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Two Summers in Guyenne by Edward Harrison Barker

Part 5 out of 5

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religious buildings and fortifications what that importance must have been.
Besides the monastery dating from the age of Charlemagne, whose monks early
in the twelfth century were placed under the rule of St. Augustin,
two great religious establishments were those of the Minor Friars or
Cordeliers, and the Preaching Friars or Dominicans. Of the vast convent of
these last nothing remains but a very stately and noble fragment of the
church wall, standing isolated on the top of the hill.

During the Hundred Years' War St. Emilion was besieged and taken by Du
Guesclin; but although the burghers were often compelled to dissemble in
order to save their throats, they were always ready to welcome an English
army. They were among the first to follow the example of the men of
Bordeaux, who raised the English flag for the last time in 1452.

During the religious wars of the sixteenth century St. Emilion suffered
grievously from the fury and bestiality of the vile ruffians of both camps.
The excesses of the Norman barbarians when they burnt and pillaged the
town in the ninth century were mild in comparison with those of the
sixteenth-century Christians.

There are few spots more fascinating to the artist and archaeologist than
this ruinous old stronghold of the English kings. One might ramble a long
time over the cobble stones of its steep narrow streets, and about the
ruined ramparts draped with green pellitory and the spurred valerian's
purple flowers, with a mind held in continual tension by the picturesque.
At every angle there is a fresh surprise. The monolithic church, made by
excavating the calcareous rock, which crops out and forms a kind of table
near the top of the crescent-shaped hill, is said to have been mainly the
work of monks in the ninth century. There is no other resembling it, with
the exception of the one at Aubeterre, the idea of which was probably
borrowed here. Steps lead down into the nave, where there is an odour of
ancient death, and where the light darting through windows pierced in the
face of the cliff reveals on each side a row of huge rectangular piers
supporting round-headed arches, all forming part of the rock. These
separate the nave from the aisles, of which there are three, the one
farthest from the centre having been used chiefly for burial. All about are
numerous tomb recesses. The piers and their arches are covered with green
or black lichen, which adds not a little to the gloom and dismalness of
this subterranean church.


Ornamental details of the exterior, such as the doorway with its has-relief
of the Last Judgment, are of a much later period than the rude excavations
of the interior. From the platform of rock immediately above the vast
crypt rise a Gothic tower and spire dating from the twelfth century. This
structure, which lends so much character to St. Emilion, appears to belong
to the church beneath; but such is not the case. Although separated, it is
a part of the collegial, now parish, church, which is higher up the hill,
just within the line of the ramparts. It is said to have been built by the
English, but the Romanesque lateral doorway would be strong evidence of
the contrary if there were no other. English influence, however, may have
played some part in the extensive rebuilding which was carried out in the
fourteenth century. The east end, scarcely forming an apse, and pierced in
the centre with a high broad window with a narrower window on each side,
suggests this, as do also the very massive columns of the choir.

Close to the monolithic church is the cavern where the hermit Emilion is
supposed to have dwelt. In order to see it, I had to find a little girl who
kept the key, and who led the way down the steps with a lighted candle. St.
Emilion might have looked far before finding a more unpleasant place to
live in than this cavern. It might be safely guaranteed to kill in a very
short time any man with a modern constitution, unless he were miraculously
preserved from rheumatism and other evils of the flesh. The damp oozes
perpetually from the slimy rock, and the air is like that of a well.
Indeed, there is a little well here called St. Emilion's Fountain. The
spring is intermittent; every two or three minutes the water is seen to
rise with one or more bubbles. It never fails, no matter how prolonged the
drought may be.

The little girl pointed out to me a great number of pins lying upon the
sandy bottom of the basin. I asked her how they came there, and she said
that they were dropped into the water by people--chiefly young girls--who
wished to know when they would be married. If two pins that had been
dropped in together crossed one another upon the bottom, it was a sign that
the person who let them fall would be married within a year. As I could
distinguish none that were crossed, I concluded that all who had made
the experiment here were condemned to celibacy. This form of
superstition--doubtless of Celtic origin wherever met with--is much more
frequent in Brittany than in Guyenne.

Close to the 'grotto' is an old charnel-house quarried in the rock with a
dome-shaped roof, at the top of which is a round hole that lets the light
of heaven into the awful pit. This opening formerly served another purpose.
There was a cemetery above, and as the bones were turned up from the
shallow soil to make room for others still clothed with their flesh, they
were thrown down the orifice. For those who did not wish to be disturbed
after death, the charnel-house was the securer place of burial. Here, as in
the underground church, one sees numerous recesses in the wall which were
made for tombs. Those who feel the need of sombre ideas will be as likely
to find the incentive to them here as anywhere. Oh, what ghostly places are
these old southern towns, with their heaps of ruins, their churches as dim
as sepulchres, their crypts and charnel-houses filled with bones!


Fellow-wanderer, come and see with me the convent of the Cordeliers. There
are no monks here now. Since the Revolution their habitation has been open
to all the winds of heaven, and the shadow of the wild fig-tree falls where
that of their own forms once fell as they stood in the stalls of their
chapel choir. In the cloisters, the ivy and the pellitory and the little
cranesbill have crept with the moss and the lichen from stone to stone, and
in the centre of the quadrangle stands a great walnut-tree that spreads its
branches and long leaves over all the grassy ground. Birds that cannot
be seen sing aloft under the flaming sky; but here in the shadow of the
arcades and the dark foliage nothing moves except the snail and the lazy
toad at evening amidst the damp weeds. The stones that we see here in this
ruined convent bear testimony to the eternal restlessness of man's desire
to give some fresh artistic form to his religious aspiration. Some were
carved in the Romanesque period, others in the Gothic, others in the
Renaissance. Witnesses of the human mind in different ages, all are
crumbling and growing green together, sharing a common fate.

Among the many holes and corners full of curious interest at St. Emilion,
but which have to be searched for by the visitor, is the cave where during
the Reign of Terror seven of the Girondins sought refuge, and where they
remained hidden from their persecutors several months, notwithstanding
the unflagging efforts made to discover their retreat. Their enemies were
convinced that they were somewhere in the town, or, rather, underneath the
town, for the rock on which it rests is honeycombed with quarries. These
Girondins were Guadet, Salles, Barbaroux, Petlon, Buzot, Louvet, and
Valady. Guadet was a native of St. Emilion, and he had a relative there
named Madame Bouquey. She and her husband were a brave and noble-minded
couple at a time when the craven-hearted--always the accomplices of
tyrants--were in the ascendancy everywhere. They sheltered Guadet and his
companions in a cave under their garden. The fugitives had first thought of
hiding in the old quarries, but they realized that they would be much safer
in the cave.

Hearing that the 'Grotte des Girondins' was in the garden of the school,
now kept by Christian Brothers, thither I went. A little boy in a long
black blouse, with a leather belt round his waist, having obtained the
permission, pulled open a trapdoor in the garden, and, candle in hand, led
the way down a flight of steps into a cavern, about the same size as St.
Emilion's, but much dryer and more comfortable. On one side of it was an
opening, which was made perceptible by a very faint glimmer of daylight. I
found that this opening was in the side of a well. The water was still
far below, and the surface of the earth was about fifteen feet above. The
trap-door entrance--so the Brothers assured me--did not exist in the
last century, and the only entrance to the cave was by the well. It was,
therefore, an admirable hiding-place, for the lateral opening was not
distinguishable from above, and anybody looking down and seeing the water
at the bottom would have thought it quite unnecessary to search any further
there. The Girondins were let down by the rope, or they let themselves
down. As time went on, the position of Monsieur and Madame Bouquey, on
whom strong suspicion rested, became more and more difficult; and when
the fugitives were informed that commissioners were on their way to St.
Emilion, they resolved that, rather than expose their benefactors
to further peril, they would make an attempt to escape in different
directions. Louvet got to Paris, and was the only one of the seven who
did not come by a violent death. Guadet and Salles were captured at St.
Emilion, and were executed, as a matter of course. Barbaroux was also
taken, after making an unsuccessful attempt to blow out his brains, and he,
too, was guillotined at Bordeaux. Buzot and Petion stabbed themselves in a
field between St. Emilion and Castillon, where their bodies were found
half eaten by wolves. The seventh, Valady, was brought to the scaffold at
Perigueux. Monsieur and Madame Bouquey met the same fate. And it is with
this page of modern history that the quiet little garden of the Brothers'
school, its well and hidden cavern, are so tragically associated.

Near a ruinous _donjon_, called the Chateau du Roi, and attributed to Louis
VIII., now much overgrown with herbs and shrubs, I stood on a bastion of
the town wall, overlooking the crescent-shaped hollow, covered with houses,
bits of fortification older than the outer wall, ruined convents--a chaos
of lichen-tinted stones and tiles gilded by the warm yet tenderly softened
sunshine of early evening. And as I gazed, I longed the more to be able
to carry away a picture of that scene, with all its tones and tints, that
would last in the memory, as I also wished to draw out of it all the
meaning of what I felt. I left with a sense of failure, of weakness, of
confused impressions, which was to me like a gnawing weevil of the mind, on
the road to Libourne.

Vines, vines, nothing but vines, gradually shading down to the darkness of
the night that covers them. Then, when the dusky gauze of the cloudless
night is drawn all over it, the broad leafy land sleeps under the sparkling

Here at Libourne I am in a town of whose English origin there can be no
doubt. It was one of the thirteenth-century _bastides_ founded in Guyenne
by Edward I. These _bastides_ were at the outset intended as places of
refuge for serfs and other non-belligerents of the rural districts in time
of war. Their character was that of free or open towns, and most of the
burgs that still bear the name of Villefranche in the South of France were
originally _bastides_. Not a few of them keep the name of _La bastide_,
in combination with some other to this day. They are to be found all over
Guyenne and a great part of Languedoc. They were often fortified with a
wall, a palisade, and a moat. Their strong peculiarity, however, the one
that has been preserved in spite of all the changes that centuries have
brought, was the rectilinear and geometrical manner in which they were laid
out. In contrast to the typical mediaeval town that grew up slowly around
some abbey, or at the foot of some strong castle that protected it, and in
the building of which, if any method was observed, it was that of making
the streets as crooked as possible, to assist the defenders in stopping the
inward rush of an enemy, the streets of the _bastide_ were all drawn at
right angles to each other. Consequently, however old the houses may be,
such towns have somewhat of a modern air. For the same reason, one of the
chief attributes of the picturesque--an accidental meeting of various
motives--is absent. To the inhabitants of these free towns a certain
quantity of land was apportioned in equal parts, for which a fixed rent was
paid to the king or other feudal lord.

I have said that the _bastides_ were not picturesque. In their early days
they must have been quite hideous; but time, that plays havoc with human
beings, lends to such of their works as may offer to it the resistance of a
long, hard struggle an interest which becomes at length a beauty. There
is usually to be found in these towns the thirteenth-century _place_, or
square, which formed, as it were, the heart of the commune. Along each of
the four sides is a Gothic arcade, on which the first and all the higher
storeys of the houses rest. Thus, there is a broad pavement completely
vaulted over on each side of the quadrilateral, where people can walk,
sheltered from the sun or rain, These old squares, wherever they are found,
are now always picturesque.

Libourne, from being a small _bastide_, grew to such importance, on account
of its position on the right bank of the Dordogne and the wine trade that
it was able to carry on by water, that it rivalled Bordeaux before the
close of the English domination, and the question of making it the capital
and the seat of the Prince of Wales and Aquitaine was seriously pondered.
To-day it preserves all the plainness of its line-and-rule origin; but it
has a few redeeming features, such as one side of its ancient square,
with broad pavement under Gothic arches, a picturesque town-hall of the
sixteenth century, and a curious mediaeval tower, with machicolated
embattlements, now capped with a very tall and pointed roof, and known as
the Tour de l'Horloge. It is a remnant of the fourteenth-century ramparts.

The people of Libourne were steadfast partisans of the English to the
last, and after 1453 they did not seek to distinguish themselves by their
resignation to the rule of the French kings. When in 1542 the insurrection
against the salt-tax, commencing at La Rochelle, spread over Saintonge and
the whole of Western Guyenne, the Libournais threw themselves heartily into
the movement. When the time of repression came they were made to smart
sorely for their turbulent spirit. The Place de l'Hotel de Ville, of which
one side remains very much as it was then, bristled with gibbets, and 150
persons were hanged in a single day. The man who had rung the tocsin that
called together the insurgents was suspended by the neck to the hammer of
the bell, as a warning to others not to ring it again unless they had a
better motive.


Standing by the broad river, a little above the point where the Isle is
falling into it, carrying down all manner of craft with the tide, I see at
a distance of a couple of miles or so towards the west the hill that is
known in history as Le Tertre de Fronsac. There Charlemagne built a castle,
of which nothing now remains. The hill owes its modern celebrity entirely
to its wine. It is not everybody who knows the virtue of the genuine
Fronsac, especially that which was yielded by the old vines before the
phylloxera destroyed them, but most people are familiar with the brand.
But for this, the _tertre_ would long since have ceased to be famous,
notwithstanding Charlemagne.

The hill has a strange appearance, for it rises abruptly from the river
bank in the midst of the plain. It did not tempt me to walk to it in the
scorching heat, but as a steamboat was going there, I paid two sous and
went on board. I had never been in such a cockle-shell of a steamer before.
It rocked and tumbled like a coracle, and spat and fumed and snorted like a
veritable devil composed of an engine, a couple of paddle-wheels, and a few
boards. Helped by the tide that was pouring out, it went down stream at a
rate that was almost exciting, and in a few minutes I was landed at the
bottom of the famous hill. I made a conscientious attempt to reach the top,
but was stopped just where it began to grow interesting by a notice-board
that warned me, if I ventured any farther, I should be prosecuted and
heavily fined. Such things are not often seen in France. Vineyards are
generally open, but here they were fiercely protected with walls and fences
and notice-boards. The land was evidently very precious. I had wandered
into truly civilized country, where land and manners were too highly
cultivated to please me, and I again regretted the rocky wastefulness that
I had left behind me.

[Illustration: THE HILL OF FRONSAC.]

I turned back, and wandering about the village, which is a straggling one,
looked for the church, hoping that this at least would show something of
interest. Not being able to find it, I asked a man to tell me the way to
it, and he, stopping, said:

'_L'eglise pour aller prier dedans?_'

What does he mean by asking me that? I thought. Could there be a church at
Fronsac that was not used for praying?

'Yes, that is the kind of church I am looking for.' 'Very good,' rejoined
the man. 'Now I know what you want I can inform you. I put that question to
you because there are some people here called Leglise.'

It was to the church _pour prier dedans_ that I went, not to Mr. Church.
Originally Romanesque, it has been pulled about and changed almost as much
as the Tertre de Fronsac, which I am sure I shall never wish to climb

[Illustration: No Name]


I have reached--I need not say how--the south-eastern corner of the
Bordelais, and am now at Bazas in very hot September weather, I am not only
as warm as a lizard of the dusty roadside likes to be, but am hungry and
thirsty. I therefore cast about for an inn that looks both cool and capable
of giving a fair meal to a tired wanderer. My choice rests with one that
swings the sign of the White Horse; for, to tell the truth, I have somewhat
of a superstitious belief in the luck that this emblem brings to the
traveller. I place it immediately after the Golden Lion, my favourite beast
on a signboard, although it deceived me once. The deception, however,
befell in the Bordelais, where the inhabitants are far from being the
most pleasant to be found in France; therefore I judged this _Lion d'Or_
charitably, and took account of all that might have frustrated its good

Having made up my mind to trust myself to the White Horse, I entered a
large, _salle-a-manger_, which, after the glare of the mid-day sunshine,
seemed as dark as a cellar that is lighted by a small air-hole. The
shutters had been closed against the heat and the flies, but the rays that
broke through had the ardour and brilliancy cast by molten metal in a
smelting-house, and the sight very quickly accepted with relief the
lessened light of the room. There was one other person present, and,
although the table was long enough to accommodate fifty, my plate was set
immediately opposite his. He was a young negro gentleman, with such a
shining ebony skin that he was almost refreshing to eyes that had just left
the dazzling whiteness of the outer world. He gave me the impression of
being a rather conceited African, but this may have been because my dress
compared so unfavourably with his. He was the son of a merchant at St.
Louis in Senegal, and was just like a Frenchman in all but his colour. I
asked him if he found the weather we were having sufficiently warm, and he

'_Regardez comme je sue!_'

True enough, the beads of perspiration glistened upon his forehead like
black pearls. What is the use, I thought, of being an African if one cannot
keep dry in a temperature of 95 deg. Fahrenheit?

I soon left my dark acquaintance, and went forth to roam about Bazas,
which, like so many little old towns of Southern France, is in the early
hours of a summer afternoon as quiet and deserted as a cemetery. The stones
are so heated that a cat that begins to cross the road lazily, stopping to
stretch or examine something in the gutter, will suddenly start off at a
rush as if a devil had been cast into it.

The interest of Bazas to the traveller lies mainly in its church, which
was formerly a cathedral. Its broad and imposing facade, encrusted with
ornament, chiefly in the florid Gothic of the fifteenth century, but
disfigured by a hideous eighteenth-century _fronton_ that crowns the gable,
stands at the top of a broad and rather steep _place_, of which some of
the houses are of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The tower built
against the northern end of the front carries a lofty and graceful
crocketed spire. Until the Revolution, this west front, ornamented as it
was with nearly three hundred statues, was considered the most elaborately
decorated in the South of France. Even now, although so many of the niches
are vacant, it is exceedingly rich in sculpture. The central doorway is so
lofty that it occupies more than half the height of the original facade,
and the doorway on each side of it is only a little lower. The central
tympanum is divided into five compartments filled with figures in relief.
The uppermost panel represents the Last Judgment. The interior admirably
combines grandeur and lightness. The nave (without transept) is very long
and lofty, and, together with its clerestory, is beautifully proportioned.
Finally, the effect of a delightful vista is obtained by the wide
sanctuary. With its lofty and airy arcade separating it from the

[Illustration: BAZAS.]

All the old part of the town is built upon a rocky hill, and it is still
almost surrounded by ruinous ramparts. The church is just within the wall
on the side where the rock is precipitous. Looking upward from the bottom
of the narrow valley, the view of the ramparts high overhead, tapestried
with ivy and other plants, and above these the tabernacle work, the
crocketed pinnacles and spire, and the fantastic far-stretching gargoyles
of the venerable cathedral, makes one feel that joy of the eye and the
spirit which is the wanderer's reward for all the sun-scorch and other
petty tribulations he may have to endure in searching for the picturesque.

From Bazas I made my way to Villandraut, a neighbouring town of about 1,000
inhabitants. I had left the vines, and was now in the _landes_ of the
Gironde. I was surrounded by pines, gorse, and bracken, which last was as
brown as if it had been baked in an oven. Ten summers had nearly passed
since I undertook my long walk through the great pine forests of the
Landes. I had wandered on and on, and was again drawing near to them.
Already the country wore much the same appearance as that farther south,
although less wild and desolate. I expected to have a return of the old
feelings when I found myself again in the midst of the pines that said so
much to me years ago; but somehow the old spirit would not come back, and I
felt little besides the heat and the weariness of the way.

Villandraut, ordinarily a very dull place, was exceedingly animated when
I walked into it. A fair was being held there, and a fair in a village or
rural town is always a reason for being gay, and often an excuse for worse.
There was some local colour here. All the young girls wore the Bordelaise
coiffure, the handkerchief being generally of white, yellow, green, or
crimson silk. Just clinging to the back of a young head, no coif is more
graceful or picturesque than this. There was much dancing. Cheeks flushed
and dark eyes flashed as the brilliant coifs and light-coloured dresses
whirled round and round. I found more feminine beauty in this south-eastern
corner of the Bordelais than I had seen for a very long time among the
French peasants. The young women here are well and delicately formed,
and have an erect and graceful carriage. They are coquettes from their
childhood. They have fine eyes and luxuriant tresses, and the face often
shows richness of colour. A few _blondes_ are seen among the _brunes_; but
whether fair or dark they have all the same exuberance of nature. The teeth
are rarely good after early youth. The cause of this blemish is said to be
the water, which, passing through a sandy soil, contains little or no lime.

My motive in coming to this place was to see the ruined castle of
Villandraut, the gloomy stronghold built at the commencement of the
fourteenth century by Bertrand de Goth (or Got), Archbishop of Bordeaux,
who afterwards as Pope Clement V. took the momentous step of transferring
the Papal See from Rome to Avignon. I found it a little outside the burg,
but near enough to be used by many of the peasants who had come into the
fair as a convenient place for putting up their carts and stabling their
animals. Each of the towers had been turned into a stable for horses and
oxen, and scattered over the weedy space within the walls were vehicles of
all sorts and sizes.

The plan of the castle is a vast oblong, with a high cylindrical tower at
each angle, and two additional towers on the side of the town. The deep and
wide moat that still surrounds it, except where it has been filled up in
front of the gateway from which the drawbridge was once raised and lowered,
is like a ravine that is choked with brambles and shrubs. The exterior view
is very striking. It is impossible to approach this ruin without being
impressed by its mournful grandeur. From all these piled-up stones which
the wild plants strive to cover, there comes the sentiment of pride in
death. A very slow but a certain death it is. One after another the stones
will continue to fall as they have been falling for centuries, and will be
put to fresh uses. How many houses and pigsties at Villandraut have been
built with materials taken from the castle? Nobody knows exactly, but
everybody in the place has a shrewd suspicion on the subject. I climbed up
the dilapidated spiral staircase of one of the towers, and after passing
through two guard-rooms with Gothic vaulting, where the wind, now blowing
up for storm, moaned through the loopholes, I came out upon the _chemin de
ronde_, quite overgrown with shrubs and ivy. All around stretched the pine
forest, with tints of violet and the purple rose deepening in the misty


This bastille on the edge of the sandy desert was a queer sort of fold for
a shepherd to build. To judge the past, however, by the present is one of
the most mischievous of errors. Nothing is easier than to criticise the
actions of men in a bygone age, and nothing is more difficult than to do
justice to their motives. The militant bishop is intolerable now even, when
he is nothing more formidable than a controversialist. It may have been
necessary, however, in the Middle Ages for him to make himself dreaded as
well as respected, like the judges of Israel. This Clement V., at any rate,
must have believed in the need of the Church to be able to defend itself
behind strong walls.

From Villandraut I turned towards the Garonne. A furious storm was now
raging southward, and after nightfall the lightning flashes kept the whole
forest seemingly ablaze. The hour was late when I reached the town of
Langon by the river, and at the inn where I put up I met with a cold dinner
as well as a cold reception.

When the sun came again I took the road to St. Macaire, and this soon
crossed the Garonne. The broad blue river was very beautiful in the early
morning sunshine, and a mild lustre lay over the vine-clad plain beyond.
The vintagers were getting busy. Bullock-waggons were waiting with the
barrels, now empty, that were to bear the grapes to the wine-press, and
here and there amidst the green of the motionless leaves was the gleam of
a white, yellow, or crimson coif that moved with the head of the woman or
girl who wore it.

[Illustration: THE GARONNE.]

The morning had not lost its freshness when I reached St. Macaire. This is
one of those ruinous old towns of the Bordelais where the traveller, if
he were an artist, would find a thrilling subject for his pencil at every
street corner, and at the angle of every bastion of crumbling rampart,
where the bramble, the ivy, and the wild fig-tree strike their roots
between the gaping stones. Proud and strong in the centuries that have been
left far behind, St. Macaire is now a little spot of slow life in the midst
of a wilderness of ruins. Three walls encircled it, and although these did
long service as the quarries wherefrom the inhabitants drew such building
stone as they needed, yet have they not been demolished, but tell their
whole story still, in spite of wide gaps and breaks--ay, and with a far
more soul-moving voice than when they could show to the enemy their
crenated parapets without a flaw, when not a stone was wanting to any tower
or gateway, and when the twang of the cross-bow might have been heard from
every loophole. There are heaps of stones where the lizard runs, where the
coiled snake basks untroubled, where the dwarfed fig-tree sprouts when the
spring has come, and where the wild cucumber pushes forward its yellow
flowers that fear not the flame of summer. The fig-tree may also be seen
hanging from high walls, and the vine rambles among blooming or embrowned
wallflowers on the top of ruinous gateways, through which the people still
enter and leave the town as they did centuries ago.

The spirit of originality that animated the mediaeval architects in
this part of France, and which has given to so many churches a distinct
character, an individual expression, that keeps the interest of the
traveller constantly alive, is strongly marked upon the church of St.
Macaire. Commenced at the beginning of the twelfth century, its earliest
portions show the Pointed style in its infancy, fearful as yet of
committing what seemed so like heresy--a departure from the Roman arch; but
in the same building a much bolder Gothic asserts itself in the parts that
were added in the thirteenth century. The west front and doorway have not
the majesty of the style as it was developed chiefly in the North, but they
have that venerable air which is not always to be found in the stately and
majestic. The low tympanum is crowded with figures belonging to the period
when the statuary's art was still swathed in the swaddling clothes of its
new infancy, and what with their own uncouthness, and the wear and tear of
time, it is no easy matter now to trace in them all the purpose and meaning
of the sculptor.

And yet in their blurred and battered state they tell us much more than
they would if they had been restored with the best skill and learning of
our own time. The age is gone when these bas-reliefs were the religious
books of the people. To imitate them is mere aestheticism, and to restore
them is often destruction.

A few words must be said of the old market-place of St. Macaire. Thanks to
the poverty or the apathy of the commune, three sides have retained all
their mediaeval character, the interest of which has been refined and
deepened by the artistic touch of time, the sentimental ravisher, the slow
and gentle destroyer. A Gothic arcade encloses a wide pavement, and each
bay, with its vaulting, forms, as it were, the portico of the house, whose
first and higher storeys rest upon it. Here those who are interested in
civic architecture can see thirteenth and fourteenth century houses still
retaining their wide Gothic doorways.

I rested awhile in a cafe, and chance led me to one that was kept by an
Englishman. He recognised my nationality, while I supposed him to be a
Frenchman, and he seemed as glad to see me as if I had been an old friend.
He told me that when he was a boy his father brought his family from
England to Les Eyzies, where he was employed at the iron works. (The
smelting furnace has been cold for many a year.) The man who spoke was
middle-aged, and although he expressed himself with difficulty in English,
and turned his phrases out of French moulds of thought, he had kept a
strong accent of the Midland counties. The tenacity with which an accent
adheres to the tongue, even when the language to which it belongs has
been half lost, is very remarkable. I remember meeting in my roamings an
Englishwoman who had married a French cobbler, and who had been buried
alive with him in the Haut-Quercy for forty years. She had learnt to speak
patois like a native, but it had become a sore trial to her to put her
thoughts into English words; nevertheless, when she did bring out those
words that had been so long put away in the mind's lumber-room, the accent
was as pure Cockney as if she had but lately drifted away from her own

The freshness of the morning was gone, and even in the shade of the cafe
I felt the hot breath of the day. When I was again upon the powdered road
between interminable rows of vines, the glare was dazzling; but I was not
alone. Groups of people were trudging under the same fiery sky, and upon
the same dusty road, and all were moving in the same direction. When I
learnt that they were pilgrims on their way to Verdelais, I thought that I
might do worse than be a pilgrim, too. I therefore went with the stream,
which soon turned up the flanks of the vine-clad hills.

Thus I found myself about noon in a small village, seemingly composed of
one wide street lined on both sides with cafes and restaurants. There was
also a very conspicuous modern church in a fantastic and debased, but
showy, style of architecture. It was densely crowded, and the shine of
innumerable candles was seen through the open doors. The whole street
was likewise crowded with people, who had come from various parts of the
Bordelais, and who seemed determined to spend a happy day in a sense no
less material than spiritual. There was a great rush to the restaurants,
and there was flagrant overcharging on the part of those who kept them--all
speculators on piety.

Perhaps the grandeur of the solitude of Roc-Amadour, the antiquity of the
buildings, and the simplicity of the pilgrims had made me a wrong-headed
judge of the newer places of pilgrimage. However this may be, after the
first glance at Verdelais I wished I had not come. There was no quiet
corner here where a wayfarer could sit and refresh himself; in this
hurly-burly of eager hunger, and with this infernal clatter of tongues,
repose was impossible.

After lunching in the midst of a noisy and vulgar throng, I regained the
open country, with the conviction that, should I ever decide to start off
upon a serious pilgrimage, the road to Verdelais would not be the one that
I would take.

I now turned down towards the valley through the vines, the inevitable
vines, and was soon on the banks of the Garonne. Almost facing me upon the
opposite hillsides were the famous vineyards of Sauterne, and I knew
that the vintagers were busy there, every woman--women are chiefly
employed--with her pair of scissors snipping off the grapes one by one from
the gathered bunches, and rejecting all that were not sound. It is a costly
method, but the wine pays for it.

A steamer comes panting down the river, and stops near the grove of willows
where I have been trying to hide myself from the all-searching, all-burning
sun. I go on board and take a delicious rest under an awning for two or
three hours, while the vine-covered hills on either side glide backward
with their many steeples and towers.

I left the steamer at a place called Castres, some fifteen miles below
Bordeaux. My motive for stopping here was to see the castle where
Montesquieu was born, and where he spent the greater part of his life.
The map told me that it lay some five or six miles from Castres in the
direction of the _landes_, and as the day was already far spent, I reckoned
upon passing the night at the small town of La Brede, which is very near
the castle. The sun's rays were as yet but little calmed as I turned from
the broad, blue river.

I had to follow the highway, on which the white dust lay thick. This road
was carried up the hills. In the vineyards were crowds of men and women,
many of whom had been drawn out of the slums of Bordeaux. Some of them were
forlorn-looking beings, whose faces told that they were glad to seize this
opportunity of earning for a few days a sure wage. Those who wish to feel
the poetic charm of the vintage should not go into the district of Bordeaux
to seek it. Here only the legend remains. It is not that the vines are
wanting. The Bordelais, except in the sandy and pine-covered region of the
_landes_, has again become one immense vineyard; but whether it be from the
struggle to live, or the lust of prosperity, the people fail to impress the
traveller with that communicative openness and joyousness of soul which he
would like to find in them, if only that he might not have the vexation of
convicting himself of laying up for his own fancy another disillusion.

Although the hills were not steep, the long ascent was wearisome in the
sultry air that no breath of wind freshened. At length the sun went down in
a golden haze, where the vine-leaves spread to the horizon like the sea.
Then I descended the other side of the range of hills that follows the line
of the river. The vineyards gradually fell away, and scattered pines gave a
touch of sadness to the darkening land. By these signs I knew that I was on
the outskirts of the _landes_ of the Gironde. But the sand was still some
miles away, and the country here was well cultivated. A church spire that
looked very high in the clear obscure, as I saw it through an opening of
trees, led me to La Brede.

Here I thought I should have no difficulty in finding night quarters, for
there was at least one good inn, which in its own estimation was a hotel.
But the way in which I was scrutinized when I wearily set down my knapsack
on an outside table and took a seat under the plane-trees told me that I
was not welcome. Since I had been in the Bordelais I had become rather too
familiar with such signs. The hotel-keepers here have but very slight faith
in the respectability of travellers who do not come in the usual way--that
is to say, by train or omnibus, or something with wheels, though it be but
a bicycle. To them the walking traveller, whether he carries a bundle over
his shoulder on a stick, or a knapsack on his back (the latter is very
rarely seen), is merely a tramp. If he speaks with a foreign accent, he is
doubly deserving of suspicion. These people of the Gironde are, perhaps,
all the more doubtful of the morality of others because of the little
confidence that they are able to place in their own.

My request for a room at this inn was not refused immediately. There was
a consultation indoors, the result of which was that I was presently told
that every room was already engaged. There was nothing for it but to walk
on to the next inn, and hope for better luck there. It would seem as if
they had been prepared here for my coming, and had already made up their
minds how to act. Two women stood in the doorway, and did not move an inch
to make way for me. I had hardly asked the question about the room, when
the answer came emphatically 'No.' At the next house to which I went I met
with the same answer; but in spite of the unpleasantness of my position, I
was almost thankful for it, such a villainous-looking place it was. There
now remained but one small auberge at La Brede. If I was denied shelter
there, I should have to go to Bordeaux that night, and I was five miles
from the nearest railway-station. The prospect had become sombre, and I
began to regret that I had allowed the Chateau de Montesquieu to entice me
among these too civilized savages.

The last inn was a little outside the town. A dark man, whose face, even in
the feeble light, I could see was deadly pale, was seated outside the door,
breathing the freshness that now began to be felt in the evening air. As my
previous negotiations had been with women, I was glad to perceive now an
innkeeper of the other sex. My experience of the French provinces had
taught me that, wherever people are suspicious of strangers whose
appearance is not such as they are familiar with, and where the measure of
prosperity has been sufficient to produce a cautious disinclination to move
out of the daily trodden track, it is far better to deal with men than with

The pale-faced man, after looking at me fixedly for a few seconds, said:

'Yes, I have one spare room, and it is at your service.'

I crossed the threshold, and took a seat in the kitchen and general room.
The surroundings were not very cheerful; but no other people would have
anything to do with me, and therefore my choice of accommodation had to be
what is termed Hobson's. After all, it would not be the first time that I
had passed the night in a little roadside inn.

The pale man's wife did not look in a very sweet temper at her husband for
having put extra work upon her without consulting her, and there was an
exceedingly obnoxious boy of about fourteen who sat upon the corner of
a table and, with the assurance of a mounted gendarme, put all sorts of
questions to me in a voice that would change suddenly from a bark to a
bleat. I was seized with such a longing to knock him off his perch that I
presently kept my eyes fixed upon the frying-pan so that I might not be
tempted beyond my strength. The father was evidently too weak to contend
with his horrible offspring. My interest in the man was at once awakened.
He told me that he was from the Lot-et-Garonne, where he owned land, and
had been a tobacco-planter, until a disease of the spinal marrow compelled
him to seek an occupation that required less exertion. Thus he came to be
an innkeeper. He had spent much money upon doctors, who had done him little
or no good. The only treatment that had given him any relief was _la


'Yes, hanging. I have passed hours hung up by the neck.'

Then he explained the apparatus that is used for stretching the spinal
marrow in this manner, and how it differs from the method of hanging that
is best known in England. When I learnt what he had undergone in order to
get cured, I could understand why he looked so pale and sad. A melancholy
Jacques was he, indeed, in appearance, and he was certainly not the most
cheerful of hosts whom one might hope to find at the end of a weary day;
but I knew that I was in the house of an honest man, who was also brave and
patient, while he looked out upon the world through darkening windows.

Before going to bed I had some talk with my host about my adventures at La
Brede before I applied to him for a night's lodging. There was actually a
sparkle of mirth in his melancholy dark eyes, and his sunken cheeks were
puckered up with a sort of smile.

'If you had been dressed in a black coat,' said he, 'like a _commis
voyageur_, they would have all found room for you.'

This was my opinion, too. The Bordelais believe in the respectability of no
travelling motives under heaven that are not commercial.

My bedroom that night had much the character of an outhouse or fowlhouse.
It was on the ground-floor, and the rafters overhead sloped rapidly towards
the exterior wall. A small low window opened upon the garden. The walls
were white-washed, but the floors were very black, as all these southern
floors are. Upon the single table a heap of raw wool waiting to be spun had
been pushed back a little to make room for the doll's washing-basin and
towel that had been placed there for me. Besides the bed that had been
prepared for me, there was another, which happily was to remain unoccupied
that night. The traveller should always be thankful when he has a room,
however poor and plain, that for the few hours which he needs for rest he
can call his own. If he snores himself, he will sleep through the noise,
and have, perhaps, pleasant dreams; but if anybody else snores in the same
room, he may lie awake with clenched fists, and be tortured by the foolish
desire to throw something.

The next morning I believe I was the earliest visitor who in modern times
has troubled the serenity of the Chateau de la Brede. A mist--one of the
first of the falling year--lay white and dense upon the land. It was a
fine-weather mist, such as in the opinion of the wine-grower helps to ripen
the grapes.

I had entered the park about half a mile beyond the town, and then between
two rolling banks of vapour I saw the high walls and higher towers of the
castle looming through the grayness. A little later I distinguished the
dull water of the very wide moat, and the three connected bridges, which
were formerly blank spaces between low towers, unless the drawbridges
happened to be let down.


Over these the visitor must now pass in order to reach the castle. As I was
so early, I killed time to my own good by trying to fix some impressions of
the vast pile of masonry that stood here in the middle of a little lake.
It is an extraordinary block of architectural patchwork, quite without
symmetry, and yet the mass is imposing. The ground-plan approaches the
circle more than any other geometrical figure, but it is a circle with
slices cut off, and composed of angles so irregular as almost to imply
a fantastic motive. But the motive was purely utilitarian. The feudal
fortress which was built here in the thirteenth century underwent in
subsequent ages so many modifications and additions with a view more to the
comfort of the dwellers therein than to their protection from enemies, that
in course of time little of the mediaeval buildings remained besides the
great hall, the basement, and the keep. These became jumbled up with late
Gothic and Renaissance work.

Jean de Secondat, who purchased the old fortified manor-house out of his
savings as _maitre d'hotel_ to Antoine de Bourbon and Jeanne d'Albret, was
probably responsible for most of the sixteenth-century work that one
now sees. When his descendant, Charles de Secondat de Montesquieu, took
possession, the building was almost identical with that which exists
to-day. It has been exceptionally favoured, for it has remained in the
family, and for at least two hundred years it has undergone none of those
alterations which in previous times had so changed its appearance. The eye
may not be delighted with its symmetry, but the mind has the satisfaction
of knowing that this was verily the birthplace and home of him who more
than any other man made political science popular.

The present owner of the castle, recognising the duty that the descendant
of a great man owes to society, receives with the most liberal courtesy all
those who make a pilgrimage to this spot.

The relics of Montesquieu are numerous, and they have been preserved with
admirable solicitude. The room where he slept and wrote is almost the
same as when he finally left it; with this difference, that time has made
everything look dingier. Even the white linen curtains which hung at the
window hang there still, and they are by no means so yellow as one might
expect them to be. On the plain little table at which he washed himself
stand his basin and ewer. The basin would be called to-day a dish, for it
is not more than two inches deep. It held quite enough water, however, to
serve for the ablutions of a baron a century and a half ago. Much the same
notion of what is fit and proper in a washingbasin remains to this day
among the French peasantry, and even among the middle class in the
provinces the growth of the toilet crockery has been far from rapid since
the time of Montesquieu.

The bed in which the political philosopher slept is a broad four-poster,
not with slender and finely carved posts, like Fenelon's, but severely
simple. Indeed, in none of the furniture of this room is there any
indication of the love of the ornamental. On the contrary, everything
tells of a mind that set no value upon aught but the strictly needful.
Montesquieu's small writing-case, divided into compartments, the borders
of the leather covering embellished with dingy, half-obliterated gold
ornament, was perhaps the finest bit of property he had before his eyes
as he sat and worked there. He always carried it about with him when he
travelled. No doubt it went with him to England, and he probably wrote
letters to his friend Lord Chesterfield upon it. And here is his travelling
trunk. It still looks fit to bear many years' rough usage; and yet, if
railway porters had to pull it about, they would not know whether to laugh
at its strange appearance or to swear at its weight. It was built for wear,
like Noah's ark, and it is entirely covered with leather, elaborately
decorated with patterns, composed of the round heads of small nails. The
high stone chimney-piece, plain and solid like the character of the man
who did so much lasting work in this room, remains, together with the
fire-dogs, as it was in his time.

Montesquieu formed the habit when thinking alone of leaning back in his
chair before the hearth and resting his feet against one of the jambs of
the chimney-piece. The stone was much worn away by his feet; but the
marks would pass unobserved if the knowledge of their cause had not been
preserved in the family. A bust of Montesquieu made in his life-time shows
him with closely-cropped hair, and without a wig. It is a remarkably
Caesar-like head, every feature indicating the decision and positivism of
the Roman character--such a one, indeed, as ideally became the author of
the 'Considerations.' But how the face is altered when we look at it in
another portrait--a painted one, representing the writer in a great wig as
President of the Parliament of Guyenne! A head becomes another head if the
coiffure be but changed.

A little room adjoining this one was where Montesquieu's secretary worked.
He was the drudge of a literary man, who was probably not exempt from the
constitutional irritability of those who carry a whirling grindstone within
their brains for the sharpening and polishing of thought. The unremembered
scribe may have done good service to literature while undergoing his
purgatory in this world.

Distributed throughout this suite of apartments on the ground-floor is much
furniture of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, most of
which was here when Montesquieu was _chatelain_.

A spiral staircase leads to the great hall of the old castle. It has
been very carefully preserved, and although the walls are now lined with
book-shelves, it keeps the air of baronial grandeur and simplicity.
Montesquieu made it his library, and had reading-desks set up all down the
middle. His books remain, as well as some of his manuscripts, including
that of 'Les Lettres Persanes.' This long hall is covered by a plain
barrel-vault, and at the far end is an immense chimney-place, the chimney
built out at the base several feet from the line of the wall, and sloping
back towards the ceiling. On the plain (not conical) surface of this
mediaeval chimney are painted figures, said to be of the thirteenth
century, but probably later. One can distinguish a king, a cardinal, and a
page on horseback. The mediaeval fireplates are still in their old place at
the back of the vast hearth.

I have little more to add to this story of my wanderings. From La Brede
I went to Bordeaux, where I found much to admire that I had not noticed
before. The architecture of this city is incomparably richer than that of
Paris by the diversity of style and the good fortune that has protected so
many of the buildings from the destructive influences of war, fanaticism,
and the presumption of those who in all ages would abolish the past if they
could, and refashion the world according to their own ideas. The Roman
period is only represented by a fragment of the amphitheatre, now called
the Palais Gallien. But what a picturesque fragment this is, and how well
it introduces the visitor to the study of the Romanesque, the Gothic,
and the Renaissance buildings, of which he will find such characteristic
examples here! The interest of the Englishman will be increased by the
knowledge that some of the most notable of the Gothic edifices were raised
when to his countrymen Bordeaux was a continental London, and a well-known
tendency of his will probably lead him to attribute much of their grave
stateliness to the influence of the Anglo-Saxon character.


The people of Bordeaux are supposed to have derived not a little of their
keen commercial spirit from the English. If this be so, they may take
credit for having in some respects surpassed their teachers. By the gift
of persuasiveness and the abundance of words, by aplomb, combined with
astuteness, they are fitted by nature to be the most successful traffickers
on earth. But in return for a little work they expect a great deal of
enjoyment, and more than most industrious cities is Bordeaux given up to
the worship of pleasure.


From Bordeaux I continued down the river until I saw the Dordogne join the
Garonne, where both are lost in the Gironde. Here the two beautiful and
noble streams, one flowing from the Auvergne mountains, and the other from
the Pyrenees, no sooner embrace than they die on the breast of the salt
wave. They and their tributaries caused one of the sternest, and yet one
of the most smiling, of regions--a country where Nature seems to have the
passion of contrast, and where she brings forth all the best fruits of
the earth--to be named by the Celts the Land of Waters, and by the Romans
Aquitania. A little reflection explains why the English of the Middle Ages,
having once possessed it, should have clung to it with such tenacity. Less
easy is it to understand why so few of their descendants of to-day feel the
peculiar spell that almost every rood of this broad land should cast upon
them, apart from the charm of old story and of the picturesque that appeals
to all.



AGRICULTURE in the Correze,
in Perigord,
Albigenses, The,
Angelus, The,
Arnaud (Arnaud Daniel, troubadour),
Artaud, The (River),
Aspic, The,
Aulaye, St.,
Auvergnats, Descent of the,

Barthelemy, St.,
Bazile, St.,
Beuene, Valley of the,
Boetie, Etienne de la,
Born, Bertrand de,
Abbey of,
Pierre de Bourdeilles,
Brede (La),
Buisson (Le),
Bureau, Jean,

Cadouin, Abbey of,
Cadurci, The,
Caesar at Uxeliodunum,
Carthusians of Vauclair,
Battle of,
Castres (Gironde),
Cemeteries, Rural,
Ceou, The (River),
Chateau d'Aubeterre,
de Beynac,
de Biron,
de Bourdeilles,
des Eyzies
de Fages,
de Fenelon,
de Grignols (Talleyrand),
de Gurcons,
de Hautefort,
de Marouette,
de Montaigne,
de Montesquieu,
de Nabinaud,
de Villandraut,
Chavannon, Gorge of the,
Christy, Mr.,
Clement V., Pope,
Coiffure at Mont-Dore,
in the Bordelais,
in the Correze,
in Perigord,
Conde, Madame de,
Court-Mantel, Henry,
Cyprien, St.,

Denis, St.,
Dordogne, Valley of the,
Double, The,
_Droit Seigneurial,_
Dronne, Valley of the,

Eglisottes, Les,
Eleanor of Aquitaine,
Emilion, St.,
English, The, at Bordeaux,
at Castillon,
at Domme,
at Les Eyzies,
at Libourne,
at Martel,
at Montpont,
at St. Emilion,
at St. Cyprien,
at Sarlat,
at Tayac,
Eyquem. _See_ Montaigne
Eyzies, Les,

Fage, La,
Front, St., Cathedral of,
Funeral Customs,

Gallien, Le Palais,
Garonne, Valley of the,
Gironde, The (River),
Girondins, The,
Gorge of Hell, The,
Goth, Bertrand de,
Guyenne, English rule in,


Ilex, The,
Implements, Flint,
Isle, Valley of the,

Jongleur, The modern,

Knolles, Robert,

Landes (of the Gironde),
Leaguers, The,
Leopard, The English (Heraldic),
The Lord,
Luxege, The (River),

Macaire, St.,
Madeleine, La,
Man, Prehistoric,
Master and servant,
Mere, Poltrot de,
Michel-Bonnefare, St.,
Miremont, Cavern of,
Mondane, St.,
Montaigne, Michel,
Mothe-Montravel, La,
Moustier, Le,
Normans, The, in Perigord,

Orgues de Bort,
Oriel, The golden,

Pantaleon, St,
Peasant-proprietor, The,
Perigord Noir,
Plantagenet, Henry,
Plateau, Great Central, of France,
Plough, Ancient form of,
Politics, Local,
Puy d'Issolu,

Raymond II., Viscount of Turenne,
Religious Customs,
Roche Canillac, La,
Chalais, La,
Romance Language, The,
Roque-Gageac, La,
Rue, The (River),

Salignac, Francois de. _See_ Fenelon,
Saut de la Saule, Le,
Sauterne, The vintage at,
Sauve, St.,
Sebastien, Dom,
Secondat, Charles de. _See_ Montesquieu,
Shroud, The Holy,
Songs of Perigord,

Tarde, Jean,
Tayac, La Roque de,
Church of,
Tocane St. Apre,
Tocsin, The,
Tour de Mareuil,
de Vesone,

Vauclaire, La Chartreuse de,
Verere, Valley of the,
Victor, St.,
Villefranche de Longchapt,
Vin de plaine,
Vins du pays,
Vintage, The, In the Bordelais,
Viper, The Red,



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