Unfrequented France I.

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NOT many travellers on the great Mulhouse railway zigzag to the ancient little city of Provins; none throughout that splendid hexagon called France are worthier of a visit.

    On the way thither many a village and townling offer delightful summer retreats.



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

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

    Like most of the ancient villages in the Seine et Marne, Couilly possesses a church of an early period, though unequal in interest to those of its neighbours.  It is also full of reminiscences of the Franco-German War.  My friend's house was occupied by the German Commandant and his staff, who, however, committed no depredations beyond carrying off blankets and bedquilts, a pardonable offence considering the arctic winter.

    Coulommiers possesses little interest beyond its old church and a very pretty walk by the winding river, but it is worth making the two hours' drive across country for the sake of the scenery.  I gladly accepted a neighbour's offer of a seat in his trap, a light spring-cart with capital horse.  He was a butcher, and, like the rest of the world here, wore the convenient and cleanly blue cotton trousers and blue blouse of the country.  The spare seat was occupied by a notary, the two men discussing metaphysics, literature, and the origin of all things, on their way.

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

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

    With many other towns in these parts, Coulommiers dates from an ancient period, and long belonged to the English crown.  Ravaged during the Hundred Years' War, the religious wars, and the troubles of the League, nothing to speak of remains of its old walls and towers of defence.  Indeed, except for the drive thither across country, and the fruit and cheese markets, it possesses no temptations for sojourners.  Market day, however, is ever a sight for a painter.  The show of melons alone makes a subject; the weather-beaten market-women, with gay-coloured head-gear, their blue gowns, the delicious colour and lovely form of the fruit, all this must be seen to be realized.  Here and there were large pumpkins, cut open to show the ripe, red pulp, with abundance of purple plums, apples and pears just ripening, and bright yellow apricots.  At Coulommiers, as elsewhere, I looked in vain for rags, dirt, or a sign of beggary.  Every one seemed rich, independent and happy.



    Another day we visited Meaux.  The diligence passed our gate early in the morning, in an hour and a half reaching the capital of the ancient Brie, bishopric of the famous Bossuet, and one of the early strongholds of the Reformation!  The neighbouring country, Pays Meldois as it is called, is one vast fruit and vegetable garden, bringing in enormous returns.  From our vantage ground—for, of course, we were in the coupé—with delight we surveyed the shifting landscape, wood, valley and plain, soon seeing the city with its imposing cathedral, flashing like marble high above the winding river and fields of green and gold on either side.  I know nothing that gives the mind an idea of fertility and wealth more than such a scene.  No wonder that the Prussians, in 1871, here levied a heavy toll, their occupation of Meaux having cost the inhabitants not less than a million and a half of francs.  All is now peace and prosperity, and here, as in the neighbouring towns, rags, want and beggary are not found.  The evident well-being of all classes is delightful to behold.

    Meaux, with its shady boulevards and pleasant public gardens, must be an agreeable place to live in, nor would intellectual resources be wanting.  We strolled into the spacious town library, open, of course, to all strangers, and could wish for no better occupation than to con the curious old books and the manuscripts that it contains.  The Bishop's Palace is the great sight of the city. Here have halted a long string of historic personages, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette when on their return from Varennes, June 24, 1791; Napoleon in 1814; Charles X in 1828; later, General Moltke in 1870, who said upon that occasion—

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

    The room occupied by the unfortunate Louis XVI and his little son, still bears the name of La Chambre du Roi.  The gardens, designed by Le Nôtre are magnificent and very quaint, as quaint and characteristic, perhaps, as any of the same period; a broad, open, sunny flower-garden below; above, terraced walks so shaded with closely-planted plane-trees that the sun can hardly penetrate them on this July day.  These green walks, where the nightingale and the oriole made music, were otherwise as quiet as the Évêché itself; but the acme of tranquillity and solitude was only to be found in the avenue of yews, called Bossuet's Walk.  Here it is said the great orator used to pace backwards and forwards when composing his famous discourses.

    If one of the most prosperous, Meaux is also one of the most liberal of French cities, and has been renowned for its charity from early times.  In the thirteenth century there were no fewer than sixty Hôtels-Dieu, as well as hospitals for lepers, in the diocese, and at the present day it is true to its ancient traditions, being abundantly supplied with hospitals.

    Half-an-hour from Meaux by railway is the pretty little town of La Ferté-sous Jouarre, picturesquely perched on the Marne, famous for its millstones, but not yet rendered unpoetic by the hum and bustle of commerce.

    Here again we are reminded of the terrible journey from Varennes.

    In a lovely little island within bowshot of the bridge stands the so-called Château de I'Île, a seventeenth-century manor house, much dilapidated at the time of my visit, and with associations quite out of keeping with its radiant surroundings.

    Here on their way to Meaux, for a few hours only rested the adust-weary and despairing travellers.  The balcony used to be shown, on which the poor little dauphin amused himself with fishing in the river below whilst his parents reposed in an adjoining room.  Portions of the building were also open to visitors, these containing Gobelin's tapestries, but already the château had been divided into three tenements.

    The twin town of Jouarre is reached by a beautiful drive of an hour.  Ah, how happy were wayfarers in France before its grand roads—so many boulevards when not rustic causeways—were rendered pestiferous by the dust and odour of the motor!

    Leaving the river, we ascend gradually, gaining at every step a richer, wider prospect; below, the bright blue Marne, winding amid green reaches; above, a ridge of wooded monticles, hamlets peeping above golden corn and luxuriant foliage.

    The love of flowers and gardens, so painfully absent in the west of France, is here conspicuous.  There are flowers everywhere, and some of the little gardens give evidence of great skill and care.  Jouarre is perched upon an airy green height and is a quiet old-world town with an enormous convent in the centre, where some scores of cloistered nuns have shut themselves up for the glory of God.  There, at the time I write of, lived these Bernardines, as much in prison as the most dangerous felons ever brought to justice; and a prison-house, indeed, the place looked, with its high walls, bars and bolts.

    Close to this relic of the Middle Ages—maybe now vanished—is to be seen one of the most curious monuments in this department, namely the famous Merovingian crypt.  During that régime, long journeys were often undertaken in order to procure marbles and other building materials for the Christian churches.  Thus only can we account for the splendid columns of jasper, porphyry, and other rare marbles of which this crypt is composed.  The capitals of white marble, in striking contrast to the deep reds, greens, and other colours of the columns, are richly carved with acanthus leaves, scrolls, and other classic patterns, without doubt the whole having originally decorated some Pagan temple.  The chapel containing the crypt is said to have been founded in the seventh century and speaks much for the enthusiasm and artistic spirit animating its builders.  There is considerable elegance in these arches, also in the sculptured tombs of different epochs, which, like the crypt, have been wonderfully preserved until the present time.  Another archæological treasure is the so-called "Pierre des Sonneurs de Jouarre," or Stone of the Jouarre Bell-ringers, a most quaint design representing two bell-ringers at their task, with a legend underneath, dating from the fourteenth century.

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

    In the Middle Ages, Jouarre possessed an important abbey, which was destroyed during the Revolution.

    This rich and important foundation, dating from the seventh century, consisting of religious houses for both sexes, at the head of which was ever a woman.  The title of Abbess of Jouarre stood for all that was puissant, aristocratic, distinguished and, alike from a worldly and sacerdotal point of view, enviable.  In his Drames Philosophiques Renan thus portrays the heroine of a hideous drama.  "Ultra liberal in her views, possessed of a penetrating intellect, saintly as her forerunners and strong in faith as they, it was a pleasure to hear her discuss the problems of the epoch.  Her beauty, heightened by the semi-conventual costume always worn in society, was an enchantment.  Having once seen her and heard her discourse, the desire of a second interview became a thirst, a want, a veritable obsession."  His abbess was the last, the communities being dispersed in 1789—a second Saint Fare or Saint Bathilde who had read Voltaire and annotated Rousseau.




"J'aime Provins ...
"Les murs déserts qu' habitent les colombes
 Et dont mes pas font trembler les débris."


AIRILY, coquettishly perched on its verdant height, still possessed of antique stateliness, and in striking contrast with the busy, trim little town below, mediaeval Provins captivates the beholder by virtue of uniqueness and poetic charm.  I can recall no place in my travels at all like this little Acropolis of Brie and Champagne, whether seen from a distance on the railway, or from the ramparts that still encircle it as in the golden time.  Provins is indeed a gem; miniature Athens of a mediaeval princedom that, although on a small scale, once boasted of great power and splendour; tiny Granada of these eastern provinces, bearing ample evidence of past literary and artistic glories.

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

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

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

    "C'était les plus belles chansons, les plus délectables et mélodieuses qui oncques fussent ouises en chansons et instruments, et il les fit écrire en la salle de Provins et en celle de Troyes."

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

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

    A poetic halo still lingers round the rude times of Troubadour and Knight.  The princelings of Brie and Champagne, who lived so jollily and regally in this capital of Provins, knew, however, how to grind down the people to the uttermost, and levied toll upon every imaginable pretext. The Jew had to pay them for his heresy, the assassin for his crime, the peasant for his produce, the artisan for his right to pursue a handicraft.

    Now good feeling, peace, and prosperity prevail in this modern town, where alike are absent signs of great wealth or great poverty.  I found myself in a region without a beggar.

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

    There are relics of antiquity to be found in the modern town also; nor have I given anything like a complete account of what is to be found in the old.  No one who takes the trouble to diverge from the beaten track in order to visit this interesting little city—Weimar of the Troubadors—will be disappointed.

    The latest poet of poetic Provins was no happy troubadour, fêted with royal welcome from château to château; instead a second and, if possible, unhappier Chatterton.  Hégésippe Moreau, 1810-1838, ended his twenty-eight years of foiled ambition, want and loneliness on the bed of a public hospital.  Left an orphan in early years, he became by turns journeyman printer, school-master, and editor of poor little newspapers.  "What wanted he?" writes one of his editors.  "Daily bread and affection.  A poet whom a little measure of happiness might have changed, became the poet of hate."

    Doubtless destiny was not all to blame, and in part, at least, his life was much as he made it.  Could he have trusted more to his genius, a sure consolation had been at hand.  In spite of many imperfections, his poems in collected form have quite recently been reprinted, whilst several lyrics are to be found in anthologies.  He loved Provins, and has musically celebrated its little river, Le Voulzie, tributary of the Seine, which "with a murmur, harmonious as its name, flows through flowery banks."

    Despair, a vindictive attitude towards existence, characterized this nineteenth-century emulator of the troubadours, but grace and tenderness were not lacking in his works, as the following little poem shows:—

(Si j'avais su!)

Had I but known, when day by day,
    Thy childish ardour urging on,
That thou wert soon to fade away,
    Books, slate, and maps aside I'd thrown.
                Had I but known!

With butterfly and bird and flower
    Bright as their little lives, thy own,
By thee, each radiant summer hour
    Mid woodland glories should have flown.
                Had I but known!

And when December, gustful, made
    Through snow-tipped boughs a dreary moan,
Mid piled-up toys thou shouldst have played,
    A fairy prince upon his throne.
                Had I but known!

Fictive, alas! thy early bloom;
    For seven short years in promise grown,
Then wert thou summoned to the tomb,
    And now I sit and sigh alone.
                Had I but known!




TROYES is rich in antiquities, but if hotels have not improved since my own visit many years ago, travellers would do well to crowd their sight-seeing into a day—or, better still, see only one thing, that wholly unforgettable.  I allude to the lovely rood-screen in the church of St. Magdalene.

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

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

"Prêtres, votre richesse est un crime flagrant,
 Vos erreurs sont-ils méchants?   Non, vos têtes sons dûres
 Frères, j'avais aussi sur moi ce tas d'ordures,
 Des perles, des onyx, des saphirs, des rubis,
 Oui, j'avais sur moi, partout, sur mes habits,
 Sur mon âme; mais j'ai vidé bien vîte
 Chez des pauvres."

    From the art-lover's point of view, Troyes, with so many other French towns, is all but inexhaustible.  I will name only one chef-d'œuvre more, which is a haunting beauty to me after long years.

    This is the famous jubé, or rood-loft, in the patchwork church of St. Madeleine; rather a curtain of delicatest lace cut out in marble, screen of transparent ivory or stalactite roof of fairy grotto!  We notice nothing else but the airy creation, work of Juan de Gualde in the sixteenth century, and one of the richest of the period.  As we gaze, the proportions of the interior seem to diminish, and we cannot help fancying that the church was built for the rood-loft, rather than the rood-loft for the church, so dwarfed is the latter by comparison.  The centre aisle is indeed bridged over by a piece of stone-carving so exquisite in design, so graceful in detail, so airy and fanciful in conception, that we are with difficulty brought to realize its size and solidity.  This unique rood-loft measures over six yards in depth, is proportionately long, and is symmetrical in every part, yet it looks as if a breath were only needed to disperse its delicate galleries, hanging arcades, and miniature vaults, gorgeous painted windows forming the background—jewels flashing through a veil of guipure.

    If Troyes deserves a very long chapter to itself, Dijon merits a volume—one indeed I have oft-times longed to write.

    Weeks and months, I may almost say, years, have been spent by me in my favourite French city, my Lieblings Ort, as Germans would say.

    Leaving Dijon, historic, artistic and economic, to Murray, Joanne and Baedeker, I will merely record a few impressions gathered in my walks, drives and picnics.  The difficulty with me in writing of this region is to know where I should begin—and leave off!

    Michelet, who described the beauty of his countrywomen as made up of little nothings, might have said the same of French scenery.  Sweeter spots do not lie under the sun than are to be found in the Côte d'Or—yet how difficult, how all but impossible to describe them!  You may look in vain for a mountain; no stupendous waterfalls magnetize travellers thither, lakes are wanting.  But subtler, rarer loveliness is to be found by those who know in what direction to search.  Behind the familiar vine-clad hills through which the incurious traveller is whirled by railway to French Switzerland, lie undreamed-of nooks—green, flowery, delicious.  Within a walk even of the hot, dusty Burgundian capital, is many a cool forest resort, haunt of the hoopoe and the oriole; blue rivers flow amid emerald holms, and everywhere you have the sun and the vine.  The chief characteristic consists in combes or narrow winding valleys, which are really as enticing as anything in Nature, all the more so here, because tourists have taken the trouble to find them out!  Excepting, indeed, the unattainable Timbuctoo, or the North Pole itself, there is no spot in the wide world where the misanthropic Englishman would be almost certain to miss his country-folks.

    What, however, would Burgundy be like without the vine?  To accustomed eyes the vine, whether growing in the plain, on rocky hill-side, or trellised as in Italy, must ever be one of the most beautiful things in the world.  The just appreciable, yet never-to-be-forgotten fragrance of its flowers in early summer, the extraordinary luxuriance of its rich green waxen-like leaves, its unrivalled fruit—alike the gold and the purple—are not more striking than the beauty of the foliage clothing slope and ridge.  Especially on September afternoons, towards sunset, is the effect of a vineyard unforgettable.  The leaves are then interpenetrated with warm golden light, and whilst the edges seem almost transparent, as if transmuted into thin plates of beaten gold, all the rest of the plant—the thousand plants between you and the sun—are deep-hued as the purpling fruit hid in the greenery.

    Where the vine ripens, skies are warm and hearts are light.  The Cote d'Or, its heights within sight of Mont Blanc, gets icy winds from the mountain in winter, but the summer makes up for everything.  No wonder that a certain nonchalance, even mental laziness, is imputed to the Burgundian character.  Nowhere in the world is there more jollity and open-heartedness; yet as the famous wine of Bourgogne is none the less rich and mellow on account of its sparkle, so the character of the people, with all its effervescing gaiety, lacks neither depth nor solidity.

    Here from my notebooks is a picture of Dijon, from its suburban heights; the season, summer; time, early morning.

    As yet day halted; pencilled in grey were the twin eminences over against its capital.  Like yet different are those nodding hamlets: Fontaine, birth- place of St. Bernard; Talant, historic also, each crowned by church, chateau, and clustering cottages; at their feet, the proud city of Charles the Bold, beyond, rising with gentle curve, the Golden Hills, vineyards famous throughout Christendom.  In the luminous eastern belt Dijon wore almost an ethereal look, as if a brisk wind might disperse that picture in cloudland, slate-coloured silhouette against a gradually clearing sky.  Lofty cathedral spire, slightly bent as if in perpetual adoration, as lofty Ducal Tower with its graceful balustrade, dome, cupola, and pinnacle, church and palace, gloomy donjon and city gates, showed above the cincture of ramparts, all faintly outlined on a neutral ground.  Who that had never beheld a sunrising could divine the transformation at hand?  Bright and beautiful became the panorama so lately outlined in silvery grey; the broad band of vineyard below was soon mantled with gold, warm amber light played upon the city walls, every cupola and spire glittered against the rosy sky.

    Far away the proud eminence of Mont Afrique, outpost of the Golden Hills, had caught the glow, and, farther still, light vapoury clouds, rolling off one by one, showed those matchless vineyards, crowning pride of Burgundy, crowning joy of the world.

    Not less radiant was the picture immediately under my eyes.

    Those twin heights on the outskirts of the capital possessed artificial as well as natural likeness.  Furthering the work of nature, architect and mason seemed to have kept up this similitude of set purpose.  The churches crowning each hill were built on the same plan, with spire surmounting square tower; above sloping green and rich foliage spread brown-roofed, white-walled hamlets.  Just now, of emerald brilliance showed the vineyards below, of richest green the walnut and acacia groves, glistening white the little group of buildings on either summit, tiny acropolis of miniature kingdoms.  The vastness and magnificence of the city beyond—its noble tower, the cathedral spire, just perceptibly curved as if in adoration, the exquisite little spire of S. Philibert, the massive towers of St. Jean and cupolas of St. Michael, but beautified these twin townlings by virtue of contrast.  The pair seemed to stand back modestly, pages of honour in attendance upon sceptred monarch.

    The "twisted tower" of St. Benigne mentioned by Ruskin was replaced by another a few years ago.




IN the inmost heart of a Burgundian valley, the Val Suzon, rises the Seine, and with a good pair of horses—better still, with relays—St. Seine-sur- l'Abbaye at the valley's close may be visited from Dijon in a day.

    Here are records of more than one summer or autumn day spent with French friends amid these enchanting scenes.

    The first stage of the way in hot weather is not encouraging, dull preface to bright pages!  For upwards of an hour we follow a monotonous suburban road.  By dusty fields, barracks, drying-grounds and market-gardens we almost on a sudden reach the head of a spreading valley; valley within valley better describe the shelving rocks, lawny terraces, and gold-green dingles unfolding to view gradually, all fresh, dewy and deserted, as if now for the first time intruded upon.  The contrast was striking and unexpected.  Now, instead of glistering white ways, parched fields, and formal alleys of plane-trees so white with dust, one might have thought a light powdering snow had fallen, our eyes rested on delicious coolness and greenery, and the ear was soothed with sounds of woodland streams and babbling springs.  Sweet and pastoral as was the landscape, it had yet elements of grandeur.  Something of the ruggedness as well as the gracious smile of an Alpine scene was here.  Far away, the rocky parapets shutting in the valley showed grandiose forms, woods of larch and pine lifted their arrowy crests against the sky, and many a mountain stream might be seen tumbling perpendicularly down shelving rock or green hillside.  And nowhere in the world could knolls be found softer, turf more dazzlingly bright, rivulets more crystal clear, richer, more umbrageous shadow.  Not a trace was now left of the flat, scorched, commonplace region just quitted.  While just before it seemed as if the plain were interminable, so travellers might fancy now that the windings of the valley would never come to an end either.  We might well wish it to wind on for ever, Nature here treating her worshippers as conjurors deal with rustics at a fair, every freshly displayed marvel surpassing the last.  At each turn the valley grew fairer and fairer, and the world seemed remoter and more forgotten.

    My first visit to the Val Suzon ended at the wayside restaurant, a picnic having been given by Dijonnais friends in my honour.  Upon the second and equally distant occasion the drive was extended to St. Seine, where, with a friend, I breakfasted by invitation at the little Spa, perhaps no longer existing.  Remote from the railway, offering no attractions in the shape of theatre, baccarat-table, or concert-room, this little Burgundian hydro had only attained local celebrity, whilst its natural charms are such as to appeal to the few rather than the many.  Hither in the long vacation came half-a-dozen families from the dusty capital in search of coolness and hay-scented air—a stray angler or two for the sake of the trout-fishing—an avowed gastronome, in order to taste the trout, and a few invalids for treatment.  The enthusiastic founder of this establishment, Dr. Guettet, three-quarters of a century ago, purchased the beautiful abbatial grounds and built premises, firmly believing that in the future the little Spa would make not only his name but his fortune.  Neither renown nor wealth came, but at the time of my visit the owner's faith remained steadfast as ever.  He should wake up one morning and find himself the creator of a second Vichy in Bourgogne!  Meantime faith, rigid economy during eight months of the year, and a scanty handful of clients from June to September, sufficed to keep things going.  Yet another class of visitors must be named.  Adjoining the establishment which, indeed, partly consisted of the ancient monastic buildings, stands one of the most beautiful abbey churches of France; in such close juxtaposition are the two, that at close of day a dreamer might fancy the olden time come back again, and the abbey flourishing as in the Middle Ages.  Many an archæologist, and not unfrequently an artist, would come to study this exquisite fragment of Gothic architecture in its prime, for it can hardly be called more, time, decay and restoration having destroyed the rest.  In the dusk of twilight, however, a delusion was possible.  The grand outline of the ancient pile rises intact and majestic against the pale heavens, no shreds and patches of clumsy restorers there harassed the eye as it lingered on the harmonious picture.  A fairer it were hard to find; solid grey masonry subdued to the most delicate tints, buttress, arch and pinnacle taking hues hardly deeper than the clear, silvery sky.  Here, as elsewhere in these regions, evenfall is often indescribably beautiful, every object remaining luminous and definite, yet without the luminosity and definiteness of day.  The scene before us seemed cut out of mother-of-pearl.

    Glowingly also could I describe many another haunt, equally sweet and equally hallowed by delightful memories—Bèze, with its ancient houses, Mont Afrique, whence on clear days we can discern Mont Blanc the chateau of Montculot, in which Lamartine penned his famous elegy, Le Lac.  To give an idea of these would fill pages past counting.  St. Jean de Losne—fully described by me elsewhere [East o Paris]—and Seurre, both on the Saône, should be visited as the traveller journeys to Besançon.  To resuscitate a good Sternian word, zigzaggery is the proper watchword for travellers in France.  On French soil we must diligently imitate our neighbours and turn askance from the clock.

    The approach to Seurre, of noble memory, is very beautiful.  Here are my impressions of an autumn visit.

    In this favoured land harvests occur several times during the year, crop succeeding crop from May till October.  Most beautiful is the aftermath of such a season, especially by the river and at eventide.  Serenely yet proudly, broad belt of blue parting two golden worlds, the Saône flows amid colza fields and meads, the vast level landscape and wide expanse of gently rippling water imparting a sense of inexpressible repose.  No gradations of colour are here, no indistinct blendings of light and shadow; all is clear, defined, harmonious, azure heavens, intenser azure below, velvety green and gold around, the general brilliance subdued as evening wears on.  Hardly a breath is stirring.  Bright and lustrous as cornelian against the sky showed red and white beeves.  As the sun sank behind a ridge of poplars, bars of solid gold seemed thrown across the lawny reaches of the river, whilst its crystal depths took a hue of mingled rose and amber.

    Economic conditions transform the French landscape oft-times not for the better.  With the golden colza crops, now superseded, the glory of Seurre has departed.  Nevertheless, lovely views of the Saône meet us at every turn.  At my hostess's house, the river flowed under our windows!

    Auxonne, another little town of the Saône valley, is not striking as seen from the handsome bridge facing you as you quit the railway, yet the dark grey roofs clustered round the tall church spire, the girdle of walls, and double enceinte of ramparts tapestried with green, make up a pretty picture.  Far away stretch the level lines of mead and colza fields, the river winding between its banks, full and blue in spring, oft-times in summer a mere thread of shallow water amid hot white sands.  When navigation is possible its quays present a busy scene; in autumn corn, fruit, and neatly-cut billets of wood being packed for Paris, the bargemen being picturesque athletes in their semi-seaman's dress.

    Auxonne is now one vast camp, and as completely fortified as any town of the Middle Ages.  It is protected by gates and a double enceinte, the ancient earthworks intervening bright with turf.  Cannon are placed at frequent intervals, soldiers swarm everywhere, and enormous barracks dwarf the town into insignificance.

    Fatalists might make much of the fact that Auxonne, a town defying every attack of the Prussians in 1870-71, should be associated with the youth of the first Napoleon.  The victor of Jena and Auerstadt spent some years of his cadetship here.  In the Saône he twice narrowly escaped drowning, and here too, as narrowly, so the story runs, marriage with a bourgeoise maiden called Manesca.  Two ivory counters, bearing this romantic name in Napoleon's handwriting, enrich the little museum.

    Appealing more strongly to the imagination is Jouffroy's fine statue of the modern Attila in the Place d'Armes.  The figure is that of the young soldier of the Revolution, familiar to the Auxonnais in 1791.  As yet obscure, perhaps as yet unconsciously ambitious, his face shows rather dreamy, pensive questioning than lust of power and glory.  He seems to peer into the future, to ask of the Fates what they have in store for him, to strive to unriddle the mystery of the unknown.  Cold, statuesque, beautiful, the features express deep pondering and gloomy sadness.  Doubtless by the Imperialists this statue was regarded as a palladium when the enemy thundered at the gates.  Be this as it may, no Prussian entered Auxonne to gaze on the monument of her awful conscript!




THE hotels at Besançon had at one time the reputation of being the worst in all France, but kind friends in the city would not let me try them.  I found myself, therefore, in the midst of all kinds of home comforts, domesticities, and distractions, with delightful cicerones in host and hostess, and charming little companions in their two children.  This is the poetry of travel; to journey from one place to another, provided with introductory letters which open hearts and doors at every stage, and make each the inauguration of a new friendship.  My exploration of the regions about to be described was a succession of picnics—host, hostess, their English guest, Swiss nurse-maid, and two little fair-haired boys, being cosily packed in an open carriage drawn by two sturdy horses; on the seat beside the driver, a huge basket, suggesting creature comforts, the neck of a wine bottle, and the spout of a tea-pot being conspicuous above the other contents.  Thus I visited the beautiful valleys of the Doubs and of the Loue, the highlands of Franche-Comté, and the country round about Besançon.  The weather—we were in the first days of September—was perfect.  The children, aged respectively eighteen months and three years and odd, proved the best little travellers in the world, always going to sleep when convenient to their elders, and at other times quietly enjoying the shifting landscape; in fact, there was nothing to mar our enjoyment of regions as romantic as any it has been my good fortune to enjoy.  The sublime, the pastoral, mountain and valley, vast panoramas and sylvan nooks, all are here, and at the time I write of, for the most part untravelled.

    Besançon—incidentally the birthplace of Victor Hugo—well merits the aureole.

    To obtain an idea of its superb position we must climb the height of Notre Dame des Buis, an hour's drive from the city.  From a steep, sharp eminence covered by boxwood and crowned by a little chapel, is obtained an excellent view of the natural and artificial defences which render the Vesontio of Cæsar's commentaries as strong a strategical position as any in France.

    But what would the Roman chronicler of the "Oppidum maximum Sequanorum" have said, could he have foreseen his citadel dwarfed into insignificance by Vauban's fortifications, and what would be Vauban's amazement could he behold the stupendous works of modern strategists?



    Beyond these proudly-cresting heights, every peak bristling with its defiant fort, stretches a vast panorama; the mountain chains of the Jura and the Vosges, the snow-capped Alps, the plains of Burgundy, all these lie under our eye, clearly defined in the transparent atmosphere of this summer afternoon.  The campanula white and blue, with abundance of deep orange potentilla and rich carmine dianthus, were growing at our feet, with numerous other wild flowers.  The pretty pink mallow, cultivated in gardens, grows everywhere.  This is indeed a paradise for botanists, but their travels should be made earlier in the year.  The excursions, walks and drives in the neighbourhood of Besançon are almost countless.  The little valley of the World's End, Le Bout du Monde, must on no account be unvisited.

    We follow the limpid waters of the winding Doubs; on one side hanging vineyards and orchards, on the other lines of poplars, above these dimpled green hills and craggy peaks are reflected in the still, transparent water.  We reach the pretty village of Beurre after a succession of landscapes, l'un plus joli que l'autre, as our French neighbours say, and come suddenly upon a tiny valley shut in by lofty rocks, aptly called the World's End of these parts.  Here the most adventuresome pedestrian must retrace his steps—no possibility of scaling these mountain-walls, from which a cascade falls so musically; no outlet from these impregnable ramparts into the pastoral country on the other side.  We must go back by the way we have come, first having penetrated to the heart of the valley by a winding path, and watched the silvery waters tumble down from the grey rocks that seem to touch the blue sky overhead.

    The great charm of these landscapes is the abundance of water to be found everywhere, and no less delightful is the sight of springs, fountains, and pumps in every village.  Besançon is noted for its handsome fountains, some of which are real works of art, but the tiniest hamlets in the neighbourhood, and, indeed, throughout the whole department of the Doubs, are as well supplied as the city itself.  We know what an aristocratic luxury good water is in many an English village, and how too often the poor have no pure drinking water within reach at all; here they have close at hand enough and to spare of the purest and best, and not only their share of that, but of the good things of the earth as well, a bit of vegetable and fruit-garden, a vineyard, and, generally speaking, a little house of their own.  Here, as a rule, everybody possesses something, and the working watchmakers have, most of them, their suburban gardens, to which they resort on Sundays and holidays.  Nothing can be more enticing than the cottages and villas nestled so cosily along the vine-clad hills that surround it on every side.  The city is, above all, rich in public walks and promenades, one of these, the Promenade Chamart—a corruption of Champ de Mars—possessing some of the finest plane-trees in Europe—a gigantic bit of forest on the verge of this city—of wonderful beauty and stateliness.  These veteran trees vary in height from thirty to thirty-five yards.  The Promenade Micaud, so called after its originator, Mayor of Besançon in 1842, winds along the riverside, and affords lovely views at every turn.  Then there are so-called "squares" in the heart of the town, where military bands play twice a week, and nursemaids and their charges spend the afternoons.  Perhaps no city of its size in all France—Besançon numbers only sixty thousand inhabitants—is better off in this respect, whilst it is so enriched by vine clad hills and mountains that the country peeps in everywhere.



    Considered from all points of view it is a very attractive place to live in, and possesses all the resources of the capital on a small scale; an excellent theatre, free art schools, and an academy of arts, literary, scientific and artistic societies, museums, picture galleries, lastly, one of the finest public libraries in France.  Archæological and historic monuments—here innumerable—I leave to the guide books.

    One excursion must on no account be missed.  The famous Osselle grottoes may be reached by railway.  We preferred the landau, the lunch basket and the tea-pot, setting off early one morning in the highest spirits.  Quitting this splendid environment of Besançon, we drove for three hours through the lovely valley of the Doubs, delighted at every bend of the road with some new feature in the landscape; then choosing a sheltered slope, unpacked our basket, lunched al fresco, with the merriest spirits, and the heartiest appetite.  Never surely did the renowned Besançon pâtés taste better, never did the wine of its warm hill-sides prove of a pleasanter flavour!  The children sported on the turf like little Loves, the air was sweet with the perfume of new-made hay, the birds sang overhead, and beyond our immediate pavilion of greenery, lay the curling blue river and green hills.  Leaving the babies to sleep under the trees, and the horse to feed at a neighbouring mill—there was no wayside inn here, so we had to beg a little hay from the miller or farmer—we follow a little lad, provided with matches and candles, to the entrance of the famous grottoes.  Outside, the sugar-loaf hill, so marvellously channelled and cased with stalactite formation, has nothing remarkable—it is a mere green height, and nothing more.  Inside, however, as strange a spectacle meets the eye as it is possible to conceive.  To see these caves in detail, you must spend an hour or two in the bowels of the earth, but we were contented with half that time, this underground promenade being a very chilly one. In some places we were ankle deep in water.  Each provided with a candle, we now follow our youthful guide, who was accompanied by a dog, familiar as himself with the windings of these sombre subterranean palaces, for palaces they might be called.  Here the stalactite roofs are lofty, there we have to bend our heads in order to pass from one vaulted chamber to another; now we have a superb column supporting an arch, now a pillar in course of formation, everywhere the strangest, most fantastic architecture, an architecture moreover that is the work of ages; one petrifying drop after another doing its apportioned work, column, arch, and roof being formed by a process so slow that the life-time of a human being hardly counts in the calculation.  There is something sublime in the contemplation of this steady persistence of Nature, this undeviating march to a goal; and as we gaze upon the embryo stages of the petrifaction, stalagmite patiently lifting itself upward, stalactite as patiently bending down to the remote but inevitable union, we might almost fancy them sentient agents in the marvellous transformation.  The stamens of a passion-flower do not more eagerly, as it seems, coil upwards to embrace the pistil; the beautiful flower of the Vallisneria spiralis more determinately seek its mate than these crystal pendants covet union with their fellows below.  Such perpetual bridals are accomplished after countless cycles of time, whilst meantime, in the sun-lit world outside, the faces of whole continents are being changed, and entire civilizations are formed and overthrown!

    The feeble light projected by our four candles in these gloomy yet majestic chambers was not so feeble as to obscure the names of hundreds of individuals scrawled here and there.  Schopenhauer is at pains philosophically to explain the foolish propensity of travellers to perpetuate their names, or as it so seems to them.  The Pyramids or Kentucky Caves do not impress their minds at all, but to see their own illustrious John Brown and Tom Smith cut upon them, does seem a very interesting and important fact!

    The bones of the cave bear and other gigantic animals have been found here; but the principal tenants of these antique vaults are now the bats, forming huge black clusters in the roof.  There is something eerie in their cries, but they are more alarmed than alarming; the lights disturbing them not a little.

    Pleasant after even this short adventure into the regions of the nether world, was the return to sunshine, green trees, the children, and the tea-pot!  After calling it into requisition, we set off homewards, reaching Besançon just as the moon made its appearance, a large silver disc above the purple hills.

    In showery days, delightful hours may be spent in the Public Library, which is also a museum.  Here are busts, portraits and relics of such noble Franc-Comtois as Cuvier, whose brain weighed more than that of any human being ever known; Victor Hugo, a name for all time; Fourier, who saw in the Phalanstery, or, Associated Home, a remedy for the crying social evils of the age, and who, in spite of many aberrations, is entitled to the gratitude of mankind for his efforts on behalf of education, and the elevation of the laborious classes; Proudhon, whose famous dictum, La propriété c'est le vol, has become the watchword of a certain school of Socialists; Charles Nodier, who, at the age of twenty-one, was the author of the first satire ever published against the first Napoleon, La Napoléons, which formulated the battle-cry of the Republican party; besides these, a noble roll-call of artists, authors, savants, soldiers, and men of science.

    Noteworthy in this treasure-house of Franc-Comtois history is the fine marble statue of Jouffroy by Pradier.  Jouffroy, of whom his native province may well be proud, disputes with Fulton the honour of first having applied steam to the purposes of navigation.  His efforts, made on the river Doubs and the Saône in 1776 and 1783, failed for the want of means to carry out his ideas in full, but the Academy of Science acknowledged his claim to the discovery in 1840.  The collection of works on art, architecture, and archæology bequeathed to the city by Pierre And en Paris, architect and designer to Louis XVI, is a very rich one, and there is also a cabinet of medals numbering ten thousand pieces.

    Besançon also boasts of several learned societies, the first of which, founded in the interests of scientific inquiry, dates from 1840.  One of the most interesting features in the ancient city is its connection with Spain, and what has been termed the golden age of Franche-Comté under the Emperor Charles the Fifth.  Franche-Comté formed a part of the dowry of Margaret, daughter of the Emperor Maximilian of Austria, and it was under her protectorate during her life-time and reverted to her nephew Charles the Fifth on his accession to the crowns of Spain, Austria, the Low Countries, and Burgundy.  His minister, Perrenot de Granvelle, born at Ornans, infused new intellectual and artistic life into the place he ruled as a prince.  His stately Italian palace, still one of the handsomest monuments of Besançon, was filled with pictures, statues, books, and precious manuscripts, and the stimulus thus given to literature and the fine arts was followed by a goodly array of artists, thinkers, and writers.  The learnèd Gilbert Cousin, secretary of Erasmus, Prevost, pupil of Raffaelle, Goudinel of Besançon, the master of Palestrina, creator of popular music, the lettered family of Chifflet, and many others, shed lustre on this splendid period; while not only Besançon but Lons-le-Saunier, Arbois, and other small towns bear evidence of Spanish influence on architecture and the arts.  In the most out-of-the-way places may be found chefs-d'œuvre dating-from the protectorate of Margaret and the Emperor; such treasure-trove makes travelling in Franche-Comte so fruitful to the art-lover in various fields.

    A mediæval writer, Francois de Belleforest, thus describes Besancon:—

    "Si par l'antiquité, continuée en grandeur, la bénédiction de Dieu se cognoit en une lieu, il n'y a ville ni cité en toutes les Gaules qui ayt plus grande occasion de remarquer la faveur de Dieu, en soy que la cité dont nous avions prise le discours.  Car, en premier lieu, elle est assise en aussi bonne et riche assiette que ville du monde; estant entourée de riches costeaux et vignobles, et de belles et hautes fôrets, ayant la rivière du Doux qui passe par le millieu, et enclost pour le plupart d'icelle, estant bien, d'ailleurs fort bien approvisionée."




LET the traveller now follow me to Ornans, Courbet's birth and favourite abiding-place, and the lovely Valley of the Loue.  This is the excursion par excellence from Besançon, and may be made in two ways, either on foot, occupying three or four days, decidedly the most advantageous for those who can do it, or by carriage in a single day, starting very early in the morning, and telegraphing for relays at Ornans the previous afternoon.  This is how we managed it, starting at five, and reaching home soon after eight at night.  The children accompanied us, and I must say, better fellow-travellers I never had than these mites of eighteen months and three and a half years.  When tired of looking at the cows, oxen, goats, horses, poultry we passed on the road, they would amuse themselves for an hour by quietly munching a roll, and, when that occupation at last came to an end, they would go to sleep, waking up just as happy as before.

    Ornans is not only extremely picturesque in itself, but interesting as the birth and favourite abiding place of the famous painter Courbet; it is also a starting-place for the Valley of the Loue, and the source of this beautiful little river, the last only to be seen in fine, dry weather, on account of the steepness and slipperiness of the road.  The climate of Franche-Comté is unfortunately very much like our own, being excessively changeable, rainy, blowy, sunny, all in a breath.  To-day's unclouded sunshine is no guarantee of fine weather to-morrow, and although, as a rule, September is the finest month of the year here, it was very variable during my stay, with alternations of rain and chilliness.  Fine days had to be waited for and seized upon with avidity, whilst the temperature is liable to great and sudden variations.

    We reach Ornans after a drive of three hours, amid hills luxuriantly draped with vines and craggy peaks clothed with verdure, here and there wide stretches of velvety pasture with cattle feeding, and haymakers turning over the autumn hay.  Everywhere we find these at work, and picturesque figures they are.

    Ornans is lovely, and no wonder that Courbet was fond of it.  Nestled in a deep valley of green rocks and vineyards, and built on the banks of the transparent Loue, its quaint spire rising from the midst, the place commends itself alike to artist, naturalist, and angler.  The old-world houses reflected in the river are marvellously paintable, and the scene, as we saw it after a heavy rain, glowed in the brightest and warmest light.

    Courbet's house is situated by the roadside, on the outskirts of the town, fronting the river and the bright green terraced hills above.  It is a low, one-storied house, embosomed in greenery, very rural, pretty, and artistic.  In the dining-room we were shown a small statue of the painter by his own hand, giving one rather the idea of a country squire or sporting farmer than a great artist, and his house—which is not shown to strangers—is full of interesting reminiscences of its owner.  In the kitchen is a splendid Renaissance chimney-piece of sculptured marble.  This treasure Courbet found in some old château near, and, artist-like, transferred it to his cottage before he helped to overthrow the Vendôme Column, and thus forfeited the good feeling of his fellow-townsmen.  After that unfortunate affair, an exquisite statue, with which he had decorated the public fountain, was thrown down, at clerical instigation.  Morteau, to be described further on, being more enlightened, rescued the dishonoured statue, and it now adorns the public fountain of that village.  It is, indeed, impossible to give any idea of the vindictive spirit with which Courbet was treated by his native village, and it must have galled him deeply.  We were allowed to wander at will over the house and straggling gardens, having friends in the present occupants, but at the time it belonged to the Courbet family, and was not otherwise to be seen.

    All this while I was listening, with no little edification, to the remarks of our young driver, who took the keenest interest in Courbet and art generally.  He told me, as an instance of the strong feeling existing against Courbet after the events of the Commune, that, upon one occasion when the painter had been drinking a toast with a friend in a cafe, he had no sooner quitted the place than a young officer sprang up and dashed the polluted glass to the ground, shattering it into a dozen pieces.  "No one shall henceforth drink out of a glass used by that man," he said, and doubtless he was only echoing the popular sentiment.

    Ornans is the birthplace of the princely Perronet de Granvelle, father of the Cardinal whose portrait by Titian adorns the picture gallery of Besançon, and whose munificent patronage of arts and letters turned that city into a little Florence during the Spanish régime.  In the church is seen the plain red marble sarcophagus of his parents, also a carved reading desk and several pictures presented to the church by his son, the Cardinal.  There is a curious old Spanish house in the town, relic of the same epoch.  Ornans is celebrated for its cherry orchards and fabrications of Kirsch, also for absinthe, and its wines.  Everywhere you see cherry orchards and artificial terraces for the vines as on the Rhine, not a ledge of hill-side being wasted.  Gruyere cheese, so called, is also made here, and there are besides several manufactures, nail-forges, wire-drawing mills, and tile-kilns.  But none of these interfere with the pastoralness of the scenery.  Lovely walks and drives abound, and the magnificence of the forest trees has been made familiar to us by the landscapes of Courbet, whose name will ever be associated with the Valley of the Loue.

    We were now on the high road from Ornans to Pontarlier, and were passing some of the wealthiest little communities in Franche-Comté, Montgesoye, Villafuans, Lods, all most picturesque to behold, and important centres of industry.  As we proceed further on the Mouthier road, the aspect changes, and we find ourselves in the winding close-shut valley, a narrow turbulent little stream of deepest green tossing over its rocky bed amid hanging vineyards and lofty cliffs.  Soon, however, the vine, oak, beech, and ash tree disappear, and we have instead sombre pine and fir only.

    Mouthier is perched on a hill-side amid grandiose mountains, and is hardly less picturesque than Ornans, though not nearly so enticing.  In fact we found it dingy when visited in detail, though charming viewed from the high road above.  Here we sat down to an excellent dinner at one end of the salle-à-manger; at the other being a long table where a number of peasant farmers, carters, and graziers—it was market day—were faring equally well: our driver was amongst them, and all were as quiet and well-behaved as possible.  The charges were very low, the food good, the wine sour as vinegar, and the people obliging in the extreme.

    After having halted to look at the beautiful old wood-carvings in the church, we continued our way, climbing the mountain road towards Pontarlier; hardly knowing which to admire most, the deep-lying valley at our feet, through which the little imprisoned river curls with a noise as of thunder, making miniature cascades at every step, or the limestone rocks of majestic shape towering above on the other side.  One of these, the so-called Roche de Hautepierre, is double the height of the Great Pyramid; the road all the time zigzagging wonderfully around the mountain sides—a stupendous piece of engineering which cost the originator his life.  Soon after passing the tunnel cut in the rock, we saw an inscription telling how this engineer, while engaged in taking his measurements, lost his footing and was precipitated into the awful ravine below.  The road itself was opened in 1845, and is mainly due to the public spirit of the inhabitants of Ornans.

    Franche-Comté is rich in mountain roads, and none are more wonderful than this.  As we crawl at a snail's pace between rocks and ravine, silvery grey masses towering against the glowing purple sky, deepest green fastnesses below that make us giddy to behold, all is still but for the sea-like roar of the little river as it pours down impetuously from its mountain home.  The heavy rain of the night before unfortunately prevented us from reaching the source, a delightful excursion in tolerably dry weather, but impracticable after a rainfall.  Between Mouthier and the source of the Loue is a bit of wild romantic scenery known as the, Combos de Nouaille, home of the Franc-Comtois elf, or fairy, called la Vouivre.  Combe means a straight, narrow valley lying between two mountains, and Charles Nodier remarks: "is very French, and perfectly intelligible in any part of the country, but has been omitted in the Dictionary of the Academy, because there is no combe at the Tuileries, the Champs Elysées or the Luxembourg!"  These close winding valleys form one of the most characteristic and picturesque features of Franc-Comtois scenery.  Leaving the more adventuresome part of this journey therefore to travellers luckier in respect of weather than ourselves, we turned our horses' heads towards Ornans, where we rested, a second time, for coffee and a little chat with friends.  As we set out for Besançon, a splendid glow of sunset lit up Courbet's home, clothing in richest gold the hills and hanging woods he portrayed with so much vigour and poetic feeling.  The glories of the sinking sun lingered long, and, when the last crimson ray faded, a full pearly moon rose in the clear heavens, lighting us on our way.

    A few days after this delightful excursion, I left Besançon amid the heartiest leave-takings, and the last recollection I brought away from the venerable town is of two little fair-haired boys, whose faces were lifted to mine for a farewell kiss in the railway station.




THE picturesque and most historic little Protestant town of Montbéliard, reached in two hours from Besançon, and in which I once spent many pleasant days with French friends, need not detain the traveller.  But here, willy nilly, he must halt in order to visit the magnificent scenery of the Doubs.

    The railway through this romantic region had not been constructed at the time of my own trip, made by carriage, myself having for companion the widow of a French officer.  The only fault of the lady was that she never could be brought to grumble.  Unpunctuality, dirt, noise, discomfort left her absolutely unmoved.  The pleasure of travel atoned for all shortcomings.

    Our little calèche and horse left much to desire, but the good qualities of our driver made up for everything.  He was a fine old man, with a face worthy of a Roman Emperor, and, having driven all over the country for thirty years, knew it well, and found friends everywhere.  Although wearing a blue cotton blouse, he was in the best sense of the word a gentleman, but we were somewhat astonished to find him seated opposite to us at our first table d'hôte breakfast.  We soon saw that he well deserved the respect shown him; quiet, polite, dignified, he was the last person in the world to abuse his privileges, never dreaming of familiarity.  The extreme politeness shown towards the working classes here by all in a superior social station doubtless accounts for the good manners we find among them.  My fellow-traveller never dreamed of accosting our good Eugène without the preliminary Monsieur, and did not feel herself at all aggrieved at having him for her vis-à-vis at meals.  Eugène, like the greater number of his fellow-countrymen, is proud and economical, and, in order not to become dependent upon his children or charity in his old age, had already with his savings bought a house and garden.

    Soon after quitting Montbéliard we began to ascend, and for the rest of the day were gradually exchanging the region of corn-fields and vineyards for that of the pine.  From Montbéliard to St. Hippolyte is a superb drive of about five hours, amid wild gorges, grandiose rocks that have taken every imaginable form—rampart, citadel, fortress, tower, all trellised and tasselled with the brightest green; and narrow mountains, valleys—delicious little emerald oases shut in by towering heights on every side.  The mingled wildness and beauty of the scenery reached their culminating point at St. Hippolyte, a pretty little town with picturesque church, superbly situated at the foot of three mountain gorges and the confluence of the Doubs with the Dessoubre, the latter river turning off in the direction of Fuans.  Here we halt for breakfast, and in two hours' time are again ascending, looking down from a tremendous height at the town, incomparably situated in the very heart of these solitary passes and ravines.  Our road is a wonderful bit of achievement, curling as it does around what below appear unapproachable precipices.  This famous road was constructed with many others in Louis Philippe's time, and must have done great things for the progress of the country.  Excepting an isolated little château here and there, and an occasional diligence and band of cantonniers, all is solitary, and the solitariness and grandeur increase as we leave the region of rocks and ravines to enter the pine forests—still getting higher and higher.  From St. Hippolyte to our next halting-place, Maîche, the road only quits one pine-wood to enter another, our way now being perfectly solitary, no herdsman's hut in sight, no sound of bird or animal, nothing to break the silence.  Some of these trees are of enormous height—their sombre foliage at this season of the year being relieved by an abundance of light brown cones, so many gigantic Christmas trees hung with golden gifts.  Glorious as is the scenery we had lately passed, hoary rocks clothed with richest green, verdant slopes, valleys, and mountain sides all glowing in the sunshine—the majestic gloom and isolation of these fastnesses appeal more to the imagination.  Next to the sea, the pine-forest, to my thinking, is the sublimest of nature's handiworks.  Nothing can lessen, nothing can enlarge such grandeur as we have here.  Sea and pine-forest are the same, alike in thunder-cloud or under a serene sky—summer and winter, lightning and rain—we can hardly add by a hairbreadth to the impression they produce.

    Maîche might conveniently be made a summer resort, and I can fancy nothing healthier and pleasanter than such a sojourn around these fragrant pines.  The hotel, too, pleased us greatly, and the landlady, like most of the people we have to do with in these parts, was all kindness, obligingness, and good-nature.  In large cities and cosmopolitan hotels, a traveller is Number one, two, or three, as the case may be, and nothing more.  Here, host and hostess interest themselves in all their visitors, and regard them as human beings.  The charges moreover were so trifling that, in undertaking a journey of this kind, hotel expenses need hardly count at all—the real cost was the carriage.

    From Maîche to Le Russey, our halting-place for the night, is a distance of three hours only, during which we are still surrounded by pines.  Le Russey possesses no attractions, except a quaint and highly artistic monument to the memory of one of her children, a certain Jesuit missionary, whose imposing statue, cross in hand, is conspicuously placed above the public fountain.  Such monuments lend character to provincial towns, and keep up a spirit of patriotism and emulation among the people.

    Next morning we were off at eight o'clock; our road, now level for the most part, leading us through very different scenery from that of the day before, monotonous open country, mostly pasturage, with lines of pine and fir against the horizon, in many places rocky wastes hardly affording scant herbage for the cattle.  Much of this scenery reminded me of the Fell district or North Wales, but by degrees we entered upon a far more interesting region.  We were now close to Switzerland, and the landscape already wore a Swiss look.  There is nothing prettier in a quiet way than this borderland, reached after a long stretch of dreary plain; here we have grace without severity, beauty without gloom, pastoral hills and dales alive with the tinkling of cattle-bells, and pleasingly diversified with villages scattered here and there; a church spire rising above the broad-roofed, white-washed châlets on every side, undulating green pastures, in some places shut in by pine-clad ridges, in others by smiling green hills.  We see patches of corn still too green to cut, also of beet-root, maize, hemp, and potatoes; the chief produce of these parts is of course that of the dairy, the "mountain butter" being famous in these parts.  Throughout our journey we had never lost sight of the service-berry trees; the road from Maîche to Morteau is indeed planted with them, and nothing can be handsomer than the clusters of bright red, coral-like, berries we have on every side.  The hedges show also the crimson-tasselled fruit of the barberry, no less ornamental than the service-berry.

    The greatest possible care is taken of these wayside plantations, the road destined to present the appearance of a boulevard.  At La Chenalotte, a hamlet half-way between Le Russey and Morteau, enterprising pedestrians may alight and take a two hours' walk by a mountain path to the Falls of the Doubs; but as the roads were very heavy on account of the late rains, we preferred to drive on to the little hamlet of Les Pargots, beyond Morteau, and from thence reach the falls by means of a boat, traversing the lake of Les Brenets and the basin of the Doubs.  The little Swiss village of Les Brenets is coquettishly perched on a green hill commanding the lake, and we are now indeed on Swiss ground, being within a few miles only of Chaux de Fonds, and a short railway journey of Neufchatel and Pontarlier.

    We trust ourselves to the care of an experienced boatwoman, and are soon in a fairy-like scene, a long sheet of limpid water surrounded by verdant ridges, amid which peep chalets here and there, and velvety pastures slope down to the water's edge; all is here tenderness, loveliness, and peace.  As we glide from the lake to the basins, the scenery takes a severer character, and there is sublimity in these gigantic walls of rock rising sheer from the silvery lake like sheets of water, each successive one seeming to us more beautiful and romantic than the last.  Perfect solitude reigns here, for so precipitous and steep are these fortress-like rocks that there is no coign of vantage, even for the mountain goat, not the tiniest path from summit to base, no single break in the shelving masses, some of which take the weirdest forms.  Seen as we first saw them with a brilliant blue sky overhead, no shadow on the gold green verdure, these exquisite little lakes—twin pearls on a string—afford the daintiest, most delightful spectacle; but a leaden sky and a driving wind could turn this scene of enchantment into gloom and monotony, as we found on our way back.

    The serene beauty of the lake, and the imposing aspect of the rock-shut basins give an ascending scale of beauty, and the climax is reached when, having glided in and out from first to last, we alight, climb a mountain path, and behold far below at our feet, amid a deafening roar, the majestic Falls of the Doubs.

    Such things are indescribable; but to come from the sublime to the ludicrous, I must mention the failing of our conductress.  The good woman who acted as guide to the Falls could not hold her tongue for a single moment, and her loud inharmonious tittle-tattle put us in ill-humour for the rest of the day.  When you make a long journey to see such a phenomenon as this, you should see it alone, or, at least, in perfect quiet.  We had come opportunely for the Falls, however, the enormous quantity of rain fallen within the last few weeks having greatly augmented their volume.  It was as if no river, but a sea were leaping from its prison, rejoiced to leave its rocky home and follow its own wild way.  The profound impression created by such a scene as this, to my thinking, lies chiefly in the striking contrast we have here before us—a vast eddy of snow-white foam, the very symbol of impetuous movement, also of lightness, sparkling whiteness, with a background of pitchy black rock, still, immovable, changeless, as the heavens above.

    As we stood thus peering down into the silvery whirlpool, and its sombre environment, we were bedewed with a light spray sent upward by the frothing waters.  Our terrible female Charon gabbled on, and in order to be rid of her we descended.  There is a restaurant on the French, also on the Swiss side of the basin we had just crossed, and we chose the latter, not with particular success.  Very little we got either to eat or drink, and a very long while we had to wait for it, but at last we had dined, and again embarked to cross the basin and lake.  In the meantime the weather had entirely changed, and, instead of a glowing blue sky and bright sun, we had hovering clouds and high winds, making our boatwoman's task difficult in the extreme.  However, she continued to clear one little promontory after another, and, when once out of the closely confined basins on to the more open lake, all was as easy as possible.

    We found the Hôtel Gimbard at Morteau a vast improvement upon that of Le Russey, and woke up refreshed next morning after having well supped and well slept, to find, alas! thunder, lightning, and torrents of rain the order of the day.  Our programme had been to turn off at Morteau in the direction of Fuans and the picturesque banks of the Dessoubre, reaching St. Hippolyte at night, but with great reluctance we were now obliged to give up this round.  From Morteau to St. Hippolyte is a day's journey, only to be made by starting at eight in the morning, and there are not even decent wayside inns.  So we patiently waited till the storm was over, and as by that time it was past mid-day, there was nothing to do but drive leisurely back to Maîche.  More fortunate travellers than ourselves, in the matter of weather, however, are particularly recommended the other route.  Maîche is a good specimen of the large, flourishing villages, or bourgs, found in these parts.  All is life, bustle, and animation, and order and comparative cleanliness prevail.  Some of the cottage gardens are quite charming, and handsome modern homes in large numbers denote the existence of rich bourgeois families, as is also the case in the villages near Montbéliard.  The commune of Maîche has large revenues, especially in forest lands, and we can thus account for the really magnificent presbytère, the residence of the curé, also the imposing Hôtel-de-Ville, and new costly decoration of the church.  There is evidently money for everything, and the curé must be a happy person, contrasting his position favourably with that of his fellow-curés in the Protestant villages around Montbéliard.  The down-hill drive from our airy eminence amid the pine-forests was even more striking than our ascent two days before; and we naturally got over the ground in less than half the time.  The hotels here are adapted rather to the wants of the commis-voyageur than of the tourist.  Yet there was a friendliness, a bonhomie, and disinterestedness about the hotel-keepers, which would soon disappear were Franche-Comté turned into a little Switzerland.  At the table-d'hôte dinner, the master of the house always presides and looks after the guests; waiters there are none; sometimes the plates are changed by the landlady, who also superintends the kitchen, sometimes by the landlord, sometimes by a guest, and shortcomings are always made up for by general geniality.  Everyone knows everyone, and the dinner is a meeting of old friends.

    When we leave Pont de Roïde, we once more enter the region of Protestantism, every village possessing a Protestant as well as a Catholic Church.  The drive to Blamont is charming—a bit of Devonshire, with green lanes, dells, and glades, curling streams and smooth pastures.  Blamont itself is situated, crossing a verdant mountain romantically side, its twin spires, Protestant and Catholic, rising conspicuously above the scattered villages; beyond these, the low mountain range of Blamont.

    We have been all this time, be it remembered, geographically speaking, in the Jura, though departmentally in the Doubs, the succession of rocks and mountains passed through forming part of the Jura range which vanishes in the green slopes of Blamont.

    The next village, Glare, is hardly less picturesque, and indeed all this neighbourhood would afford charming excursions for the pedestrian.  The rest of our drive lay through an open, fairly-cultivated plain, with little manufacturing colonies thickly scattered among the rural population, in many cases tall black chimneys spoiling the pastoralness of the scene.




THE leisurely traveller will do well to retrace his steps from Montbéliard and zigzag to Lyons, by way of Lons-le-Saunier and the Jura.  So far back as 1880 I wrote, "Travelling in the Jura will doubtless one day become the fashion," i. e. to English tourists.  This forecast apparently has not been realized.  Whilst every literary season brings its foison of works upon France, volume after volume, often beautifully illustrated, dealing with Brittany, Touraine, Provence and other much-betravelled regions, the Jura remains virginal, a veritable terra incognita to the Anglo-Saxon travelling world.

    My own journeys hereabouts were not made tourist-wise and straight ahead; instead, the little trips were vacation sojourns paid to French friends.  I will now record a few impressions gathered in opposite directions between Victor Hugo's sombre city and Lyons.

    Salins must not be passed by.  This little Spa, perhaps the most cosmopolitan and most progressive health resort of the Jura, is superbly situated—a veritable fairy princess guarded by monster dragons!  Four tremendous mountain peaks protect it on every side, towering above the little town with imposing aspect; and it is no less strongly defended by art, each of these mountain tops being crested with fortifications.  Salins bears indeed a formidable front to the enemy, and no wonder the Prussians could not take it.  Strategically, of course, its position is most important, as a glance at the map will show.  It is in itself a wonderful place from its assiette, as the French say; and wherever you go you find wild natural beauty, while the brisk Mountain air is delightful to breathe, and the transparent atmosphere lends an extra glow to every feature of the scene.

    The Salins waters are said to be much more efficacious than those of Kreuznach, which they much resemble; and the nature of the soil is shown by its deep crimson hue.  If the tonic qualities of these mountain springs are invaluable, it must be admitted that they are done ample justice to, for never surely were so many public fountains to be found in a town of the same size.  A charming monograph might be devoted to the public fountains of Franche-Comté, and those of Salins are especially meritorious as works of art.  How many there are, I cannot say, but at least half-a-dozen are interesting as monuments, notably the charming life-size bronze figure of a Vintager, by the gifted Salinois sculptor, Max Claudel, ornamenting one, the fine torso surmounting another, and of which the history is mysterious, the group of swans adorning a third, and so on; at every turn the stranger coming upon some street ornament of this kind, whilst the perpetual sound of running water is delightful to the ear.  I shall never recall the Jura without this cool, pleasant, dripping noise, as much a part of it as its brisk air and dazzling blue sky.

    There is a good deal to see at Salins; the salines, or salt-works, the old church of St. Anatole with its humorous wood-carvings, the exquisite Bruges tapestries in the museum, the ancient gateways of the city, the quaint Renaissance statue of St. Maurice in the church of that name—wooden figure of a soldier-peasant on horseback—and lastly the forts and the superb panoramas to be obtained from them.

    The most beautiful excursion perhaps is to the little town of Nans-sous-Ste.-Anne and the source of the River Lison, a two hours' drive amid scenery of alternating loveliness and grandeur—vines seen everywhere as we climb upwards, our road curling round the mountain sides, as a ribbon twisted round a sugar-loaf; having wound in and out jagged peaks covered with light foliage and abrupt slopes clad with vines, we come to the sombre pine, passing from one forest to another, the air blowing upon us with sudden keenness.  No sooner do we emerge from these gloomy precincts than we reach the pretty little village of Nans, glowing in a warm sunlit valley, and most enticing to us after the sombreness and chilliness of the mountain tops.

    Although anything but a gourmand myself, I will mention for the benefit of those who really care for good things, that we found a wonderful dinner awaiting us in the homely little auberge at which we alighted—hare, salmon, trout, prawns, and all kinds of local confectionery, were here supplied at the modest price of two francs and a half, the cook of the establishment being the landlady herself, and the entire staff consisting of two old women.  One of these was drafted off to guide me to the source, and off we set on our walk, at once leaving the warm open valley for gloomy fastnesses.  On and on we went, the mountain closing upon us and shutting out more and more of the warm blue heavens, till we came to a stand.  From these ramparts, here forbidding further progress, the River Lison has its source; above they show a silvery grey surface against the emerald of the valleys and the sapphire of the sky, but below, the huge clefts, from which we are soon to see the river issue forth exultingly, being black as night.

    A few steps onward and we were in sight of the source, no words conveying its imposingness and sense of contrast—the pitchy, ebon cavern from which flashes the river of silvery whiteness, tumbling in a dozen cascades down glistening black rocks, across pebbly beds, and along gold-green pastures.  We explored the recesses of this strange rock-bed; the little River Lison—springing from its dark, cavernous home, leaping forth with wild exultation into the light, pursuing its way under all kinds of difficulties, growing broader and broader as it goes, till a wide, sunlit river, it flows onward and onward, finally reaching the sea—reminded me, as I gazed, of a lovely thought emerging from the thinker's brain, which, after obstacles and hindrances innumerable, at last, refreshing all as it goes, reaches the open light of universal truth!

    Behind the source, and ascended by a winding path cut in the rocks, is a lofty chasm, from the summit of which another mountain stream falls with beautiful effect; and no less impressive and curious are the so-called Grottes des Sarrazins, a little further off, huge antres shutting in a little lake, and where the river rushes with a sound of thunder.

    On the steep mountain path, leading to the chasm just mentioned, I found hellebore growing in abundance, also the winter-cherry, its vermilion-hued capsules glowing through the green.  The brilliant red berry of the whitebeam-tree also lends colour to the wayside hedge, as well as the deep rose-coloured fruit of the barberry.  Flowers also grow in abundance; and in the town their cultivation seems a passion.  Some gardens contain sunflowers, or little else, others are full of zinnias, flowering mallow trees, and balsams.  There is no gardening aimed at, in our sense of the word, but simply abundance of colour; the flowers are planted anyhow and grow anyhow, the result being ornamental in the extreme.

    There is a pottery, or faïencerie, of two hundred years standing at Nans, and some of the wares are very pretty and artistic.  The chief characteristics of the Nans ware, or cailloutage, is its creamy, highly-glazed surface, on which are painted, by hand, flowers, birds, and arabesques in brilliant colours, and in more or less elaborate styles.  Attempts are also made to imitate the well-known Strasburg ware, of which great quantities are found in these parts, chiefly at sales in old houses.  The Strasburg ware is known by its red flowers—chiefly roses and tulips—on a creamy ground, also elaborate arabesques in deep purple.  If we take up a specimen, we find the ornamentation done at random, and, in fact, the artist was compelled to this method of working in order to conceal the imperfections of the porcelain.  The Nans ware—very like the faïencerie of Salins—commends itself alike for form and design, and the working potters employed there will be found full of information, which they are very ready to impart.

    It is impossible to exaggerate the beauty of Salins, and its stately environment of rock and vine-clad peak, especially seen on such a September day as I describe, when the sky is of warmest blue, and the air so transparent, fresh, and exhilarating that merely to breathe is a pleasure.  Nor are the people less striking than their mountain home.  Dark hair, rich complexions, regular features, an animated expression, are the portion of most, especially of the women, whilst all wear a look of cheerfulness and health.  No rags, no poverty, no squalor; and the abundance of natural resources brings the good things of life within reach of all.

    My next stage was Arbois, a little town travellers should see on account of its charming situation in the winding valley, or Cluse, of the Cuisance, where also I found good friends.  Nothing can be prettier, or give a greater idea of prosperity, than these rich vineyards sloping on all sides, the grapes purpling in spite of much bad weather; orchards with their ripening fruit; fields of maize, the seed now bursting the pod, and of buckwheat now in full flower, the delicate pink and white blossom of which is so poetically called by Michelet "la neige d'été."  No severity, no grandeur here, all is verdure, dimples, smiles; abundance of rich foliage and pasture, abundance also of clear limpid water, taking every form, springs, cascades, rivulets; the little river Cuisance winding in and out amid vineyards and pastures over its rocky bed.  You must follow this charming babbling river along the narrow valley to its twin sources in tangled glen and rock; the road winding between woods, vineyards, and fantastic crags.  The narrow valley is paradisiacal, a bit of Eden made up of smooth pastures, rippling water, hanging woods, and golden glens, all on this bright afternoon sparkling amid dew and sunshine.  At one of these river sources you see the tufa in course of formation in the river bed; in the other, the reverse process takes place, the tufa there being dissolved.  Both sites are extremely lovely.

    The half-Spanish little town of Lons-le-Saunier, fully described by me elsewhere, lies amid romantic scenery.  Numerous walks and drives are to be made from what is now a Spa of local importance.  Here I have more than once spent weeks with very dear friends.



    But the principal excursion is that to the wonderful rock-shut valley and old Abbey of Baume, Baume-les-Messieurs, as it is called, to distinguish it from Baume-les-Dames, is Dames, near Besançon.  This is reached by a delightful drive of an hour and a half, or on foot by good pedestrians, and is on no account to be omitted.  We, of course, take the former course, having two little fellow-travellers, aged respectively four and two-and-a-half years old, who, perched on our knees, are as much delighted as ourselves with the beauty of everything.  We soon reach the top of the valley, a deep, narrow, rock-enclosed valley or gorge, and, leaving our carriage, prepare to descend on foot.  At first sight, the path along the almost perpendicular side of these steep, lofty rocks appears perilous, not to say impracticable, but it is neither one nor the other.  This mountain staircase, called the Echelles de Baume, may be descended in all security by sure-footed people not given to giddiness; our driver, leaving his quiet horse for a time, shoulders one child, my companion shoulders another, I followed with the basket, and in twenty minutes we were safely landed at the base of the cliffs we had just quitted, not yet quite knowing how we had got there!  These rocky walls, shutting in the valley so closely that seldom any ray of sunshine can penetrate, are very lofty, and encircle it from end to end with majestic effect.  It is, indeed, a winding islet of green, threaded by a silvery stream, and rendered impregnable by fortress-like rocks.  We rest on the turf for a while, whilst the children munch their cakes, admiring the noise of the mill opposite to us, and the dazzling waters of the source, pouring little cascades from the dark mountain side into the valley.  The grottoes and stalactite caverns are curious alike within and without, and in their inmost recesses is a small lake, the depth of which has never yet been sounded.  Both lake and stalactite caves, however, can only be seen at certain seasons of the year, and then with difficulty.

    The tiny river issuing from the cleft is called the Seille, and very lovely is the deep, narrow valley of emerald green through which it murmurs so musically.  By little and little the mountain gorge opens as we proceed, showing rich pastures where little herdsmen and herdswomen are keeping their cows; goats, black and white, browse on the steep rocks as securely as flies on a ceiling, and abundance of trees grow by the road-side.  The valley winds for half-a-mile to the straggling village of Baume, and there the stupendous fortifications of cliff and rock come to an end.  Nothing finer in the way of scenery is to be found throughout the Jura than this, and it is quite peculiar, being unlike any other mountain conformation I have ever seen, whilst the narrow winding valley of soft gold-green is in beautiful contrast with the rugged grandeur, not to say savageness, of its environment.

    The buildings of this once important Abbey of Baume are now turned into a farmhouse, but enough remains to bespeak the former magnificence of the aristocratic monastery, to which none could be admitted without furnishing proof of pure degree of nobility on both the paternal and maternal sides.  Adjoining the abbey is the church, which possesses at least one chef-d'œuvre.

    This altar-piece in wood, belonging to the fifteenth century, is in the form of a triptych, the wings being enriched within and without by paintings in excellent preservation.  The interior is divided into six compartments, in which are represented the various scenes of the life and passion of Christ.  The various figures are finely sculptured, and covered with gold.  Other paintings by the same artist decorate the walls of the church.



    One tomb, that of an abbé of Baume, is very beautiful, being ornamented with seven small statuettes of weeping monks, who occupy little Gothic niches.  The expression and attitude of these figures are touching in the extreme.  All these monuments are highly interesting, and worthy of being studied in detail.  The church is disfigured by not a few modern vulgarities.

    Our way home lay through the picturesque valley of the Seille, and past many sites celebrated for their wines or antiquities.  Vines, maize, buckwheat, potatoes, and hay covered the hill-side and the plain, whilst poplar- and fruit-trees gave abundant shadow.  We pass Voiteur, with its, ruins; Château Chalon, ancient Celtic oppidum, renowned for its wines, like Tokay, "vèritable Madère sec Français, généreux," the Château du Pin, massive donjon perched on a hill, and still habitable, where Henry IV sojourned, and other picturesque and interesting sites, reaching home before dusk.  In fine weather the inhabitants of Lons-le-Saumer frequently make picnic parties to Baume, breakfasting in the valley, but, alas! fine picnic weather is sometimes as rare in Franché-Comte as in England, and autumn always sets in early; by September, fires are grateful and warm clothes necessary.



THROUGH THE JURA (continued)

GIVE me a diligence of the old-world style rather than the most perfect motor-car ever to be invented.  It is owing to the diligence that I learned France by heart.

    On quitting Lons-le-Saunier for Champagnole, our way led through rich tracts of vineyard; but no sooner were we fairly among the mountains than the vine disappeared altogether, and scant culture and pastures took its place.  We soon perceive the peculiar characteristics of the Jura range, which so essentially distinguish it from the Alps.  These mountains do not take abrupt shapes of cones and sugar-loaves, but stretch out in vast sweeps with broad summits and lateral ridges, features readily seized, and lending to the landscape its most salient characteristics.  Not only are we entering the region of lofty mountains and deep valleys, but of numerous industrial centres, also the land of mediæval warfare and legend, whence arose the popular saying:

"Comtois, rends-toi,
 Nenni, ma foi."

    Our journey, of four hours, takes us through a succession of grandiose and charming prospects, and lonely little villages, at which we pick up letters, and drop numbers of Le Petit Journal, probably all the literature they get.  Gorge, crag, lake and ravine, valley, river, and cascade, pine forests crowning sombre ridges, broad hill-sides alive with the tinkling of cattle bells, pastoral scenes separating frowning peaks, all these we have to rejoice the eye, and much more.  The beautiful Lake of Challin, we only see in the distance, though most enticingly inviting nearer inspection, and all this valley of the Ain might, indeed, detain the tourist several days.  The river has its source near Champagnole, and flows through a broad, beautiful valley southward; maps avail little, the only way to understand local topography is to climb a height.  At Champagnole, in the musical words of Ruskin, is heard "the first utterance of those mighty mountain symphonies soon to be heard more loudly lifted and wildly broken along the battlements of the Alps."  Little is to be seen but sawmills in the town itself, the click, click of these being heard at every turn.  But a variety of delightful walks and drives are within reach.

    I thought nothing could be more solemnly beautiful than my first walk on the road to Les Planches, black pines pricking against the purple heavens, golden warmth playing with ferns and tree-stems below, before us vistas of a deep gorge and violet mountain chain, on either side the solemn serried lines of the forest.  The good pedestrian should follow this road to the village, as splendid a walk as any in the Jura.  No less charming, though in a different way, is the winding walk by the river.  The Ain here rushes past with a torrent like thunder, and rolls and tosses over a stony bed, having on either side green slopes and shady ways.  Those travellers, like myself, who are contented with a bit of modest mountaineering, will delight in the three hours' climb of Mount Rivol, a broad pyramidal mountain, over 2,000 feet above the town.  A very beautiful walk is this for fairly good walkers, and though the sun is often intense, the air is sharp and penetrating.  On our way, we found plenty of ripe mulberries with which to refresh ourselves, and abundance of the blue-fringed gentian and purple cyclamen to delight our eyes.

    So steep are these mountain sides, that it is like scaling a wall, but after an hour and a half we were rewarded by finding ourselves on the top; a broad plateau covering many acres richly cultivated, with farm-buildings in the centre.  Here is beheld one of those magnificent panoramas so plentiful in the Jura, and which must be seen to be realized.  On one side we see the verdant valley of the Ain, the river flowing gently through green fields and softly dimpled hills; on another, Andelot with its bridge and the lofty rocks bristling round Salins; on the third, the road leading to Pontarlier amid pine forest and limestone crags; above this, a sight more majestic still, the vast parallel ranges of the Jura, of deepest purple, crested in the far-away distance by a silvery peak the name of which takes our very breath away.  We are gazing on Mont Blanc!  We would fain have lingered long before this glorious picture, but the air was too cold to admit of a halt after our walk in the blazing sun.  The great drawback to travelling in the Jura, indeed, is this fickleness of climate.  As a rule, even early in the autumn, you are obliged to make several toilettes a day, putting on winter clothes when you get up, and towards mid-day exchanging them for the lightest summer attire till sunset, when again you need warm wraps.  Winter sets in very early, and there is no spring, properly speaking; five months of fine warm weather have to be set against seven of frost and snow; yet in spite of the bitterness and long duration of these winters, little or no provision seems to be made against the cold.  There are no carpets, curtains, and generally no fire-places in the bedrooms; all is cold and bare as in Egypt, and many are approached from without.  The people must enjoy a wonderful vigour of health and robustness of constitution, or they could not endure such hardships.  Snow often lies twelve feet on the roads, when journeys are sledged, as in Russia.  During the terrible winter of 1870-71, famished wolves found their way to the very doors of the villages.

    Alas! my second visit to Champagnole, after eight years' absence, was destined to be my last.  Again and again the faithful friends of thirty years' standing press invitations upon me, and fain would I embrace the children of those who were children when I first visited these scenes.  But travel in the Jura is for hardy pedestrians, at least for the middle-aged.

    On the occasion of this first sojourn I took my favourite diligence to Morez, but the coupé, or open seat behind the driver, was over full, and the heat intense.  It was harrowing to think that during those five hours we were amid most romantic scenery, yet all we could do, by occasionally stretching out our necks, was to get a glance at the lovely lakes, pine-topped heights, deep gorges, gigantic cliffs towering to the sky, adorable little cascades springing from silvery mountain sides, gold-green table-lands lying between hoary peaks; everything delightful was there, could we but have seen.  We had been climbing ever since we quitted Champagnole, and at one point marked by a stone, were 3,000 feet above the sea-level.  The little villages perched on the mountain-tops that we passed, are all seats of industry; clock manufactories, fromageries, or cheese-farms on a large scale, and so on.

    The population indeed depends, not upon agriculture, but upon industries for support, and many of the wares fabricated in these isolated Jura villages find their way all over the world.  From St. Laurent, where we stopped to change horses, the traveller who is indifferent to cramps, bruises and contortions, may take the shorter and straighter road to St. Claude, following the more picturesque route by way of the wonderful little lake of Grandvaux, shut in by mountains, and peopled with fish of all kinds, water-hens, and other wild birds.  We were now in the wildest and most grandiose region of the Jura, and whichever road we take is sure to lead through fine scenery.  But much as I had heard of the savage beauty of Grandvaux, exchange of diligences and a longer route was not to be thought of, so I went straight on to Morez, after the tremendous ascent I have just described, our road curving quickly downwards, and coming all at once on the long, straggling little town, framed in by lofty mountains on every side.

    The position of Morez is heavenly beautiful, but the town itself hideous.  Nature having put the finishing touch to her choice handiwork, man has come in to mar and spoil the whole.  The mountains, clothed with brightest green, rise grandly towards the sky, but all along the narrow gorge of the Bienne, in which Morez lies, stand closely compacted masses of many-storeyed manufactories and congeries of dark, unattractive houses.  There is hardly a garden, a châlet, or villa to redeem! the prevailing, crushing ugliness; yet, for all that, if you can once get over the profound sadness induced by this strange contrast, nothing can be more delightful and exhilarating than the mountain environment of this little seat of industry.  Morez, indeed, is a black diamond set in richest gold.

    All day long the solemn silence of these mountains is broken by the noise of mill-wheels and rushing waters, and if it is the manufactories that feed the people, it is the rivers that feed the manufactories.  The Jura, indeed, may be said to depend on its running streams and rivers for its wealth, each and all a Pactolus in its way, flowing over sands of gold.  Nowhere has water power been turned to better account than at Morez, here turning a wheel, there flowing into the channels prepared for it, on every side dispensing riches and civilization.

    Refreshing it is to get beyond reach of these never-resting mill-wheels, and follow mountain torrent and rushing stream to their home, where they are at liberty and untamed.  Innumerable delicious haunts are to be found in the neighbourhood of Morez, also splendid panoramas of the Jura and Switzerland from the mountain-tops.  There is nothing to be called agriculture, for in our gradual ascent we left behind us vine, corn, maize, walnuts and other fruit-trees, reaching the zone of gentian, box-tree, larch, and pine.  These apparently arid limestone slopes and summits have velvety patches here and there, and such scattered pastures are a source of almost incredible wealth.  The famous Jura cheese, Gruyere so called, is made in the isolated châlets perched on the crest of a ravine or nestled in the heart of a valley, which for the seven winter months are abandoned, and throughout the other five swarm like bee-hives with industrious cheese-makers.  As soon as the snow melts, the peasants return to the mountains, but in winter all is silent, solitary, and enveloped in an impenetrable veil of snow.  The high roads are then imperceptible, and the village sacristan rings the church bells in order to guide the belated traveller to his home.

    My friend here, the school-master's wife, found me agreeable travelling companions for the three hours' drive to St. Claude, which we made in a private carriage, in order the better to see the country.  Very nice people they were, and much useful information they gave me about things and people in their native province.  The weather was perfect, with a warm south wind, a bright blue sky, and feathery clouds subduing the dazzling heavens.  We get a good notion of the Jura in its sterner and more arid aspect during this zigzag drive, first mounting, then descending.  Far away, the brown, bare mountain ridges rise against the clear heavens, whilst just below we see steep wooded crags dipping into a gorge where the little river Bienne curls on its impetuous way.  There are no less than three parallel roads at different levels from Morez to St. Claude, and curious it was from our airy height—we had chosen the highest—to survey the others, the one cut along the mountain flank midway, the other winding deep down close to the river side.  These splendid roads are kept in order by the Communes, which are often rich, in this Department, possessing large tracts of forest.

    After climbing for an hour we suddenly begin to descend, our road sweeping round the mountain sides with tremendous curves for about two hours or more, when all on a sudden we seemed to swoop down upon St. Claude, the little bishopric in the heart of the mountains.  The effect was magical.  We appeared to have been plunged from the top of the world to the bottom!  In fact, you go up and down such tremendous heights here that I should think it must be much like a journey by balloon or airship.

    The bishopric in the mountains has been so glowingly described by different writers that no other town of the Jura is approached with equal expectation.  Nor can any preconceived notion of St. Claude, however high, be disappointed if visited in fine weather.  It is really a marvellous place, and takes the strangest hold on the imagination.  The antique city, so superbly encased with lofty mountains, is as proud as it is singular, depending on its own resources, and not wearing a smile to attract the stranger.  Were a magician to sweep away these humming wheels, hammering mill-stones, gloomy warehouses, and put smiling pleasure-grounds and coquettish villas in their place, St. Claude might become as fashionable a resort as the most favourite Swiss or Italian haunt.  But in its present condition it does not lay itself out to please, and the town is built in the only way building was possible, up and down, on the edge of the cliffs here, in the depths of a hollow there, zigzag, just anyhow.  High mountains hem it round, and two rivers run in their deep beds alongside the irregular streets, a superb suspension bridge spanning the valley of the Tacon, a depth of fifty yards.  Higher up, a handsome viaduct spans the valley of La Bienne, on either side of these two stretch clusters of houses, some sloping one way, some another, with picturesque effect.  To find your bearings in these labyrinthine streets, alleys, and terraces is no easy matter, whilst at every turn you come upon the sound of wheels, betokening some manufactory of the well-known, widely imported St. Claude ware, consisting chiefly of turnery, carved and inlaid toys, and fancy articles in wood, bone, ivory, and stag's horn.  Small hanging gardens are seen wherever a bit of soil is to be had, whilst the town also possesses a fine avenue of old trees turned into a public promenade.  St. Claude is really wonderful, and the more you see of it the more you are fascinated.  Though far from possessing the variety of artistic fountains of Salins, several here are very pretty and ornamental, notably one surrounded with the most captivating little Loves in bronze, riding dolphins.  The sight and sound of rippling water are delicious; rivers and fountains, fountains and rivers, everywhere; whilst the summer-like heat of mid-day makes both all the more refreshing.  St. Claude has everything —the frowning mountain-crests of Salins, the pine-clad fastnesses of Champagnole, the romantic mountain walls of Morez; sublimity, grace, picturesqueness, grandeur, all are here, and all at this season of the year embellished by the crimson and amber tints of autumn.

    What lovely things did I see during an hour and a half's walk with my new friends to the so-called Pont du Diable!  Taking one winding mountain road of many, and following the clear, winding, deep green river, though high above it, we came to a scene as wild, beautiful, and solitary as the mind can picture; above bare grey cliffs, lower down, fairy-like little lawns of brightest green, deeper down still, the river making a dozen cascades over its stony bed, and round about the glorious autumn foliage, under a cloudless sky.  All the way we had heard, mingled with the roar of the impetuous river, the sound of mill-wheels, and had passed I know not how many manufactories, most of which lie so deep down in the heart of the gorges that they do not spoil the scenery.  The ugly blot is hidden, or at least inconspicuous.  On our way home we had on one side a vast velvety slope, sweeping from mountain to river, terrace upon terrace of golden-green pasture, where a dozen little girls were keeping their kine; on the other, steep limestone precipices, all a tangle of brushwood, with only here and there a bit of scant pasturage.  The air was transparent and reviving, a south wind caressing us as we go, nothing could be more heavenly beautiful.  The blue gentian grows everywhere, and, as I pursue my way, the peasant-folks I meet with pause to say good-day and stare.  They evidently find in me an outlandish look, and are quite unaccustomed to the sight of strangers.

    One lovely afternoon we set out for what turned out to be a four hours' walk but not a moment too long, seeing the splendour of weather and scenery, and the amiability of my companions.  We took a road that led from the back of the cathedral by the valley of the Tacon, a little river that has its rise in the mountain near, and falls into the Flumen close by.  It is necessary to visit the falls of the Flumen in order to realize the wonderful site of St. Claude, and the variety of the surrounding scenery.  Every turn we take of the upward curling road gives us a new and more beautiful picture.  The valley grows deeper and deeper, the mountains on either side higher and higher, little châlets peeping amid the grey and the green, here perched on an apparently unapproachable mountain-top, there in the inmost recess of some rocky dell.  As we get near the falls, we are reaching one of the most romantic points of view in all the Jura, and one of the most striking, so imposingly do the mountains close around us as we enter the gorge, so lovely the scene shut in by the impenetrable natural wall; for within the framework of rock, peak, and precipice are little farms, gardens, and orchards—gems of dazzling green bathed in ripest sunshine, pine-forests frowning close above these islets of luxuriance and cultivation, dells, glades, and open, lawny spaces between the ramparts of fantastically formed crags and solitary peaks, a scene recalling Kabylia, in the Atlas mountains, but unlike anything except itself.  All was still, except for the roar of the tiny river and the occasional sound of timber sliding from some mountain slope into the valley below.  The timber is thus transported in these parts, the woodman cutting the planks on some convenient ledge of rock, then letting it find its way to the bottom as best it can.  The trunk-cutters are everywhere at work on their airy perches, now bright stairs of golden-green turf, soon to be enveloped in impenetrable masses of snow, and everywhere we hear the falling planks.  As we climb, we are overtaken by two timber-carts, and the drivers, peasant-folks from the mountains, being old acquaintances of my companions, suggest that the ladies should mount.  We gladly do so, to the great satisfaction of the peasants, who on no account would themselves add to their horses' burden.  It would have been an affront to offer these good people anything in return for their kindness.  They were delighted to chat behind with monsieur, whilst their horses, surefooted as mules, made their way alongside the winding precipice.  The peasants had intelligent, good countenances, and were excellent types of the Jura mountaineer.

    Having passed a tunnel cut through the rock, we soon reached the head of the valley, the end of the world, as it seems, so high, massive, and deep is the formidable mountain wall hemming it in, from whose sides the little Tacon takes a tremendous leap into the green valley below; and not one leap, but a dozen, the several cascades uniting in a stream that meanders towards St. Claude.  Before us, high above the falls, seeming to hang on a perpendicular chain of rocks, is a cluster of saw-mills.  It is not more the variety of form here than that of tone and colour, rendering it so wonderful.  Everywhere the eye rests on some different contour or combination.  Into the history of this once abbatial little princedom I will not go.  I hardly need recall the fact that its closing years are connected with one of the noblest pieces in all literature, Voltaire's plea for the abbey serfs.

    By way—a most picturesque and delightful way, too—of La Cluse, Nantua, and Bourg (visiting the church of Brou, wrongly placed by Matthew Arnold in a valley), I reached Lyons, there exchanging my adored diligence for the Rhône.


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