
place below the screen. The office had already commenced; the monotonous
plain-chant by deep-toned voices had reached me in the corridors. Perhaps
it was half an hour later when the chanting ceased. The lamps were darkened
in the stalls above the screen--in the lower part there was but one very
small light suspended from the vault--then the monks knelt each upon the
narrow piece of wood affixed to his stall for this purpose, and for half an
hour with heads bent down they prayed in silence, while the thunder groaned
outside, and the lightning flashed through the clerestory windows. To the
Trappists, who day after day, year after year, at the same hour had been
going through the same part of their unchanging discipline, heedless
whether the stars shone overhead or the lightning glittered, there was
nothing in all this to draw their minds from the circle of devotional
routine: I alone felt as if I was going down into my grave. The gray light
that was now making the ribs of the vaulting dimly visible was like the
dawn of eternity breaking through the brief night called Death, which is
not perhaps so dark as it seems. At three o'clock the chill and awful
silence was broken by the white-robed prior, who rose from his low posture
like a dead man in his shroud, and began to chant in another tone and
measure from what had gone before. It had in it the sadness of the wind
that I heard moaning in the pine-tops on the moor before the storm broke.
The voice was strong and clear, but so solemn that it was almost unearthly;
and it seemed in some strange way to mingle with the purity of the cold
dawn that comes when all the passions of the world are still, but which
makes the leaves tremble at the crime and trouble of another day.

When the prior stood up, the brothers left to begin their manual labour,
each one in his allotted place. The fathers remained in their stalls until
after the four o'clock mass, and then they, too, fell to work until six
o'clock--the hour of prime. I soon followed the brothers, although not so
far as the fields, the cheese-rooms, and farm-buildings. I returned to my
room; but as I had to pass on the upper side of the screen on leaving the
church, I looked at the two rows of white figures standing in their stalls.
It may have been the effect of the mingled daylight and lamplight: whatever
the reason, I thought during those few seconds that I had never before seen
such a collection of strange and startling faces. They were those of sombre
men who had walked through hell like Dante, and who bore upon their calm
and corpse-like features the deep-cut traces of the flame and horror.

I took up my old place by the window, and watched in the twilight of
morning an aged brother, with frock hitched up above his naked ankles and
his feet in great _sabots_, fetch sack after sack of what I supposed to be
bran, and carry it away on his shoulders. He passed close to me, and looked
at me with an expression which I interpreted to mean: 'You must be a
lunatic to stare at me instead of going to bed--you, who have Monseigneur's
soft bed, and are at liberty to sleep.' But no word passed between us. At
length I did go to bed again, and slept.

I was awakened by a noise in my room, and on opening my eyes I saw a long
figure in white two or three yards from me, and I realized that a Trappist
father was watching me. Then, when he perceived that I was awake, he glided
from the room without saying a word. Had I spoken, he would have replied,
and explained what he wanted; but I had not recovered sufficiently from my
surprise to remember the rule until he was gone. I now called to mind that
the postulant had told me over-night that a certain father would show me
round the monastery after prime. This, then, was he, and I was doubtless
keeping him waiting, for it was seven o'clock. A few minutes later he
returned. I was then at my ablutions.

Now, although I have grown pretty well accustomed to go through this daily
duty with the aid of salad-bowls and slop-basins while living in the French
provinces, I think it good for the mind to keep up the illusion of a
thorough wash even when this is practically impossible. When, therefore,
the Trappist stalked again into my room without giving me warning, his
costume, simple as it was, was surpassed by the simplicity of mine. I told
him that I would be with him in two or three minutes, and he retired with
a slow and stately nod. I tried very hard to keep my word, for I expected
every moment to see the door open again. When I opened it myself, I found
the father pacing slowly in the passage. Knowing that there is not much to
be had in a Trappist monastery without asking, I opened the conversation
by making some delicate allusions to breakfast. The truth is that the
bread-and-cheese supper was nothing to me now but an unsatisfactory
recollection, and, with the sense of vacuum that distressed me, I was
unwilling to follow the monk upon the promised round, lest I should die of
inanition on the way. He asked me what I would like to eat, and I said,
'Anything that is near at hand.' Had I suggested that a chop or a steak
would be suitable after so light a dinner, I should not have had it; but I
might have received a large measure of silent reprobation for my bad taste
in asking for it, and also for having reminded a Trappist of such vanities
of the past.

The father--he was becoming fatherly indeed--went to a cupboard of the
_salle a manger_ already described, and brought out what I had left of the
bread and cheese set before me the previous evening. Having placed this
on the table, with a bottle of beer--the postulant had led me to hope
for coffee and milk, but there was evidently no escape from malt liquor
here--he withdrew to a little office close by where he was wont to perform
the daily duty of keeping the cheese accounts of the monastery. I felt sure
that when he had reckoned up a few figures he would be coming round to
tear me away from the bread and cheese, so I endeavoured to hasten the
consumption with as much speed as I could decently put on. I was right in
my conjecture. I had not been seated five minutes, when he came back and
wandered half round the table.

'_J'aurai fini dans un petit moment, mon pere,_' said I, as I cut off
another piece of cheese. By-the-bye, nobody should call a Trappist
'_monsieur_,' because the monk has ceased to have even a name of his
own other than his religious one, and has become a father or brother to
everybody. He returned to his accounts; but he had not gone very deeply
into them when he saw me standing at the door of his little den. He left
his books at once, and we walked side by side where he chose to lead me. He
was a rather tall man, with a face that was an enigma. The features were
so like those of the late Mr. Charles Bradlaugh, that if the English
Freethinker had disappeared mysteriously I might have strongly suspected
him of having turned Trappist.

This father volunteered no information whatever; it had all to be drawn out
of him. He spoke in a low voice, and, as it appeared to me, with something
of the hesitation of a man who is recalling his mother tongue after many
years of disuse. His face was large and heavy; but there was a keen light
in his eyes which at times was that of gaiety well kept under. He soon let
me see that even a Trappist may give out an occasional flash of humour.
I was questioning him respecting the help that the monastery gave to the
poor, and he told me that in addition to thirty or forty persons living
in the locality who received regular assistance every day, about the same
number of wanderers stopped at the gate and waited for the bread and cheese
which was never refused them.

'Men looking for work?' I asked innocently.

'Yes,' replied the monk, without moving a muscle of his stolid face; 'and
who pray to God that He will not give them any.'

It was evident that no sentimental illusions respecting the begging class
were entertained by the community. The monk confirmed what people in the
country had already told me of the help afforded by the Trappists to
peasant agriculturists in difficulties. The sick were, moreover, supplied
with medicines gratuitously from the small pharmacy attached to the
monastery. I did not ask the question, but I concluded that at least one of
the fathers had a medical diploma. The medicine that was chiefly wanted in
the Double when the Trappists settled there was quinine. The demand upon it
was very heavy years ago, but by removing to a great extent the cause of
the fever-breeding miasma, the monks have been able to economize the drug.

Talking about these matters, we reached the refectory. A great cold room
with whitewashed walls, and five long narrow tables with benches on each
side, stretching from end to end, was the place where the monks took their
very frugal meals. The tables were laid for the first meal. There were
no cloths, and it is almost needless to add that there were no napkins,
although these are considered so essential in France that even in the most
wretched auberge one is usually laid before the guest. Trappists, however,
have little need of them. At each place were a wooden spoon and fork, a
plate, a jug of water, and another jug--a smaller one--of beer, and a
porringer for soup, which is the chief of the Trappists' diet. Very thin
soup it is, the ingredients being water, chopped vegetables, bread, and
a little oil or butter. Until a few years ago no oily matter, whether
vegetable or animal, was allowed in the soup, nor was it permissible,
except in case of sickness, to have more than one meal a day; but the
necessity of relaxing the rule a little was realized. Now, during the six
summer months of the year, there are two meals a day, namely, at eleven and
six; but in winter there is still only one that is called a meal, and this
is at four. There is, however, a _gouter_--just something to keep the
stomach from collapsing--at ten in the morning. No flesh, nor fish, nor
animal product, except cheese and butter, is eaten by these Trappists
unless they fall ill, and then they have meat or anything else that they
may need to make them well. There is, however, very little sickness amongst
them. The living of each Trappist probably costs no more than sixpence a
day to the community. Assuming that the money brought into the common fund
by those who have a private fortune--the fathers, as a rule, are men of
some independent means--covers the establishment expenses and the taxation
imposed by the State, there must remain a considerable profit on the work
of each individual, whether he labours in the fields or in the dairy and
cheese rooms, or concerns himself with the sales and the accounts, or, like
the porter at the gate, tests with an instrument the richness of the milk
that is brought in by the peasants, lest they who have been befriended
by the monks in sickness and penury should steal from them in return. To
devote this surplus, obtained by a life of sacrifice compared to which
the material misery of the beggars whom they relieve is luxury, to the
lessening of human suffering, to the encouragement of the family, offering
the hand of charity to the worthy and to the unworthy--expecting no honour
from all this, not even gratitude--is a life that makes that of the
theoretical philanthropists and humanitarian philosophers look rather
barren. Let every man who lives up to an unselfish ideal have full credit
for it, whether he be a Trappist or a Buddhist.

At one end of the refectory, below the line of tables, was a small wooden
bench for a single person. The monk pointed to it with half a smile upon
his face.

'What is it?' I asked.

'The stool of penitence,' he replied.

Here the monk who had brought upon himself some disciplinary correction sat
by order of the abbot in view of everybody, and had the extra mortification
of watching the others eat, while he, the penitent, had nothing to put
between his teeth. I wondered if my cicerone had ever been perched there,
but I was not on such terms of familiarity with him that I could ask the

From the refectory we went to the dormitory, an oblong room with a passage
down the middle, and cells on each side--about fifty altogether. They
were very narrow, and were separated by lath and plaster partitions, only
carried to the height of about six feet. These partitions, which had been
whitewashed over, looked very fragile and dilapidated, and altogether the
appearance of this great dormitory was wretched in the extreme. A glance
into the interior of two or three of the cells deepened this impression. In
each was a small wooden bedstead about a foot and a half high, with nothing
upon it but a very thin paillasse, a black blanket (the colour of the
wool), and a little bolster. Upon a nail hung a small cat-o'-nine-tails of
knotted whipcord.

'How often do you administer to yourselves the discipline?' I asked.

'Every Friday,' said the monk.

To other questions that I put to him he replied that about ten members
of the community were priests, and that fathers and brothers used the
dormitory in common. There was no distinction between the two classes as
regards the vows that were taken.

We passed into the cloisters, which were very plain, without any attempt
at architectural ornament; but the garden that filled the centre of the
quadrangle was carefully kept, and the many flowers there were evidently
watered and otherwise tended by hands that were gentle to them. Then I
asked if it was true that the members of the community, when they passed
one another in their ordinary occupations, were allowed to break the rule
of silence only to say, 'Remember death!'

'No,' replied the monk, 'it is a legend that originated with

We reached the chapter-house, a plain room with benches along the walls and
a case containing a small collection of books. I saw nothing of interest
here excepting a genealogical tree of the order of Reformed Cistercians,
called Trappists, showing its descent from the Abbey of Citeaux, and a
portrait of Pere Dom Sebastien, Abbot-General of the Trappists, who was a
pontifical zouave before he put on the monastic habit.

I asked to see the cemetery, and was led to an uncultivated spot a little
beyond the block of convent buildings. A small grassy enclosure, with a
wooden paling round it, was the monks' burying-place. About twelve had died
in the twenty-five years of the monastery's existence, but most of the
graves looked recent. This was explained to me by the father, who actually
smiled as he said:

'We who came here at the commencement are getting old now, and are
following one another to the cemetery rather quickly.'

Wearers of the white frock and wearers of the brown frock were lying in
perfect equality side by side as they happened to die, each having a
small cross of white wood standing in the grass of his grave. I read: 'N.
Raphael, monachus----, natus----, professus----, obiit----.' The dates
I took no note of. With the exception of the name and the dates, the
inscription on each cross was the same. And the name, it need scarcely be
said, was the one taken in religion.

'Do you know one another's family names?' I asked of the living monk by my

Book of the day: