Skip to main content

Full text of "In the track of R. L. Stevenson and elsewhere in old France"

See other formats




All rights reserved 

In the Track of 


Elsewhere in Old France 






First published in 1907 

1 1 1956 






THE TOWN OF " TARTARIN " . . . . 173 


" M'SIEU MEELIN OF DUNDAE " . . . . 207 




THE SCHELDT AT ANTWERP . . . Frontispiece 

Face page 



















Face page 












/BOOM ON THE RUPEL .... -72 













Face page 

















LE PUY 132 









Face page 


ON THE TARN .... . . 157 










A WOMAN OF TARASCON . . . . .184 








MONT ST. MICHEL . . 253 


THE travel-sketches that go to the making of 
this little book have appeared, in part only, 
in certain literary magazines, here and in 
America ; but the greater part of the work 
is now printed for the first time. 

Perhaps the author should anticipate a 
criticism that might arise from the sequence 
of the first two papers. Had he gone to 
work on a set plan, he would naturally have 
undertaken his pilgrimage along the route of 
An Inland Voyage before visiting the scenes 
of Travels with a Donkey, as the one book 
preceded the other in order of publication, 
An Inland Voyage, which appeared originally 
in 1878, being properly Stevenson's first book. 
Travels with a Donkey was published in 1879. 
But he has preferred to give precedence to 
"Through the Cevennes," as it was the first 
of his Stevenson travel-sketches to be written. 
Moreover, these little journeys were as much, 
indeed more affairs of personal pleasure than 
of copy-hunting, and when the author went 
forth on them he had no intention of making 
a book about his experiences at least, not 
one deriving its chief interest from association 
with the memory of R. L. S. He has been 
counselled, however, to bring together these 



chapters and their accompanying photographs 
in this form, on the plea that the interest in 
Stevenson's French travels is still so consider* 
able that any straightforward account of later 
journeys over the same ground cannot fail 
to have some attraction for the admirers of 
that great master of English prose. 

The book is but a very little sheaf from the 
occasional writings of its author on his way- 
farings in old France, where in the last ten 
years he has travelled many thousands of 
miles by road and rail between Maubeuge and 
Marseilles, from Belfort to Bordeaux, and 
always with undiminished interest among a 
people who are eminently lovable and amid 
scenes of infinite variety and charm. 


" In a little place called Le Monastier, in a pleasant Highland 
valley about fifteen miles from Le Puy, I spent a month of fine days." 
R. L. S. 

The Public Well 

Through the Cevennes 


SOMEONE has accounted for the charm of 
story-telling by the suggestion that the 
natural man imagines himself the hero of the 
tale he is reading, and squares this action or 
that with what he would suspect himself of 
doing in similar circumstances. The romancer 
who can best beguile his reader into this 
conceit of mind is likely to be the most 
popular. It seems to me that with books of 
travel this mental make-believe must also 
take place if the reader is to derive the full 
measure of entertainment from the narrative. 
With myself, at all events, it is so, and 
Hazlitt may be authority of sufficient weight 
to justify the thought that my own experience 
is not likely to be singular. To me the chief 
charm in reading a book of travel is this 
fanciful assumption of the role of the 
traveller; and so far does it condition my 
reading, that my readiest appetite is for a 

In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

story of wayfaring in some quarter of the 
world where I may hope, not unreasonably, 
to look upon the scenes that have first 
engaged my mind's eye. Thus the adven- 
tures of a Mr. Savage Landor in Thibet, or a 
Sir Henry Stanley in innermost Africa, have 
less attraction for me than the narrative of a 
journey such as Elihu Burritt undertook in 
his famous walk from London to John 
o' Groats, or R. L. Stevenson's Travels with 
a Donkey in the Cevennes. I will grant you 
that the delicious literary style of Stevenson's 
book is its potent charm, but I am persuaded 
that others than myself have had their pleasure 
in the reading of it sensibly increased by the 
thought that some day they might witness 
Nature's originals of the landscapes which 
the master painter has depicted so deftly. It 
had long been a dream of mine to track his 
path through that romantic region of old 
France ; not in the impudently emulative 
spirit of the throaty tenor who, hearing Mr. 
Edward Lloyd sing a new song, hastens to 
the music-seller's, resolved to practise it for 
his next " musical evening ; " not, forsooth, 
to do again badly what had once been done 
well ; but to travel the ground in the true 
pilgrim spirit of love for him who 

" Here passed one day, nor came again 
A prince among the tribes of men." 

Through the Cevennes 

Well did I know that many of the places with 
which I was familiar romantically through 
Stevenson's witchery of words were drab and 
dull enough in reality : enough for me that 
here in his pilgrim way that " blithe and 
rare spirit " had rested for a little while. 


THE mountainous district of France to 
which, somewhat loosely, Stevenson applies 
the name Cevennes, lies along the western 
confines of Provence, and overlaps on several 
departments, chief of which are Ard^che, 
Lozere, Gard, and Herault. In many parts 
the villages and the people have far less in 
common with France and the French than 
Normandy and the Normans have with pro- 
vincial England. Here in these mountain 
fastnesses and sheltered valleys the course 
of life has flowed along almost changeless for 
centuries, and here, too, we shall find much 
that is best in the romantic history and 
natural grandeur of France. Remote from 
Paris, and happily without the area of the 
"cheap trip" organisers, it is likely to remain 
for ever " off the beaten track." 

In order to visit the Cevennes proper, the 
beautiful town of Mende would be the best 
starting-place. But since my purpose was to 

In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

strike the trail of R. L. S., after some wander- 
ings awheel northward of Clermont Ferrand, 
I approached the district from Le Puy, a 
town which so excellent a judge as Mr. Joseph 
Pennell has voted the most picturesque in 
Europe. Besides, Stevenson himself had 
often wandered through its quaint, unusual 
streets, while preparing for his memorable 
journey with immortal Modestine. " I de- 
cided on a sleeping sack," he says ; " and 
after repeated visits to Le Puy, and a deal of 
high living for myself and my advisers, a 
sleeping sack was designed, constructed, and 
triumphantly brought home." At that time 
the wanderer's " home " was in the mountain 
town of Le Monastier, some fifteen miles 
south-east of Le Puy, and there in the 
autumn of 1877 he spent " about a month of 
fine days," variously occupied in completing 
his New Arabian Nights and Picturesque 
Notes on Edinburgh, and conducting, with no 
little personal and general entertainment, the 
preliminaries of his projected journey through 
the Cevennes. 


TOGETHER with a friend I had spent some 
rainy but memorable days at Le Puy in the 
summer of 1903, waiting for fair weather to 
advance on this little highland town, which 

Through the Cevennes 

lies secure away from railways and can only 
be reached by road. A bright morning in 
June saw us gliding on our wheels along the 
excellent route nationale that carries us 
thither on a long, easy gradient. The town 
seen at a distance is a mere huddle of grey 
houses stuck on the side of a bleak, treeless 
upland, and at close quarters it presents few 
allurements to the traveller. But it is typical 
of the mountain villages of France, and rich 
in the rugged, unspoilt character of its in- 
habitants. Stevenson tells us that it is 
" notable for the making of lace, for drunken- 
ness, for freedom of language, and for 
unparalleled political dissension/' As re- 
gards the last of these features, the claim to 
distinction may readily be admitted, but for 
the rest they apply equally to scores of 
similar villages of the Cevennes. Certainly it 
is not notable for the variety or comfort of its 
hostelries, but I shall not regret our brief 
sojourn at the Hotel de Chabrier. 

Mine host was a worthy who will always 
have a corner in my memory. Like his 
establishment, his person was much the worse 
for wear. Lame of a leg, his feet shod with 
the tattered fragments of slippers such as 
the Scots describe with their untranslatable 
" bauchle," a pair of unclean heels peeping out 
through his stockings, he was the living 
advertisement of his frowsy inn, the ground 

In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

floor of which, still bearing the legend Cafe, 
had been turned into a stable for oxen and 
lay open to the highway, a doubtful shelter 
for our bicycles. But withal, turning a shut 
eye to the kitchen as we passed, the cooking 
was excellent, and M. Chabrier assured us 
that he was renowned for game patties, which 
he sent to " all parts of Europe. " The frank 
satisfaction with himself and his hotel 
he betrayed at every turn would have re- 
joiced the heart of so shrewd a student of 
character as R. L. S., and the chances are 
considerable that in that month of fine days, 
six-and-twenty years before, Stevenson may 
have gossiped with my friend of the greasy 
cap, for M. Chabrier was then, as now, making 
his guests welcome and baking his inimitable 

Did he know Stevenson ? " Oui, oui, oui, 
M'sieu ! " Stevenson was a writer of books 
who had spent some time there years ago. 
"Oui, oui, parfaitement, M'sieu Stevenzong" 
What a memory the man had, and how 
blithely he recalled the distant past ! 

" Then, of course, you must have known 
the noted village character Father Adam, 
who sold his donkey to this Scottish 
traveller ? " 

" Pi re Adam oui, oui, oui ah, non, non, 
je ne le connais pas," thus shuffling when I 
asked for some further details. 

Through the Cevennes 

Mine host, who read the duty of an inn- 
keeper to be the humouring of his patrons, 
could clearly supply me with the most sur- 
prising details of him whose footsteps I was 
tracing ; but wishful not to lead him into 
temptation, I tested his evidence early in our 
talk by asking how many years had passed 
since he of whom we spoke had rested at 
Le Monastier, and whether he had patronised 
the Hotel de Chabrier. He sagely scratched 
his head and racked his memory for a 
moment, with the result that this Scotsman 
oh, he was sure he was a Scotsman had 
stayed in that very hotel, and occupied 
bedroom number three, just four years back ! 

Obviously he was mistaken not to put too 
fine a point upon it and his cheerful avowal, 
in discussing another subject, that he was " a 
partisan of no religion," did not increase my 
faith in him. There were few Protestants in 
Le Monastier, he told me ; but as I happened 
to know from my good friend the pasteur at 
Le Puy that the postmaster here, at least, 
stood by the reformed faith, and by that 
token might be supposed a man of some 
reading, I hoped there to find some knowledge 
of Stevenson, whose works and travels were 
familiar to the pasteur. Alas, " /' n' sais pas " 
was the burden of the postmaster's song. 

To wander about the evil-smelling by-ways 
of Le Monastier, and observe the ancient 

In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

crones busy at almost every door with their 
lace-making pillows, the bent and grizzled 
wood-choppers at work in open spaces, is to 
understand that, despite the lapse of more than 
a quarter of a century, there must be still alive 
hundreds of the village folk among whom 
Stevenson moved. But to find any who could 
recall him were the most hopeless of tasks ; 
to identify the auberge, in the billiard-room 
of which " at the witching hour of dawn " 
he concluded the purchase of the donkey 
and administered brandy to its disconsolate 
seller, were equally impossible, and it 
was only left to the pilgrims to visit the 
market-place where Father Adam and his 
donkey were first encountered. So with the 
stink of the church, whose interior seemed 
to enclose the common sewer of the town, 
still lingering in our nostrils, we resumed our 
journey southward across the little river 
Gazeille, and headed uphill in the direction 
of St. Martin de Frugeres, noting as we 
mounted on the other side of the valley the 
straggling lane down which Modestine, loaded 
with that wonderful sleeping sack and the 
paraphernalia of the most original of travel- 
lers, " tripped along upon her four small hoofs 
with a sober daintiness of gait " to the ford 
across the river, giving as yet no hint of the 
troubles she had in store for " the green 
donkey driver." 

A drawing of this castle by Stevenson has been published. 


" I came down the hill to where Goudet stands in a green end of a 
valley." R. L. S. 


ALONG our road were several picturesque 
patches formed of rock and pine, and notably 
the romantic ruins of Chateau Neuf, with the 
little village clustered at their roots, which 
furnished subjects for Stevenson's block and 
pencil. Among his efforts as a limner there 
has also been published a sketch of his that 
gives with striking effect the far-reaching 
panorama of the volcanic mountain masses 
ranging westward from Le Monastier, a scene 
of wild and austere aspect. A little beyond 
Chateau Neuf we were wheeling on the same 
road where he urged with sinking heart the 
unwilling ass, and while still within sight of 
his starting-place, showing now like a scar on 
the far hillside, we passed by the filthy village 
of St. Victor, the neighbourhood where the 
greenness of the donkey driver was diminished 
by the advice of a peasant, who advocated 
thrashing and the use of the magic word 
" Proot." 

The road grew wilder as we advanced 
towards St. Martin de Frugeres, to which 
village the sentimental traveller came upon a 
Sabbath, and wrote of the " home feeling " 
the scene at the church brought over 
him a sentiment difficult to appreciate as 

In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

we wandered the filth-sodden streets and 
inspected the ugly little church, whitewashed 
within and stuffed with cheap symbols of a 
religion that is anathema to descendants of 
the Covenanters. The silvery Loire far below 
in the valley to our right, we sat at our ease 
astride our wiry steeds and sped cheerfully 
down the winding road to Goudet, feeling that 
if our mode of progress was less romantic than 
Stevenson's, it had compensations, for there 
was nothing that tempted us to tarry on our 

" Goudet stands in a green end of a valley, 
with Chateau Beaufort opposite upon a rocky 
steep, and the stream, as clear as crystal, lying 
in a deep pool between them." The scene was 
indeed one of singular beauty, the fertile fields 
and shaggy woods being in pleasant contrast 
to the barren country through which we had 
been moving. While still a mile away from 
the place, we foregathered with two peasants 
trudging uphill to St. Martin. I was glad to 
talk with them, as I desired to know which of 
the inns was the oldest. There were three, I 
was told, and the Cafe Rivet boasted the 
greatest age, the others being of recent birth, 
and none were good, my informant added, 
supposing that we intended to lodge for the 

To the inn of M. Rivet we repaired, this 
being the only auberge that Goudet possessed 


Through the Cevennes 

at the time of Stevenson's visit. We found 
it one of the usual small plastered buildings, 
destitute of any quaintness, but cleaner than 
most, and sporting a large wooden tobacco 
pipe, crudely fashioned, by way of a sign. 
The old people who kept it were good Cevennol 
types, the woman wearing the curious head- 
gear of the peasant folk, that resembles the 
tiny burlesque hats worn by musical clowns, 
and the man in every trait of dress and feature 
capable of passing for a country Scot. The 
couple were engagingly ignorant, and had 
never heard of Scotland, so it was no surprise 
to learn that they knew nothing of the famous 
son of that country who had once " hurried 
over his midday meal " in the dining-room 
where we were endeavouring to instruct 
Madame Rivet in the occult art of brewing 
tea. The Rivets had been four years in 
possession of the inn at the time of Stevenson's 
visit, and I should judge that the place had 
changed in no essential feature, though I 
missed the portrait of the host's nephew, 
Regis Senac, " Professor of Fencing and 
Champion of the Two Americas," that had 
entertained R. L. S. In return for our hints 
on tea-making, Madame Rivet charged us 
somewhat in excess of the usual tariff, and 
showed herself a veritable grippe-sous be- 
fore giving change, by carefully reckoning 
the pieces of fly-blown sugar we had used, a 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

little circumstance the cynic may claim as 
indicating a knowledge of the spirit if not 
the letter of Scotland. 


IT was late in the afternoon when we con- 
tinued our journey from Goudet, intent on 
reaching that evening the lake of Bouchet, 
which Stevenson had selected as the camping- 
place for the first night of his travels. The 
highway to Ussel is one of the most beautiful 
on the whole route, lying through a wide and 
deep glen, similar to many that exist in the 
Scottish Highlands, but again unlike all the 
latter in its numerous terraces, that bear 
eloquent witness to the industry of the 
country-folk. Every glen in this region of 
France is remarkable for this handiwork of 
the toilers, and the time was, before the advent 
of the sporting nawbobs, when in some parts 
of the Scottish Highlands similar rude stone- 
work was common in the glens. 

To those who have not seen this work of the 
poor hill-folk it is not easy to convey a proper 
idea of its effect on the landscape. In these 
bleak mountain regions the sheltered valleys 
and ravines are best suited for growing the 
produce of the field, but as the soil is scant 
and the ground too often takes the shape of 


Through the Cevennes 

a very attenuated V, it is impossible to culti- 
vate the slopes of the valley in their natural 
condition ; so, with infinite labour and the 
patience of their stolid oxen, the Cevennols 
begin by building near the banks of the 
stream a loose stone wall, and filling in the 
space between that and the upward slope with 
a level bedding of earth. Thus step by step 
the hillside is brought into cultivation, and 
the terraces will be found wherever it is 
possible to rear a wall and carry up soil ; 
indeed, they are to be seen in many places 
where it would have been thought impossible 
to prepare them, and out of reason to grow 
crops upon them. Often they are not so large 
as an ordinary bedroom in area, and such a 
space one may see under wheat. A hillside 
so terraced looks like a flight of giant steps, 
and it is a unique spectacle to children of the 
plains to descry, perhaps on the twentieth 
story, so to say, a team of oxen ploughing 
one of these eerie fields. 

Along this road, where on our right the 
terraces climbed upward to the naked basalt, 
and on the other side of the valley, now flooded 
with a pale yellow sunset that picked out 
vividly children at play tending a scanty herd 
of cattle on the hillside, our donkey driver of 
old had some of his bitterest experiences with 
that thrawn jade Modestine. We, fortunate 
in our more docile mounts, made excellent 

In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

progress to Ussel, after walking a good two 
miles on foot. The road beyond that town 
was lively with bullock wagons, heavily 
freighted with timber, and carts, mostly drawn 
by oxen, filled with women returning from 
the market at Costaros, a little town on the 
highway between Le Puy and Pradelles; 
bullocks and people the former to our em- 
barrassment being greatly interested in the 
wheel-travellers of these seldom cycled roads. 
When we arrived at Costaros, a town that is 
drab and dismal beyond words, the evening 
was wearing out under a leaden sky, promising 
the stragglers from the market good use for 
their bulky umbrellas, and we had still eight 
kilometres of rough country roads between us 
and the lake. Stevenson, in his heart-breaking 
struggles with the wayward ass, must have 
crossed the highway in the dark some little 
distance south of Costaros to have arrived at 
the village of Bouchet St. Nicolas, two miles 
beyond the lake ; and as we urged forward in 
the rain, which now fell pitilessly and turned 
the darkling mountains into phantom masses 
smoking with mist, we could appreciate to the 
full the satisfaction with which he abandoned 
his quest of the lake and spent his first night 
snug at the inn of Bouchet. As we wheeled 
through the mud into the large village of 
Cayres no straggler appeared in the streets, 
that steamed like the back of a perspiring 

Through the Cevennes 

horse ; but a carpenter at work in a windy shed 
assured us that the chalet on the shore of the 
lake had opened for the season, and in our 
dripping state we pressed thither uphill, 
feeling that two miles more in the rain could 
not worsen our condition. It was a weird and 
moving experience the ghostly woods on the 
hillside, the tuneless tinkle of bells on unseen 
sheep, the hissing noise of our wheels on the 
moist earth and our delight was great when 
we heard the lapse of water on our left. For 
nearly a mile the latter part of the road lay 
through a pine forest, where the ground had 
scarcely suffered from the rain, but the way 
was dark as in a tunnel, and glimpses of the 
lake between the trees showed the water almost 
vivid as steel by contrast. 


" I HAD been told," says R. L. S., " that the 
neighbourhood of the lake was uninhabited 
except by trout." He travelled in the days 
before the Syndicat d Initiative du Velay, 
which I shall ever bless for its chalet by the 
Lac du Bouchet, whose lighted windows two 
weary pilgrims descried that night with joy 
unspeakable. Our arrival was the cause of 
no small commotion to the good folk who kept 
this two-storied wooden hostel. We were 

In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

their first visitors of the season, and it was 
clear they hailed us with delight, despite the 
lateness of our arrival. Candles were soon 
alight in the dining-room upstairs, a fire of 
pine logs crackling in the open hearth, the 
housemaid briskly laying the table, the mis- 
tress bustling in the kitchen, doors banging 
cheerily in the dark night as the master went 
and came between outhouses, fetching food 
and firing for which our coming had suddenly 
raised the need. Our bedrooms opened off 
the dining-room, and were well if plainly 
furnished, the floors being sanded, and we had 
soon made shift to change our sodden garments 
as well as the limited resources of wheelmen's 
baggage would allow. Above all was the 
ceaseless noise of the lake, that seemed to 
lend a keener edge to the chilly air. 

We could scarcely believe it was the middle 
of June in the sunny south of France as we 
sat there shivering before the spluttering logs 
in a room " suitable for bandits or noblemen 
in disguise/' But a deep sense of comfort was 
supplied by the savoury smells that issued 
from the lower regions of the house. Our 
blessings on the head of the landlady and the 
whole French nation of cooks were sincere, as 
we regaled ourselves with an excellent meal of 
perch, omelet, mutton chops, raisins, almonds, 
cheese, lemonade and coffee. Imagine your- 
self arriving after nine o'clock at night at a 


Through the Cevennes 

lonely inn anywhere in the British Isles and 
faring thus ! Moreover, the tenants of the 
chalet the two women especially were the 
most welcome of gossips, and the elder had a 
gift of dry humour that must have served 
her well in so wet a season. For three weeks 
it had rained steadily, she said, and she feared 
it was nothing short of the end of the world. 
When we told her that we had come from Le 
Monastier by way of St. Martin and Goudet, 
she was highly amused, and the younger, a 
rosy-faced wench, laughed heartily at the 
thought of anybody visiting such places. The 
lake of Bouchet ah, that was another matter ! 
Lakes were few in France, and this one well 
worth seeing. There were many lakes in 
Scotland ! This was news to them, and they 
wondered why we had come so far to see this 
of Bouchet, as we did ourselves when next 
morning we surveyed a tiny sheet of water 
almost circular, no more than two miles in 
circumference and quite featureless. It is 
simply the crater of an ancient volcano, and 
receives its water from some underground 
springs, there being no obvious source of 
supply. The lake, at an altitude of 4,000 feet, 
is higher than the surrounding country. 


WHEN we awoke in the morning and made 
ready for our departure the room was filled 
with the smoke of burning faggots, as though 
a censer had been swung in it by some early- 
rising acolyte ; and the fire was again " a 
welcome evidence of the landlady's thoughtful- 
ness, for the outlook was grey and the early 
morning air bit shrewdly as the tooth of winter. 
Had the day promised better, we should have 
struck south from the lake to Bouchet St. 
Nicolas, at whose inn Stevenson uncorked a 
bottle of Beaujolais, inviting his host to join 
him in drinking it ; and the innkeeper would 
take little, saying, " I am an amateur of such 
wine, do you see ? and I am capable of 
leaving you not enough." But the way 
thither is no better than a bullock-track, and 
several miles of similar road lie between 
Bouchet and the highway ; so with a lowering 
sky ominous of more rain, and the knowledge 
that for three weeks the country had been 
soaking, we determined not to risk the 
bullock-track, and retraced our path to 
Costaros, passing on the way numerous ox 
wagons laden with timber. 

The whole countryside was sweet with the 
morning incense of the faggot fires burning on 


Through the Cevennes 

many a cottage hearth. We overtook several 
young people driving cattle out to the pasture 
lands, and noting that without exception they 
carried umbrellas, our hopes of a good day 
were not high. But by the time we had 
reached the Gendarmerie, that stands at the 
crest of the hill on the high road out of Costaros, 
and were chatting with one of the officers 
whom we found idling at the door, the wind 
was rising and heaped masses of sombre clouds 
were being driven before it across the sky, 
though in their passage they disclosed no 
cheering hints of the blue behind. The 
gendarme admitted that the rising wind might 
be a good sign, but he was not very hopeful, 
and seemed to be more interested in meeting 
two travellers from a country he had never 
heard of than in discussing the weather. 
There are parts of France, especially Normandy 
and Brittany, where, to confess oneself a 
Scotsman is to be assured of a heartier wel- 
come than would be accorded to one who 
came from England ; but Stevenson's boast 
that " the happiest lot on earth is to be born a 
Scotsman " counts for little in these highlands 
of the south, where few of the village-folk have 
ever heard of Scotland. 

The road south of Costaros even on a bright 
summer day must appear bleak and cheerless, 
and that morning our chief desire was to move 
along it as quickly as we could. Yet, as we 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

advanced, the scene was not without elements 
of beauty, and the mists that veiled the 
distant mountains gradually lifting, produced 
a transformation entirely pleasing, while ere 
long there were great and welcome rifts in the 
grey above, and patches of blue sky heartened 
us on our way. By the time we had reached 
the hamlet of La Sauvetat the sun was peeping 
out fitfully, and on our right it suddenly flooded 
with amber light a meadow, yellow with 
marigolds, where cows were pasturing, at- 
tended by a small girl who was playing at 


WE had again joined the track of R. L. S., 
where, now armed with a goad, he drove his 
donkey. " The perverse little devil, since she 
would not be taken with kindness, must even 
go with pricking. " We had but to sit in our 
saddles, and wheel rapidly down the long and 
exhilarating descent to Pradelles, a very 
tumbledown village with a great shabby 
square lying at an angle of almost forty-five 
degrees. The town occupies a little corrie on 
the hillside, and the ground slopes quickly on 
the west to the river Allier, beyond which the 
country rises again in mighty undulations as 
far as the eye can reach. For all its slan tern- 
ness perhaps, in some degree, because of 



" Just at the bridge at Langogne a lassie of some seven or eight 
addressed me in the sacramental phrase, ' D'oh 'est-ce-que vous 
venez? '" R. L. S. 


" An amiable stripling of a river, which it seems absurd to call 
the Loire." R. L. S. 

Through the Cevennes 

that Pradelles is a place of interest, perched 
here at an altitude of 3,800 feet above sea- 

More than any other place we saw in our 
journey, this old mountain town wears an un- 
mistakable " foreign " appearance, and one 
walks its stleets with the feeling that one is 
moving cautiously along the sloping roof of 
a house. Among its tumbledown buildings it 
still possesses fragments of considerable his- 
toric value, such as its ancient hospice, and a 
gateway from the top of which a village 
heroine killed some Huguenot heroes by throw- 
ing a stone at them while they were leading an 
assault against its walls. In the church of 
Notre Dame this episode in the history of the 
town is commemorated by a mural painting in 
vivid colours, the stone which the devout 
Catholic maiden is hurling at the devoted 
heads of the besiegers being large enough to 
warrant the assistance of a steam crane. The 
interior of the church is very quaint and un- 
usual, and I am sorry that Stevenson did not 
yield to the urging of the landlady of the inn to 
visit Our Lady of Pradelles, " who performed 
many miracles, although she was of wood/' 
for his impressions of the church could not 
have failed to be peculiarly piquant. The 
miraculous image of the virgin is a wooden doll, 
dressed in lace and set on the high altar. 
Pilgrims come in large numbers to its shrine 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

every fifteenth of August ; and one of the 
spirited paintings on the wall depicts the 
rescue of the idol from a burning of the church 
which, I should guess, took place about the 
time of the Revolution. Evidently the res- 
cuers of Our Lady were not prepared to submit 
her to the crucial test a sister image at 
Le Puy survived " burning for thirty-six 
hours without being consumed/' Many and 
unfamiliar saints look down at us from the 
walls, and at the west end there is a loft such 
as might be seen in some of the very old 
Scottish churches, occupied at the time of our 
visit by a group of women, members no doubt 
of some pious confraternity. 

R. L. S. has some picturesque notes on " The 
Beast of Gevaudan," whose trail he first 
struck at Pradelles ; for we were now in the 
wild and uncultivated country of Gevaudan, 
" but recently disforested from terror of the 
wolves," whose grizzly exploits in the way of 
eating women and children seem to have en- 
gaged the imagination of our traveller. If 
the wolves have gone, they have left in their 
stead a flourishing progeny of wolf-like curs, 
who infest the highways and byways in ex- 
traordinary numbers, to the embarrassment of 
the wheelman. 



FROM Pradelles to Langogne is a long and 
deep descent, and while walking our machines 
down an unrideable path, a young woman on 
a terrace near the road came forward to greet 
us, tripping unexpectedly over the tether of a 
goat, and landing softly and naturally on the 
ground, where after her moment's surprise 
she smilingly asked, " Oil allez vous prome- 
ner ? " more usually our bucolic greeting 
than " D'ou 'st-ce-que vous venez? " the latter 
" sacramental phrase," on which Stevenson 
remarks, being possibly suggested in his case 
by the odd appearance of the traveller and 
his beast of burden. 

The bridge across the Allier at Langogne, 
where Stevenson met the " lassie of some 
seven or eight " who demanded whence he 
came, is now a crazy ruin, and a serviceable 
modern structure spans the river some little 
distance to the west of it. Near this place he 
camped for the night. He furnishes no infor- 
mation about his stay at Langogne, where, 
I should judge, he slept at one of the inns. 
The town must have altered greatly since he 
rested there, as it is now on the railway line 
to Villefort, and a considerable trade in coal 
seems to be carried on. It is also a popular 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

summer resort, though one is at a loss to 
account for its attractions to holiday makers. 
Its church dates from the tenth century, and 
contains in a little chapel on the right, below 
the level of the nave, the image of Notre 
Dame de Tout-Pouvoir, which our landlady 
at the Cheval Blanc assured us was tres 
veneree, and the housemaid who conducted 
us thither took advantage of the occasion to 
tell her beads before the statue, keeping a 
roving eye on us as we wandered about the 


STEVENSON'S track now lay somewhat to 
the west of the course of the Allier, as he made 
for the little village of Cheylard 1'Eveque, on 
the borders of the Forest of Mercoire, and 
in this stage of his journey he was more than 
usually faithful to his ideal of travel : " For 
my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to 
go. I travel for travel's sake. The great 
affair is to move ; to feel the needs and hitches 
of our life more nearly ; to come down off 
this feather-bed of civilisation, and find the 
globe granite underfoot and strewn with 
cutting flints." There was no need for his 
quitting the highway, since his further 
objective lay due south through the pleasant 
valley of the Allier. But his diversion among 



1 ' Why anyone should desire to visit Luc is more than my 
much-inventing spirit can suppose." R. L. S. 


"At a place called La Bastide I was directed to leave the 
river." R. L. S. 

Through the Cevennes 

the by-ways was rich in adventure, and 
furnished him with material for perhaps his 
best chapter, " A Camp in the Dark." He 
had the good fortune to lose his way after 
nightfall, and to be forced to camp in a wood 
of pines in happy ignorance of his where- 
abouts. When next morning he did reach 
Cheylard he was fain to confess that " it 
seemed little worthy of all this searching." 
With a less keen appetite for losing ourselves 
in a maze of muddy bullock-tracks, we pressed 
forward through the fresh green valley to 
Luc, and here rejoined the path of our adven- 
turer once more. We had the road almost 
to ourselves, and among the few wayfarers I 
recall was a travelling knife-grinder, whom 
we passed near Luc engaged in the agreeable 
task of preparing his dinner, the first course 
of which, potage au pain, was simmering in a 
sooty pot over a fire of twigs. A nation of 
gourmets, verily, when the humblest among 
them can thus maintain the national art in 
the hedges. 

" Why anyone should desire to visit either 
Luc or Cheylard is more than my much 
inventing spirit can suppose." Thus our 
vagabond. But journeying at a more genial 
season of the year, we found the neighbour- 
hood of Luc not devoid of beauty. The 
valley of the Allier is here broken into wide 
and picturesque gorges, and in many ways 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

the scenery is reminiscent of Glen Coe, where 
Alan Breck and David Balfour dodged the 
redcoats. But late in September it would 
bear a very different aspect, and Stevenson 
tells us that " a more unsightly prospect at 
this season of the year it would be hard to 
fancy. Shelving hills rose round it on all 
sides, here dabbled with wood and fields, 
there rising to peaks alternately naked and 
hairy with pines. The colour throughout 
was black or ashen, and came to a point in 
the ruins of the castle of Luc, which pricked 
up impudently from below my feet, carrying 
on a pinnacle a tall white statue of Our 
Lady." There is now a railway station at 
Luc, the line running near the road all the 
way to La Bastide and as we continued 
southward that sunny June day, it was only 
the shrill noise of the crickets and the unusual 
quilt work of the diligently husbanded hill- 
sides that told us we were not looking on a 
Perthshire landscape. In a sweet corner of 
the valley lies La Bastide, a drowsy little 
town despite its long connection with the 
railway, which existed even at the time of 
Stevenson's visit. 

Here, he tells us, " I was directed to leave 
the river, and follow a road that mounted on 
the left among the hills of Vivarais, the modern 
Ardeche ; for I was now come within a little 
way of my strange destination, the Trappist 


Through the Cevennes 

monastery of Our Lady of the Snows/* 
Thither we shall follow his steps, more closely 
than usual, as the road is too steep to admit 
of our cycling. For some distance the route 
lies through a great forest of pines, but when 
the crest of the hill is gained a far-reaching 
prospect greets the eye. " The sun came out 
as I left the shelter of a pine wood," writes 
R. L. S., " and I beheld suddenly a fine wild 
landscape to the south. High rocky hills, 
as blue as sapphire, closed the view, and be- 
tween these lay ridge upon ridge, heathery, 
craggy, the sun glittering in veins of rock, the 
underwood clambering in the hollows, as rude 
as God made them at the first. There was 
not a sign of man's hand in all the prospect ; 
and, indeed, not a trace of his passage, save 
where generation after generation had walked 
in twisted footpaths in and out among the 
beeches and up and down upon the channelled 
slopes." Only when the snow comes down 
and mantles these abundant hills would this 
description not apply. It is a perfect picture 
of what we saw. Presently we noted with no 
small satisfaction the white statue of the Virgin, 
which, standing by the highway at a point 
where a side road strikes northward through 
the pines, " directed the traveller to Our Lady 
of the Snows." He describes the pine wood 
as " a young plantation," but in the inter- 
vening years the trees have grown into a 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

mighty forest, dark and mysterious, and the 
statue of Our Lady was so overshadowed by 
branches rich with cones, that it was impossi- 
ble to get a satisfactory photograph of it. 
" Here, then/' he continues, " I struck left- 
ward, and pursued my way, driving my 
secular donkey before me, and creaking in my 
secular boots and gaiters, towards the asylum 
of silence." On our equally secular cycles we 
followed the same track, the roadway being 
dotted on each side with bundles of faggots 
gathered by the silent monks, probably for 
the use of the poor. 


" I HAVE rarely approached anything with 
more unaffected terror than the monastery of 
Our Lady of the Snows. This it is to have had 
a Protestant education," says Stevenson, as 
he recalls the feeling produced within him by 
the clanging of a bell at the monastery while 
he was not yet in sight of it. No bells clanged 
as we descended the road which Father 
Apollinaris was still in the act of making 
when Stevenson encountered him. We 
emerged at length from the shelter of the 
trees into a wide hollow of land, from which 
on every side the hills rose up, and where 
on our right were the outer walls of the 


Through the Cevennes 

monastery, plain plastered buildings, with 
little barred windows on the ground floor 
and a row without bars on the second story. 
On our left was a large saw-mill, where steam 
saws were giving shrill advertisement of their 
use. Several monks were among the workers 
at the mill, and a brown-coated figure was 
walking along the road that opened on our 
left beyond the timber sheds to some large 
white buildings which, as we afterwards 
learned, comprised the farm belonging to the 
monastery. The first impression was not 
exactly to touch one's feeling for romance. 
Trappists in the timber trade suggests a head- 
ing for a " snippet " periodical, and if the 
monks were silent, here at least were noises 
that smote unpleasantly on the ear. 

The buildings of Our Lady of the Snows 
are quite devoid of any architectural beauty. 
They are set four-square in the hollow, and 
the hills trend gently upward on every side 
richly clad with trees, for the monks have re- 
forested much of the surrounding land, which 
is the property of the fraternity. The south 
side is occupied by a long, two - storied 
building, which contains the main entrance 
a plain, whitewashed, barn-like structure 
and buildings of a similar type adjoin it east 
and west, while the north side of the quad- 
rangle is filled by the more pretentious 
masonry of the church, the chapter-house, 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

and other religious offices, though even here 
the essential note of the architecture is 
austerity, the clock-tower being devoid of 
decoration and purely utilitarian. 

When endeavouring to photograph the 
buildings while the sun shone, an old man 
with a very red face, a very white beard and 
a very dirty white blouse came along, leaning 
feebly on his stick. He was delighted on 
being asked to become part of the picture, 
and begged me to wait a moment while he 
fixed on his left arm his plaque, whereon I 
read in brazen letters, " Gardien de la 
Propriete." This aged and infirm defender 
of the monastic estates was as proud of his 
plaque as if it had been a medal won in war. 
There must be few attacks upon the property 
of the monastery, which he informed me 
extended as far as we could see in this wind- 
swept hollow of the hills, if our friend of the 
snowy beard and ruddy face stood for its 
defence ! We were cheered to learn from him 
that there would be no difficulty in visiting 
the monastery, and if we wished we might be 
able to pass the night there. This we desired 
most heartily for various reasons, but chiefly 
because it was now close on six in the evening, 
and days are short in these latitudes. 


WE were told to go round to the chief 
gateway, and there to summon the Brother 
Porter by ringing the bell. This we did, with 
something of that " quaking heart " to which 
Stevenson confesses in the same act, for the 
clamour of a bell that one rings in a great 
silent building seems fraught with news of an 
offence for which one stands to receive the 
penalty. Nor do your spirits rise when a 
little shutter in the door is opened, and a 
grizzly-whiskered face in a brown hood peers 
through demanding your business. All was 
well, however. The Brother Porter ad- 
mitted us to the courtyard, and went to 
summon one of the novitiates who, as Guest 
Father, would do us the honours of the 
monastery. He was, as I should judge, a 
young man of five-and-twenty, who came to 
us through a door on the right of the entrance 
that admitted to the hospice. Wearing 
the white flannel habit of the monks, with a 
black scapular hanging loose and bulky below 
the neck, he was of medium stature, his 
shaven face pleasant and comely, and his 
dark eyes of that unusual brilliance which 
Stevenson noted as " the only morbid sign " 
he could detect in the appearance of the 

3 1 

In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

monks. Our host bowed ceremoniously in 
shaking hands with us, and immediately 
escorted us across the trim garden to the 
monastic buildings at the other side of the 

During their period of novitiate, which 
lasts for three years, the monks have still the 
liberty to talk with strangers or with the lay 
brethren, but when their final vows are taken 
they are supposed to be inarticulate, except 
in performing the religious offices of each day. 
The Guest Father would in two years more 
be qualified for the silent life ; meanwhile, he 
exercised his power of speech with so much 
grace that one felt truly sorry so excellent a 
talker should contemplate with cheerfulness 
the voluntary and useless atrophy of his 
divine gift. Very reverently he led us into 
the church, which is a plain but elegant 
building with a vaulted roof, the walls being 
whitewashed, and the woodwork, of which 
there is not too much, chastely carved. A 
number of good pictures are hung on the walls, 
and there is a series of statues of the saints 
on brackets, executed with some taste, and 
entirely free from the usual tawdry colouring 
of similar objects in French Catholic churches. 
The altar also is in welcome contrast to the 
common doll-show of the ordinary church, 
and although the oft-repeated references to 
the simplicity of the whole with which our 


Trappist Monks gathering roots for distilling 

A Peep into the Library 

Through the Cevennes 

excellent friend pointed out the various 
features of the place approached almost to 
affectation, one must bear ready witness to 
the apparent sincerity of these poor monks 
in their efforts towards a simpler circumstance 
of worship than the Roman Catholic Church 
in general practises. 

The chapter-house is in keeping with the 
church in point of restraint in decoration, its 
beautifully panelled walls giving the apart- 
ment a genial touch of warmth by contrast 
with the cold white of its groined roof. 

The library, which occupies a spacious room 
on the upper story of the north wing, is 
stocked with some twenty thousand volumes, 
chiefly in Latin and French, but including an 
excellent collection of works in Greek, religion 
and history being naturally the chief subjects 
represented. When we remember that many 
of the monks are men of no intellectual gifts 
and of small learning, being drawn largely 
from the peasant class and the military, we may 
doubt if the treasures of the library are in 
great request. The librarian, at least, must 
be a man of bookish tastes, since the collection 
is arranged in perfect order. Our guide 
assured us that the monastery possesses a 
copy of Travels with a Donkey, but he did not 
discover it for us. 

The refectory is a large and bare chamber 
occupying the lower story of the east wing 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

Long narrow tables of plain wood stand around 
the room, and on these are laid the simple 
utensils of the meal. The monks sit on a 
rude bench, and for the greater part of the 
year they take but one meal in twenty-four 
hours ; but during the summer months, when 
one might suppose their needs to be less, they, 
by special indulgence, go so far towards 
temporising with the flesh as to eat twice in 
one day. 

R. L. S. was moved to a little disquisition 
on the subject of over-eating when he contem- 
plated the dietetic restraint of the Trappist 
brethren. " Their meals are scanty, but even 
of these they eat sparingly," he writes ; " and 
though each is allowed a small carafe of wine, 
many refrain from this indulgence. Without 
doubt, the most of mankind grossly overeat 
themselves ; our meals serve not only for 
support, but as a hearty and natural diversion 
from the labour of life. Yet, though excess 
may be hurtful, I should have thought this 
Trappist regimen defective. And I am 
astonished, as I look back, at the freshness 
of face and the cheerfulness of manner of all 
whom I beheld. A happier nor a healthier 
company I should scarce suppose that I have 
ever seen. As a matter of fact, on this bleak 
upland, and with the incessant occupation of 
the monks, life is of an uncertain tenure, 
and death no infrequent visitor, at Our Lady 


Through the Cevennes 

of the Snows. This, at least, was what was 
told me. But if they die easily, they must 
live healthily in the meantime, for they 
seemed all firm of flesh and high in colour, 
and the only morbid sign that I could observe 
an unusual brilliancy of the eye was one 
that rather served to increase the general 
impression of vivacity and strength. " 

On the topmost floor of the east wing we 
were shown the dormitory, a long and, as I 
recall it, a somewhat low-roofed room, divided 
into numerous little cubicles, each enclosed 
on three sides, and screened from the passage 
by a curtain of red cloth. The couch consisted 
of a single mattress laid on boards, with the 
scantiest supply of bedclothes. Each of these 
little compartments bore in painted letters 
the monastic name of its occupant, and here 
every night, after the toils and vigils of the 
day, the brethren lay themselves down at 
eight o'clock in their ordinary habit of dress, 
being in this respect less fanatical than other 
fraternities of the same order, who sleep in 
their coffins, and even in unduly ready 
graves. " By two in the morning," says 
R. L. S., " the clapper goes upon the bell, and 
so on, hour by hour, and sometimes quarter 
by quarter, till eight, the hour of rest ; so 
infinitesimally is the day divided among 
different occupations. The man who keeps 
rabbits, for example, hurries from his hutches 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

to the chapel, the chapter-room, or the 
refectory all day long : every hour he has an 
office to sing, a duty to perform ; from two, 
when he rises in the dark, till eight, when he 
returns to receive the comfortable gift of 
sleep, he is upon his feet, and occupied with 
manifold and changing business. I know 
many persons, worth several thousands in the 
year, who are not so fortunate in the disposal 
of their lives. Into how many houses would 
not the note of the monastery bell, dividing 
the day into manageable portions, bring peace 
of mind and healthful activity of body. We 
speak of hardships, but the true hardship is 
to be a dull fool, and permitted to mismanage 
life in our own dull and foolish manner." 


ON our way back to the hospice we learned 
with regret that Father Apollinaris, " so good 
and so simple," had been dead five years, and 
the right of the monastery to the title of Our 
Lady of the Snows was clearly established 
by the information that in the winter months 
it is buried for weeks on end, and our young 
friend of the shiny eyes shivered as he spoke 
of the neige enorme, which he is doomed to see 
every winter that he lives. 

In the hospice the apartments for the use 
of visitors and retraitants are situated. To 




2 S 

Through the Cevennes 

the right of the gateway on the ground level 
are the kitchens and storerooms, and a door 
opening at the foot of the stair admits one into 
a small and barely furnished room, where 
supper had been prepared for us. A small 
table covered with American cloth, with chairs 
set about it to accommodate perhaps eight or 
ten guests, were the chief items of furniture. 
There were a few prints of a religious character 
hung upon the walls, and to the right of the 
fireplace stood a little bookcase, containing, 
however, no works of interest. The meal 
served to us was well cooked and savoury, and 
as an excellent omelet formed its piece de 
resistance, with soup, potato salad, walnuts, 
figs and cheese included, it needed none of the 
profuse apologies for poverty of fare with 
which it was set before us. 

We were afterwards shown our bedroom on 
the floor above, a fairly commodious room 
containing two iron bedsteads, with a more 
liberal supply of bedclothes than we saw in the 
dormitory of the monks, a small table and two 
chairs. A crucifix stood on the mantlepiece, 
and, as in some hotels, a printed sheet of 
regulations was fixed on the wall near the door. 
One may suppose it to have been a copy of 
that which Stevenson noted, for it wound up 
with an admonition to occupy one's spare 
time by examining one's conscience, confessing 
one's sins, and making good resolutions. " To 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

make good resolutions, indeed ! " comments 
R. L. S. "You might talk as fruitfully of 
making the hair grow on your head." So far 
as we could judge, the south wing at the time of 
our visit sheltered no other strangers than our- 
selves ; nor did it appear there were any weary, 
world- worn laymen living here in retreat. 
At the time of Stevenson's sojourn among the 
monks there was quite a little company in the 
hospice, an English boarder, a parish priest, 
and an old soldier being some of the acquain- 
tances he made in the little room where we had 
supped. But there is a constant and increas- 
ing number of visitors to the monastery, and 
immediately below our bedroom there was a 
large and well-stocked apartment that gave 
evidence of this. Here we found a varied 
supply of crucifixes and rosaries to suit all 
purses, samples of the different liqueurs dis- 
tilled by the monks, and picture post cards in 
abundance. The Brother Porter, a simple 
boorish fellow, in vain spread his bottles in the 
sight of two w r ho were not patrons of the stuff ; 
but we reduced his stock of post cards and his 
rosaries. He took the money like a post office 
girl selling stamps. 


WHEN we took our places in the little gallery 
that extends across the west side of the 

Through the Cevennes 

chapel to hear the monks chanting the last 
service of the day, Compline and Salve Regina, 
we found that there was at least another 
visitor, in the person of a stout and blue- 
chinned cure. The white-robed monks were 
seated in their chairs in the choir, books upon 
their knees ; while the organist in an elevated 
position on a level with the gallery played, 
unseen by us, " those majestic old Gregorian 
chants that, wherever you may hear them 
(in Meredith's fine phrase) seem to build up 
cathedral walls about you." Paraffin lamps 
shed a dim, uncertain light, and the rich full 
voices of the singers resounded weirdly through 
the white-walled chapel, the door opening now 
and again as some of the lay brothers entered 
and, crossing themselves, bowed wearily 
towards the altar, moving to their places below 
the gallery. After the elevation of the Host, 
and when the service was almost ended, the 
organist came down, and we noticed that in 
making his way out of the chapel he hung back 
a little in passing the choir screen, that he might 
not meet on his way to the door any of the 
brethren who were now slowly leaving. 

Of a similar service Stevenson writes : 
" There were none of those circumstances 
which strike the Protestant as childish or as 
tawdry in the public offices of Rome. A stern 
simplicity, heightened by the romance of the 
surroundings, spoke directly to the heart. I 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

recall the whitewashed chapel, the hooded 
figures in the choir, the lights alternately 
occluded and revealed the strong manly 
singing, the silence that ensued, the sight of 
cowled heads bowed in prayer, and then the 
clear trenchant beating of the bell, breaking 
in to show that the last office was over, and the 
hour of sleep had come ; and when I remem- 
ber, I am not surprised that I made my escape 
into the court with somewhat whirling fancies, 
and stood like a man bewildered in the windy 
starry night." The effect of it all on the 
sentimental traveller was summed up in these 
fervent words : " And I blessed God that I 
was free to wander, free to hope, and free to 

This, indeed, must be the impression all 
robust and unfettered minds will receive 
from a visit to Our Lady of the Snows. It is 
true that in their busy saw-mill which stands 
to the west of the monastery, and where the 
timber from the hills is turned to commercial 
use by the monks and their lay assistants, in 
their well-managed farm some distance west- 
ward, in the surrounding fields, in their many 
workshops in these they have varied occupa- 
tions, and of a manly character, but the 
terrible uselessness of it all is ever present to 
the mind of one coming from the stress and 
struggle of the zestful world. Poor men ! in 
their sullen way they may believe they have 

4 o 

Malavieille, a mountain sheilmg 

Scene of "A Night among the Pines" 

r sack, and smoking alo 
housand feet towards th 


" Buckled into my sack, and smoking alone in the pine woods, 
between four and five thousand feet towards the stars." R. L. S. 

Through the Cevennes 

chosen the better part ; but, simple and 
devout as they may be, they are the real 
cowards of life, the shirkers of the battle we 
are meant to fight. 

We slept the sleep of tired men in our room 
upstairs, and heard none of those hourly 
bells Stevenson records. Our young friend, 
whose monastic name I foolishly omitted to 
ask, called us before eight in the morning, 
and after providing a capital breakfast, bade 
us a ceremonious good-bye, watching us from 
the door until the pine woods enclosed us. 


WE made a swift descent to La Bastide, and 
by way of Chasserades, where Stevenson 
slept in the common bedroom of the inn, 
reached Le Bleymard late in the afternoon, 
passing through a country of bare hills and 
poor villages clustered in gusty hollows or 
hanging like swallows* nests on craggy slopes. 
The valley of the Lot, rich and beautiful 
westward to Mende, possesses no elements 
of charm in the neighbourhood of Bleymard, 
and we found that town so mean and feature- 
less, that we had no wish to pass the evening 
there. The inn we wanted was, so a crippled 
girl told us, at La Remise, on the high road, 
and we must have passed it. We remounted 

4 1 

In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

our cycles and retraced our path across the 
river, a distance of perhaps three furlongs, 
and lo ! there stood the charred remains of the 
Hotel du Lot, where we had hoped to rest 
ourselves. We had passed the place without 
noticing it, and the view of its gaunt and 
smoky walls, now that they had acquired so 
personal an interest, chilled our hearts, for the 
need to rest and refresh ourselves was pressing. 
It was after sundown, and there lay between 
us and Pont de Montvert a mountain higher 
than Ben Nevis. 

Opposite the unlucky Hotel du Lot stood a 
small auberge, kept by one Teissier. Two men 
were drinking absinth at a table by the door- 
way. One was a thick-set fellow, wearing 
eyeglasses, and clothed not unlike a foreman 
mechanic in England. The other was the 
familiar dark French type, thin of features, 
eyes bright as those of a consumptive, his 
beard ample and of a jet black, against which 
his ripe red lips showed noticeably. He was 
dressed like a clerk or commergant. They 
made us welcome at their table, and we fell at 
once to discussing the situation, from which 
it was evident we could not hope to cross the 
Lozere that night. Some tourists had ex- 
perienced a bad time traversing the mountain 
the previous Sunday, and as we could not hope 
to do more than reach the Baraque de Secours 
by nightfall, it would be madness to attempt 


Through the Cevennes 

the descent into the valley of the Tarn after 
dark, the road lying in many places along the 
lip of a precipice. Besides, this wayside inn 
was very well managed, said the absinth 
drinkers ; they had lived there since being 
burned out across the way, a statement that 
cheered us not a little, as every other feature 
of the place was extremely uninviting. 

The landlady, who had shown no interest 
in us whatever, I found busy at a large cooking- 
range in a tiny kitchen, which opened off the 
common sitting-room, and served also for the 
living-room of the servants and familiar 
loungers. She was a woman of austere coun- 
tenance, displaying like so many middle-aged 
Frenchwomen a considerable moustache ; but 
I noticed that her teeth were white. Yes, she 
would be glad to supply dinner if we were to 
stay overnight. We were, I confessed with- 
out enthusiasm ; whereupon she specified 
glibly the resources of her kitchen. We could 
have soup, trout, jugged hare, chicken, fillet 
of beef, potatoes, pastries, cheese, and other 
things, and by naming one dish and connecting 
it to the next with et puis, an aldermanic 
banquet seemed about to be conjured up from 
the dirty little room and its greasy stove. 
The common room of the inn had a sanded 
floor, and was furnished with a plain deal table, 
round which some country bumpkins were 
sitting on rush-bottomed chairs drinking beer 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

and spitting freely in the sand. A few cheap 
oleographs nailed on the dingy walls were the 
only efforts at decoration. Two drab and 
unattractive girls gossiping with the customers 
appeared to be the staff of the hotel. 

I returned to the Frenchmen outside, and 
found that my companion, anxious not to 
enter the place until the last moment, was 
playing at a game resembling bowls with some 
village urchins, though understanding not one 
word of their speech. But he came up in a 
little while to learn the results of my 
inquiries within, and soon we were all engaged 
in a very entertaining discussion. It appeared 
that the Frenchmen were concerned in the 
zinc mines near Bleymard, him of the oily 
clothes being chief engineer, the other business 
manager. I suppose they would be the two 
best conditioned residents in the district, and 
here they were lodging at an hotel which, apart 
from cooking, was below the standard of com- 
fort to be found in a crimp's den in the region 
of Ratcliffe Highway. The Frenchman is a 
wonderfully adaptable creature : give him a 
table to drink at, a chair to sit upon, and a bed 
anywhere under a roof, and he can contrive 
to be happy. 

M. ITngenieur, although he spoke no 
English, had seen something of the world, and 
had even been to Klondyke. He could not 
understand why anyone should have wan- 


The Bamque de Secours 

"The Lozere lies nearly east and west; its highest point, this Pic 
de Finiels, on which I was then standing, rises upwards of 5,600 feet 
above the sea." R. L. S. 


Through the Cevennes 

dered to such a hole as this for pleasure ! 
But he expected that next year's guide-books 
would describe Bleymard as notable for the 
ruins of the Hotel du Lot. A wag, obviously. 
If we wanted to see places worth looking at, 
there was Nice and Nimes, said his friend 
M. Barbenoire. Together they extolled, with 
a rare gush of adjectives, the beauty of these 
places, and promised to show us picture post- 
cards that would lure us into visiting them. 
Tourists did come sometimes to climb the 
Lozere, from the top of which in clear weather 
one might see the Alps. The engineer laughed 
merrily at this, and said the story was as much 
legend as the exploits of the beast of Gevau- 
dan. He discussed in a very practical mind 
the question of miners' wages, and thought 
that the Bleymard zinc workers were better 
off with four francs a day than English miners 
with five or six shillings. 

Sooner than we had expected dinner was 
declared ready, and we went inside with no 
great avidity!; but to our surprise we found 
the meal laid in a little room at the other end of 
the drinking den, tolerably clean though dingy 
and tasteless in its appointments. There we 
were joined by the wife of M. Barbenoire and 
two immense dogs of unfamiliar breed. The 
maid who served us was engagingly free from 
the usual formalities of the table, and between 
the courses would sit coyly on the knee of the 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

engineer, munching a piece of bread ; but for 
the rest, ours was no Barmecide feast. The 
aldermanic banquet appeared in all essentials 
save the serving, and we fared so well that we 
began to hope our bedroom would even be 

When, later in the evening, we took our 
courage in both hands and penetrated to the 
upper story by way of a spiral iron staircase 
through the kitchen roof and along a dark 
lobby of loose boards, we were heartened not 
a little to find in our room two good beds, clean 
and curtained. Sleep was thus assured, 
though the smell from the stable through the 
wall was redolent of rats. It was " a won- 
derful clear night of stars " when we looked 
out of our window before retiring, and we went 
to bed determined upon an early start. The 
bellowing of the oxen in the stable and the 
shouts of the buveurs below did not come long 
between us and the drowsy god. 


ALAS ! at dawn next day we looked forth on 
a blank wall of mist backing the ruins across 
the road. Not a hill was visible. We sought 
our beds again, and by nine o'clock the out- 
look was only slightly improved, the nearest 
hills, now resonant with sheep-bells, being in 


Through the Cevennes 

sight. The engineer comfortad us with the 
assurance that this was the common weather 
in June, the best time of the year being from 
July to October, but he thought the mists 
might clear before noon. Presently it began 
to rain, and during the whole day there was 
not half an hour of clear weather. At times 
the atmosphere would thin a little, only to 
show us heavy clouds condensing on the higher 
hills. Thus prisoned in our room, we con- 
trived to be comfortable, and I believe that 
another day would have left us wondering why 
we had dreaded staying at the inn, so soon 
does the human mind adapt itself to circum- 
stances. The rain-sodden streets actually 
provided entertainment. We watched with 
interest the coming and going of shepherds 
and their flocks, the former armed with com- 
modious umbrellas and their sheep shorn in 
a way that left a lump of wool upon their backs 
making them comically like little camels. 
Many bullock wagons loaded with shale passed 
by, and we noticed that the slightest touch 
with the driver's wand served to direct the 
team, whose heads were, to quote our hero, 
" fixed to the yoke like those of caryatides 
below a ponderous cornice. " Children played 
out and in the stables and among the ruins, 
and an old man, wearing the usual dress of the 
peasant, with pink socks showing above his 
sabots, his hands thrust deep in his pockets, 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

and a stick under his arm, wandered aimlessly 
to and fro in the rain most of the day. The 
stage-coach from Villefort to Mende rested 
for a time at the inn, causing a flicker of 
excitement, and in the evening again the mine 
officials were there to bear us company. 

The engineer proved himself a thorough- 
paced sceptic of the modern French sort. His 
opinion of the country-folk was low hypo- 
crites, fools, money-grubbers all ! Holding 
up a five-franc piece, he averred that for this 
they would sell mother, daughter, sister ; and 
then similarly elevating a bundle of paper- 
money, he exclaimed : " Voila, le Grand 

" This is a Catholic countryside ?" I said. 

" Yes/' he replied, " but that makes no 

" There is one Protestant in Bleymard," 
put in Barbenoire, " myself ! ' : 

" And he isn't up to much," added the cynic. 


"WE shall set out at five in the morning," 
I said to the landlady before going upstairs, 
and the engineer signalled to us as we left the 
room the outstretched fingers of his right hand 
twice ; wherein he proved something of a 
prophet, for it was nearer ten o'clock than five 

4 8 

Through the Cevennes 

before we determined to risk the mountain 
journey, the sky being clear in parts and the 
rain clouds scudding before a high wind, that 
promised a comparatively dry day. 

On the bridge across the Lot at Bleymard 
we were hailed by a man in labouring clothes, 
who smiled broadly and said, " Me speak 
Engleesh . " As we had not met a single French- 
man between Orleans and this spot who pre- 
tended to have any knowledge of our native 
tongue, we tarried to have speech with this 
cheery-faced fellow, whose white teeth shone 
through a reedy black moustache. But his 
lingual claims did not bear inspection. Beyond 
saying that he had visited London and Liver- 
pool, and knew what " shake hands " meant, 
and that English tobacco was better worth 
smoking than the French trash a hint which 
I accepted by presenting my pouch he could 
not go in our island speech ; and so we had 
to continue our chat in French that was bad 
on both sides, his accent resembling a York- 
shireman's English, and mine let us say an 
Englishman's French. He was certain we 
should have no more rain, as the wind was in 
the north, and if it kept dry to twelve o'clock 
we could depend on a good day. The weather 
prophet is the same in all lands, and we had 
not left him half an hour when we were shelter- 
ing from a sudden downpour. 

For some miles we h; 1 to plod upward on 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

foot in a wild and rocky gorge, with the merest 
trickle of water below. Yet every corner 
where a few square feet of clover could be 
coaxed into life had been cultivated by the 
dogged peasants, and patches were growing 
at heights where one would have thought it 
difficult to climb without the ropes of an 
Alpinist. Many of these mountain plots were 
miles away from any dwelling, a fact that 
conveys some idea of the barren nature of the 

The tiny hamlet of Malavieille, about half- 
way up the mountain side, is the highest point 
permanently inhabited. It is a mere handful 
of dark-grey houses, covered on slates and 
walls with a vivid yellow fungus. Here the 
upland fields were densely spread with violets, 
narcissi and hyacinths, and a few dun cows 
were browsing contentedly on this fragrant 
fare, while a boy who attended them stood on 
his head kicking his heels merrily in the sun- 
shine. He came up as we passed, staring at 
us stolidly ; and when we asked if the snakes, 
of which we had just encountered two about 
three feet long, were dangerous, he answered, 
" Pas bien," and more than that we could not 
get him to say, though he walked beside us for 
a time eyeing curiously our bicycles. 


WHEN we had come within sight of the 
Baraque de Secours, we had reached a sort of 
table-land reaching east and west for some 
miles. Eastward lay the pine woods where our 
vagabond spent one of his most tranquil nights 
as described in his chapter, " A Night Among 
the Pines." It was there that, awaking in the 
morning, he beheld the daybreak along the 
mountain-tops of Vivarais " a solemn glee 
possessed my mind at this gradual and lovely 
coming in of day." And it was there, too, that 
out of thankfulness for his night's rest he laid 
on the turf as he went along pieces of money, 
" until I had left enough for my night's lodg- 
ing." Some of it may be there to this day, 
for there is small human commerce at this 
altitude, a shepherd or two being the only folk 
we saw until we arrived at the shelter 
which we had seen for more than half an hour 
while we cycled arduously toward it. 

The baraque is a plain two-storied building, 
with a rough stone wall and porch enclosing a 
muddy yard. It stands at a height of over five 
thousand feet, being thus fully five hundred feet 
higher than Ben Nevis. To the west the Lozere 
swells upward, a great treeless waste, to its 
highest point, the Pic de Finiels, 5,600 feet 

In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

above sea-levels while a splendid mass of 
volcanic origin uprears its craggy head some 
little distance to the south-east. " The view, 
back upon the northern Gevaudan," says 
Stevenson, writing of what he saw as he passed 
near this point, " extended with every step ; 
scarce a tree, scarce a house, appeared upon 
the fields of wild hill that ran north, east, and 
west, all blue and gold in the haze and sun- 
light of the morning." And then in a little, 
when he began the descent towards the 
valley of the Tarn, he says : " A step that 
seemed no way more decisive than many other 
steps that had preceded it and, ' like stout 
Cortez when with eagle eyes he stared on the 
Pacific/ I took possession, in my own name, of a 
new quarter of the world. For behold, instead 
of the gross turf rampart I had been mounting 
for so long, a view into the hazy air of heaven, 
and a land of intricate blue hills below my 
feet." As he makes no mention of the baraque, 
I venture to suppose that it had not then been 
built, for one so eager of new experience would 
not have missed the opportunity of resting on 
his way at this high-set hostel. A dead sheep 
one of several we had seen on the mountain 
lay on the road by the gate, and propping 
our bicycles near it, we picked our way through 
the mud and knocked at the door. 

A gruff voice bade us enter. We stepped 
into a smoky room, with an earthern floor, 


Through the Cevennte 

containing a rough wooden table and two rude 
benches, and in a corner a small round table, 
a few chairs and a plain wooden dresser. The 
mouth that had emitted a very gutteral 
" Ongtray " belonged to a man of small stature 
but brigandish appearance, who was seated at 
the smaller table eating industriously. We 
asked for lemonade and biscuits, but the fellow 
stared at the words and spoke in a patois 
that was Greek to me. But when I ex- 
plained more sententiously that we desired 
something to eat and drink, he disappeared up 
a wooden stair, and we knew that a bottle of 
atrocious red wine, which we would welcome 
as so much vinegar, would be forthcoming. 
Meanwhile, the man's wife a fair-haired 
little woman with cheeks like red apples, 
dressed in the universal black of the French 
country-wife came in, leading a youngster by 
the hand. I repeated to her our wants, which 
she immediately proceeded to meet by break- 
ing four eggs into a pan, the shells being 
dropped on the floor, and lo ! an omelet was 
well on the way by the time her husband in 
his sabots came clattering down the stairs 
with the undesired wine, a few drops of which 
we used to colour the clear cold water we took 
in our tumblers from a pipe that ran cease- 
lessly into a basin set in the wall of the room 
that backed to the rising land. 
There is one respect in which the Cevennols 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

have progressed since Stevenson went among 
them. He writes : ' ' In these Hedge-inns the 
traveller is expected to eat with his own knife ; 
unless he ask, no other will be supplied : with 
a glass, a whang of bread, and an iron fork, 
the table is completely laid." Not so had we 
found it in any of the inns we visited, all had 
risen to the dignity of knives and forks ; but 
here at this house in the wilds our table was 
laid precisely as Stevenson describes, and the 
bread being hard, it was a temptation to break 
it across the knee like a piece of wood. We 
had almost finished our meal when, after 
some whisperings between the man and woman, 
the fellow dived into his pockets and produced 
a great clasp knife, which he opened and 
handed to us. 

While we sat and carried on a somewhat 
faltering conversation for both man and 
woman spoke the dialect of Languedoc and 
were superbly ignorant two men entered of 
the same brigandish type as the landlord, and, 
speaking better French, proffered their ser- 
vices as guides if we desired to scale the Pic 
de Finiels. This we had no desire to do, 
especially when they were frank enough to 
state that the view from the top was of very 
little interest. But they urged us to see the 
magnificent view over the entire range of the 
Cevennes from the more westerly peak, the 
Signal des Laubies. This, however, would 


Through the Cevennes 

have taken us some two hours, and we had a 
long way to travel that day. We were curious 
to know whether the baraque was tenanted in 
winter, and one of the guides told us that 
during the winter the whole of the uplands 
around us lay deep in snow, the roads being 
quite impassable. This shelter was only open 
from the beginning of June to the end of 
September, when its keepers retired downhill 
again to Malavieille. R. L. S. crossed the 
mountain on the second last day in September, 
so that the snows would soon be lying on his 
track. When we resumed our journey again 
we were once or twice beguiled into thinking 
that we saw some of the snows of yester year 
lying among the grey and lichened rocks, but 
a nearer approach turned the drifts into flocks 
of sheep, which the sombre background 
rendered snowy white by contrast. 


WE went forward into the country of the 
Camisards along a well-made road which 
gangs of labourers were leisurely repairing. 
So good are these mountain roads, and so 
diligently tended, that one is inclined to think 
they are used chiefly for the transit of stones 
to keep them in repair. That on which we 
travelled has been made since Modestine and 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

her driver footed it through this same valley. 
In less than a mile from the baraque it begins 
to sweep swiftly downward. Stevenson thus 
describes his descent : "A sort of track ap- 
peared and began to go down a breakneck 
slope, turning like a corkscrew as it went. It 
led into a valley through falling hills, stubbly 
with rocks like a reaped field of corn, and 
floored farther down with green meadows. I 
followed the track with precipitation ; the 
steepness of the slope, the continual agile turn- 
ing of the line of descent, and the old unwearied 
hope of finding something new in a new 
country, all conspired to lend me wings. Yet 
a little lower and a stream began, collecting 
itself together out of many fountains, and 
soon making a glad noise among the hills. 
Sometimes it would cross the track in a bit of 
waterfall, with a pool, in which Modestine 
refreshed her feet. The whole descent is like 
a dream to me, so rapidly was it accomplished. 
I had scarcely left the summit ere the valley 
closed round my path, and the sun beat 
upon me, walking in a stagnant lowland 

If his descent was thus, how much more so 
ours on our whirling wheels ? We encountered 
numerous cattle-drovers, whose herds spread 
themselves across the path and rendered our 
progress somewhat perilous, as neither hedge 
nor stone stood between us and the abyss. 



The Waitress at the Hotel des Cevenncs, from a photograph supplied 
by the Pasteur at Pont de Montvert 

"The features, although fleshy, were of an original and 
accurate design ; her mouth had a curl ; her nostril spoke 
of dainty pride." R. L. S. 

Through the Cevenntt 

There is but little population in the valley, and 
that centred in two small hamlets, though we 
observed a number of deserted cabins which 
Stevenson also notes. The river, too, as it 
nears the larger Tarn was all his magic pen 
had pictured ; here it " foamed awhile in 
desperate rapids, and there lay in pools of the 
most enchanting sea-green shot with watery 
browns. As far as I have gone, I have never 
seen a river of so changeful and delicate a 
hue : crystal was not more clear, the meadows 
were not by half so green." 

Our road brought us at length to Pont de 
Mont vert " of bloody memory," which lies in 
a green and rocky hollow among the hills. To 
Stevenson " the place, with its houses, its 
lanes, its glaring river-bed, wore an indescrib- 
able air of the south." Why so, he was unable 
to say ; as he justly observes, it would be 
difficult to tell in what particulars it differed 
from Monastier or Langogne or even Bley- 
mard. One of the first buildings that the 
traveller encounters is the little Protestant 
temple perched on the rocky bank of the river, 
and perhaps it was again the Protestant 
education of R. L. S. that led him to note a 
higher degree of intelligence among the in- 
habitants than he had found in the purely 
Catholic villages. For my part, with the best 
will to mark the difference, I found little to 
choose between the Catholic and Camisard 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

townships, unless it were a more obvious effort 
after cleanliness in some of the latter. 


PONT DE MONTVERT is memorable as the place 
where the Covenanters of France struck the 
first blow against their Romish persecutors ; 
here they " slew their Archbishop Sharpe." 
The Protestant pastor, a fresh-faced man about 
sixty, with a short white beard, and wearing 
no outward symbol of office, but dressed in an 
ordinary jacket suit and cloth cap, we found 
in his home in a building by the river-side near 
the bridge. Directly across the rock-strewn 
course was the Hotel des Cevennes, where 
Stevenson sat at the " roaring table d'hote, J> 
and was pleased to find three of the women 
passably good-looking, that being more than 
an average for any town in the Highlands of 
France. Our pastor his wife and golden- 
haired daughter also was more interested in 
discussing Stevenson's travels than the re- 
ligious condition of his district, a subject on 
which my companion, *ci pastor from :t the 
Celtic fringe," was athirst for information. 

To my various questions regarding the 
position of the Reformed Church I received 
the barest answers ; there was no glowing 
enthusiasm chez le pasteur for the Camisards 


Through the Cevennes 

who a stone's - throw from where we sat 
stabbed with many superfluous thrusts the 
Archpriest Du Chayla, their most brutal 
persecutor. But Stevenson and his donkey 
ah, that was another matter ! He knew all 
about them to the year, the day, the hour of 
their quaint and curious visit ; he was himself 
only two years established in his charge at the 
time. And Clarisse ! We knew, of course, 
what Stevenson had said of her ? Would we 
care to see her photograph ? She was now 
married, and settled in another town with a 
considerable family growing around her. One 
felt that after a quarter of a century, and with 
a family thrown in, Stevenson would have 
resolutely refused to look on the counterfeit 
presentment of Clarisse. But, less scrupu- 
lous, we chose to see her portrait, and the 
pastor was good enough to present me with a 
copy, as he possessed several which he had 
procured three years before when ordering one 
for an Englishman who had gone over the 
trail of R. L. S. The carte shows the table- 
maid of the hotel as still possessing some of the 
featural charms so minutely and faithfully 
noted by our author. 

" What shall I say of Clarisse ? " he writes. 
" She waited the table with a heavy placable 
nonchalance, like a performing cow ; her 
great grey eyes were steeped in amorous 
langour ; her features, although fleshy, were 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

of an original and accurate design ; her mouth 
had a curl ; her nostrils spoke of dainty pride ; 
her cheek fell into strange and interesting 
lines. It was a face capable of strong emotion, 
and with training it offered the promise of 
delicate sentiment. . . . Before I left I 
assured Clarisse of my hearty admiration. 
She took it like milk, without embarrassment 
or wonder, merely looking at me steadily with 
her great eyes ; and I own the result upon 
myself was some confusion. If Clarisse could 
read English, I should not dare to add that 
her figure was unworthy of her face. Hers 
was a case for stays ; but that may perhaps 
grow better as she gets up in years." 

When I look again at the photograph, I fear 
that even this hope for her who was " left 
to country admirers and a country way of 
thought," has not been fulfilled. 

The pastor came with us to point out Du 
Chayla's house, which stands on the river side 
westward of his own, the spire of the modern 
Catholic church showing above the roof. Per- 
haps it was only natural that he should look 
upon so familiar an object without any show 
of emotion, though my fellow-traveller set it 
down to the cold Christless teaching of the 
Eglise liberate, to which section of the French 
Reformed Church Pont de Montvert is at- 
tached. In that three-storied house, with 
its underground dungeons and stout-walled 


Through the Cevennes 

garden trending down to the river, the Arch- 
priest carried on :< the Propagation of the 
Faith " by such ungentle methods as plucking 
out the hairs of the beard, enclosing the hands 
of his Protestant prisoners upon live coal, " to 
convince them," as R. L. S. quaintly observes, 
" that they were deceived in their opinions." 
On the 24th July, 1702, led by their " prophet" 
Seguier, a band of some fifty Camisards 
attacked the house of the Archpriest, to which 
they at length set fire, and thus forced Du 
Chayla and his military guard to attempt 
escape. The Archpriest, in lowering himself 
from an upper window by means of knotted 
sheets, fell and broke his leg, and there in the 
garden, where a woman was to-day hanging 
out shabby clothes to dry, the Covenanters 
had their vengeance of stabs. " ' This/ they 
said, ' is for my father broken on the wheel. 
This for my brother in the galleys. That for 
my mother or my sister imprisoned in your 
cursed convents.' Each gave his blow and his 
reason ; and then all kneeled and sang psalms 
around the body till the dawn." Save for a new 
roof, the building remains much as it was two 
hundred years ago. 


THE road, for close on two miles out of Pont 
de Montvert, goes uphill past the Catholic 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

church the town being now about equally 
divided in the matter of religion and then it 
is a long and gentle descent to Florae. In no 
respect has the road changed since Stevenson 
wrote of it, nor is there any likelihood that it 
will be altered ere the crack of doom. " A 
smooth sandy ledge, it runs about half-way 
between the summit of the cliffs and the river 
in the bottom of the valley ; and I went in 
and out, as I followed it, from bays of 
shadow into promontories of afternoon sun. 
This was a pass like that of Killiecrankie ; a 
deep turning gully in the hills, with the Tarn 
making a wonderful hoarse uproar far below, 
and craggy summits standing in the sunshine 
far above." 

The slopes of the valley have been terraced 
almost to the sky-line, not for baby-fields of 
wheat, but to furnish ground for chestnut trees, 
that clothe the hills with rich and sombre 
foliage, and give forth "a faint, sweet perfume/' 
which tinctures the air with balsamic breath. 
R. L. S. goes into raptures over these chestnuts ; 
" I wish I could convey a notion of the 
growth of these noble trees ; of how they strike 
out boughs like the oak, and trail sprays of 
drooping foliage like the willow ; of how they 
stand on upright fluted columns like the pillars 
of a church ; or, like the olive, from the most 
shattered bole can put out smooth and useful 
shoots, and begin a new life upon the ruins of 


Through the Cevennes 

the old. . . . And to look down upon a level 
filled with these knolls of foliage, or to see a 
clan of old, unconquerable chestnuts clustered 
' like herded elephants ' upon the spur of a 
mountain, is to rise to higher thoughts of the 
powers that are in Nature. " It was on a 
terrace and under one of these trees that he 
camped for the night, having to scramble up 
some sixty feet above the place he had selected 
for himself, which was as high as that from the 
road, before he could find another terrace with 
space enough for his donkey. He was 
awakened in the morning by peasants coming 
to prune the trees, and after going down to the 
river for his morning toilet " To wash in one 
of God's rivers in the open air seems to me a 
sort of cheerful solemnity or semi-pagan act 
of worship " he went on his way " with a 
light and peaceful heart, and sang psalms to 
the spiritual ear as I advanced/' 

Some little way from where he had slept he 
foregathered with an old man in a brown night- 
cap, " clear-eyed, weather-beaten, with a faint, 
excited smile," who said to him after a while, 
Connaissez-vous le Seigneur P " The old 
fellow was delighted when the donkey-driver 
answered, " Yes, I know Him ; He is the 
best of acquaintances," and together they 
journeyed on, discussing the spiritual condi- 
tion of the country-folk. " Thus, talking like 
Christian and Faithful by the way, he and I 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

came upon a hamlet by the Tarn. It was but 
a humble place, called La Vernede, with less 
than a dozen houses, and a Protestant chapel 
on a knoll. Here he dwelt, and here at the 
inn I ordered my breakfast. The inn was kept 
by an agreeable young man, a stonebreaker 
on the road, and his sister, a pretty and 
engaging girl." 

We found this little hamlet even smaller 
than we expected, some half-dozen houses and 
a tiny place of worship, the whole lying below 
the level of the main road, so that one could 
have thrown a stone on their roofs, well-tilled 
fields and meadows stretching down to the river. 
A cantonnier who was busy breaking stones by 
the roadway helped us to identify the place, 
and was proud to confess himself a Protestant, 
in common with the little handful of his fellow- 
villagers. The country grows richer and more 
fruitful as we approach Florae, passing on our 
way the old castle of Miral and a picturesque 
church compounded of an ancient battle- 
mented monastery and some modern buildings 
with a tall tower. 

The influence of a country on its people 
suggested to R. L. S. an interesting comparison 
as he journeyed through " this landscape, 
smiling although wild." " Those who took to 
the hills for conscience sake in Scotland had all 
gloomy and bedevilled thoughts," he writes; 
" for once that the received God's comfort, 

Through the Cevennes 

they would be twice engaged with Satan ; 
but the Camisards had only bright and sup- 
porting visions. . . . With a light conscience, 
they pursued their life in these rough times and 
circumstances. The soul of Seguier, let us not 
forget, was like a garden. They knew they 
were on God's side, with a knowledge that has 
no parallel among the Scots ; for the Scots, al- 
though they might be certain of the cause, could 
never rest confident of the person. " A singu- 
larly inapposite comparison. It was not in 
pleasant valleys such as these, or in cosy little 
towns like Pont de Montvert, that the Camisards 
fought out their war with " His Most Christian 
Majesty Louis, King of France and Brittany/' 
but on the bare and rocky plateaus westward 
of the Cevennes, and on such mountain-tops 
as the Lozere. Stevenson had never seen the 
Causse Mejan or the Causse du Larzac, to the 
southward of the region through which he 
travelled, or he would have realised that their 
conditions were even less likely to foster 
" bright and supporting visions " in the 
Camisards than those of the mountain-hunted 
Scots, though much better from a strategic 
point of view. 


FLORAC is a small town of white houses, 
cuddled between the eastern front of the Causse 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

Mejan and the western foothills of the 
Cevennes, with the river Tarnon, joined by 
the Mimente to the south, running northward 
on its outskirts. There are only two thousand 
inhabitants, but the number and excellence of 
Florae's hotels are accounted for by its being 
an important centre for tourists visiting the 
gorges of the Tarn, which, totally unknown to 
the outer world at the time of Stevenson's 
journey, are now admitted to possess the 
finest scenery in Europe. Our French guide- 
book frankly stated that Florae is a place " of 
few attractions," but R. L. S. makes the most 
of these in a sentence or two, describing the 
town as possessing " an old castle, an alley of 
planes, many quaint street-corners, and a live 
fountain welling from the hill." The old 
castle is quite without interest, and is indeed 
the local prison, while the alley of planes, 
called the Esplanade, is a dusty open space, 
with many cafes lining it, and the grey, feature- 
less Protestant Temple at its southern end. 

"It is notable, besides," he adds, " for 
handsome women, and as one of two capitals, 
Alais being the other, of the country of the 
Camisards." I do not recall having noticed 
an unusual number of handsome women, 
though the wife of the Free Church minister 
was quite the prettiest French woman we saw 
in the Cevennes, and the Established Church 
pastor's wife perhaps the most cultured. 


Through the Cevennes 

R. L. S. found the townsfolk anxious to talk of 
the part played by Florae in the days of the 
Camisards, and was delighted to see Catholic 
and Protestant living together in peace and 
amity. But it may be that the conspicuous 
absence of all windows from the lower parts of 
the Protestant churches is a memorial of times 
when the adherents of the reformed religion 
were subjected to the prying eyes and per- 
chance the more dangerous attentions of the 
Catholics without. Most of the public officials 
were named to us as Protestants, and the 
religious differences are as strongly marked 
between the two sects of the latter as between 
them and their townsmen of the Roman 
communion. The larger and State-supported 
church is Rationalistic, corresponding to our 
Unitarian, and the smaller a Free Church, with 
a symbol of the open Bible above its doorway. 
In what we might call the Free Manse, 
really an extension of the church for the 
housing of the minister, a door communicating 
between the place of worship and the domestic 
apartments, we found M. Illaire and his wife 
at play with their children homely folk, who 
gave us a cordial welcome, the heartier for the 
fact that Mme. Illaire had stayed for a year 
in that " quaint, grey-castled city, where the 
bells clash of a Sunday, and the wind squalls, 
and the salt showers fly and beat " Steven- 
son's own romantic birth- town. She could 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

thus speak our native tongue, and my com- 
panion, for once in a way, needed none of my 
interpreting. M. Illaire, an essential French- 
man, swarthy of features, slight of build, 
voluble and gesticulative, discoursed with 
shining eyes of Protestantism, but was some- 
thing of a pessimist, and seemed to think that 
at best a cold, bloodless Dieism would rule the 
intellectual France of the future. I gathered 
that, as in the old days of enmity between the 
Established and Free kirks of Scotland, there 
was no traffic between the two Protestant 
churches in Florae, for Mme. Illaire confessed 
that she had never seen the inside of the 
Temple, which we had thoroughly inspected 
earlier in the afternoon, receiving the key from 
the pastor's wife, whose husband unfortunately 
was absent on a visit to Montpellier. 


THE route of R. L. S. now lay along the 
valley of the Mimente, which branches east- 
ward a little south of Florae, and penetrates 
a country very similar to that traversed 
between the Lozere and this point. It was 
only a few miles from Florae that he spent his 
last night a la belle ctoile in the valley of this 
little river, noting in one of his finest sentences 
the coming of night : "A grey pearly evening 



" On a branch of the Tarn stands Florae. It 
is notable as one of the two capitals, Alais being 
the other, of the country cf the Camisards." 
R. L. S. 

Through the Cevennes 

shadow filled the glen ; objects at a little 
distance grew indistinct and melted baffiingly 
into each other ; and the darkness was rising 
steadily like an exhalation." At Cassagnas 
he was in the very heart of the Camisard 
country, where there is little to engage one 
but the historic associations of the district. 
At St. Germain de Calberte, six miles to the 
south-west, reached by a rough and difficult 
road more suitable for the foot than the wheel, 
he slept at the inn, and the next afternoon 
(Thursday, 3rd October) he accomplished the 
eight remaining miles through the waterless 
valley of the Gar don to St. Jean du Gard 
" fifteen miles and a stiff hill in little beyond 
six hours." 

There came the parting with the companion 
of his travels, Modestine finding a ready pur- 
chaser at much below prime cost. " For 
twelve days we had been fast companions/' 
he writes on his last page : '" we had travelled 
upwards of a hundred and twenty miles, 
crossed several respectable ridges, and jogged 
along with our six legs by many a rocky and 
many a boggy by-road. After the first day, 
although sometimes I was hurt and distant in 
manner, I still kept my patience ; and as for 
her, poor soul ! she had come to regard me 
as a god. She loved to eat out of my hand. 
She was patient, elegant in form, the colour 
of an ideal mouse, and inimitably small. Her 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

faults were those of her race and sex ; her 
virtues were her own. Farewell ! and if for 

ever Father Adam wept when he sold 

her to me ; after I had sold her in my turn, 
I was tempted to follow his example ; and 
being alone with the stage driver and four 
or five agreeable young men, I did not 
hesitate to yield to my emotion. " 

We are to imagine R. L. S. thus tearfully 
occupied in the stage-coach bearing him east 
to Alais, an important industrial town on the 
main line northward through Le Puy, whither 
there is no call to follow him. We have the 
romantic regions of the Gausses and the Tarn 
gorges still to explore. Our way, no longer a 
pilgrim's path, lies westward. 


Along the Route of "An Inland 

V * 

" Now, to be properly enjoyed, a walking tour should be gone 
upon alone. If you go in company, or even in pairs, it is no 
longer a walking tour in anything but name. It is something 
else, and more in the nature of a picnic. A walking tour should 
be gone upon alone, because freedom is of the essence ; because 
you should be able to stop and go on, and follow this way or 
that as the freak takes you, and because you must have your 
own pace, and neither tramp alongside a champion walker, nor 
mince in time with a girl. And then you must be open to all 
impressions, and let yourself take colour from what you see. 
You should be as a pipe for any wind to play upon." 


THUS wrote Stevenson in one of his essays, 
but I doubt if he ever put into practice 
this engaging theory of his. He came nearest 
to being alone when he undertook his famous 
tour through the Cevennes ; yet a donkey, and 
one of so much character as his Modestine, is 
company of a sort. When he made the first of 
his little journeys with a literary end in view, 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

he had a companion after his own heart in the 
late Sir Walter Simpson, to whom the first of 
his books, An Inland Voyage, is dedicated. 
That was, however, an enterprise of some 
adventure, and it was well that the author 
had a companion, for had he fared forth 
alone in his frail canoe, as did his great ex- 
emplar John MacGregor, in the Rob Roy, it is 
doubtful if An Inland Voyage not to say 
all that came after it had ever been written. 
In a letter sent from Compiegne during the 
voyage, he gives a very cheerless picture of 
the business : " We have had deplorable 
weather, quite steady ever since the start ; 
not one day without heavy showers, and 
generally much wind and cold wind forby. . . 
Indeed, I do not know if I would have stuck 
to it as I have done if it had not been for 
professional purposes." I suspect that no less 
potent an influence than " professional pur- 
poses" in raising his courage to the height of 
the occasion, was the companionship of " My 
dear Cigarette," as he addresses Sir Walter, 
whose canoe had been named Cigarette, that 
of Stevenson sporting the classic title Are- 
thusa. Fortunately for the reading world, 
the voyage, despite its discomforts, had 
happy issue in one of the most charming 
books that came from the pen of the 
essayist, and although hints are not lacking 
of the shadows through which the canoeists 


"Boom is not a nice place." R. L. S. 


"The rest of the journey to Villevorde, we still spread our 
canvas to the unfavouring air." R. L. S. 

Along the Route of "An Inland Voyage" 

passed, the sunshine of a gay and bright 
spirit is radiant on every page. 

As it had been my pleasant fortune in the 
summer of 1903, together with a friend, to 
follow the footsteps of Stevenson in his travels 
among the Cevennes, and the pilgrimage 
having proved plentiful of literary interest, it 
seemed to me that one might find in a journey 
by road along the route of "An Inland 
Voyage" as much of interest, and certainly 
some measure of personal pleasure. More- 
over, with the disciple's daring, often greater 
than the master's, I desired to test the plan 
of going alone. But it was more by happy 
chance than any planning of mine that I 
betook myself, with my bicycle, to Antwerp 
at precisely the same season that, eight-and- 
twenty years before, Stevenson and his com- 
panion set out upon their canoe voyage by 
river and canal, from that ancient port to the 
town of Pontoise, near the junction of the 
Seine and Oise, and within hail of Paris. 

In the preface to the first edition of An 
Inland Voyage, its author expresses the fear 
that he " might not only be the first to read 
these pages, but the last as well," and that he 
" might have pioneered this very smiling 
tract of country all in vain, and found not a 
soul to follow in my steps." That others have 
been before me in my late pilgrimage is more 
than probable, although I have found no 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

trace of them ; but perhaps I have not 
searched with care, for I would fain flatter 
myself that here, as in the Cevennes, I found 
a field of interest where there had been no 
passing of many feet. 


ANTWERP seems a town so antique that no 
change of modern handiwork can alter in 
any vital way its grey old features. Yet in 
my own acquaintance with it, on its outward 
quarters at least, it has taken on surprisingly 
the veneer of modern Brussels, though by the 
river-side it remains much as it was when, in 
the later days of August, 1876, the 
Cigarette and the Arethusa, with their adven- 
turous occupants, were launched into the 
Scheldt to the no small excitement of the 
loungers about the docks. There must have 
been some excitement, too, in the breasts of 
the voyagers, but, like the true Scots they 
were, we can well believe they gave no show 
of it. Stevenson had never been in a canoe 
under sail before, and to tie his sheet in so 
frail a craft in the middle of a wide and busy 
river called for no contemptible degree of 
courage. But he tied his sheet. 

" I own I was a little struck by this circum- 
stance myself," he writes. " Of course, in 


Along the Route of "An Inland Voyage" 

company with the rest of my fellow-men, I 
had always tied the sheet in a sailing-boat ; 
but in so little and crank a concern as a canoe, 
and with these charging squalls, I was not 
prepared to find myself follow the same 
principle, and it inspired me with some 
contemptuous views of our regard for life. 
It is certainly easier to smoke with the sheet 
fastened ; but I had never before weighed a 
comfortable pipe of tobacco against an obvious 
risk, and gravely elected for the comfortable 
pipe. It is a common-place that we cannot 
answer for ourselves before we have been 
tried. But it is not so common a reflection, 
and surely more consoling, that we usually 
find ourselves a great deal braver and better 
than we thought." 

There is but little of interest up the river, 
which waters a level, unpicturesque country 
to Rupelmonde, where the canoeists would 
bid good-bye to the Scheldt and steer to the 
south-east up the Rupel, a broad and smooth- 
flowing stream that joins the greater water 
at this point. Against the current they 
would urge their tiny prows until they arrived 
after a journey of a few miles at the town of 
Boom, whence the canal extends to Brussels 
in an almost straight line: 

As I made my way that grey autumn 
morning through the little villages and along 
the tree-lined highway, the brown leaves 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

flickering down in the cold wind that stirred 
among the branches, it pleased me to fancy 
how Stevenson, had his youth fallen in the 
days of the bicycle, would have enjoyed the 
privilege of riding on the Belgian footpath, 
which to us who live in a land where no 
cyclist dare mount his machine except on the 
highway affords a delightful sensation of 
lawlessness. It is well to observe, however, 
that but for this right of the footpath there 
would be no cyclist in all Flanders or Northern 
France, since highways and by-ways there are 
made of the most indiscriminate cobbles, and 
in the remote country places a cart on the 
lonely road moves with as great a clatter as 
one on the stony streets of Edinburgh. 


I WAS no great way from Boom when I saw 
advancing a high and narrow structure, 
drawn by a horse, that progressed to the 
weird and irregular clangor of a heavy bell, 
reminding me curiously of Stevenson's 
moving description of the leper bell in The 
Black Arrow. When I came up with the 
horse and its burden, I found the latter to 
consist of a large circular tank, set on four 
wheels, with a tall box in front for the 
driver, above whose head a large bell was 



The head-quarters of the "Royal Sport N antique " is hidden among 
the trees on the left of the picture. 


It was at this point, "on the Sambre canalised," that the canoe 
voyage began in earnest. 

Along the Route of "An Inland Voyage" 

suspended. The word " Petrol," painted on 
the tank, indicated its contents. Here, surely, 
was something that made the days of the canoe 
voyage seem remote indeed ; the peddling 
vendor of petrol belongs emphatically to the 
new century. 

" Boom is not a nice place, and is only 
remarkable for one thing : that the majority 
of the habitants have a private opinion that 
they can speak English, which is not justified 
by fact." I can heartily endorse our canoe- 
ist's opinion of the town, but this linguistic 
pride of its inhabitants is surely a vanity of 
the past. I found none and I spoke to 
several who had any delusions as to their 
knowledge of English, and, indeed, few of 
them had more than a smattering of French. 
A pleasant fellow on a cycle, who had 
insisted on riding close to me through the 
outlying districts of the town, which are en- 
tirely taken up by extensive brickworks, where 
I noticed the labourers all went bare-footed, 
I found capable of understanding a few words 
of broad Scots, and when I said, " Boom, is't 
richt on ? " or " Watter, richt on ? " he nodded 
brightly, and replied in Flemish, which was 
comically like the Scots. 

The Hotel de la Navigation, where the 
paddlers put up for the night, and of which 
Stevenson gives so bad an account, I found 
no trace of, nor did I tarry any length of time 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

in Boom, since its attractions were so meagre. 
The " great church with a clock, and a wooden 
bridge over the river/' remain the outstanding 
features of the town, and viewed from the 
south side of the river, it makes by no means 
an unpleasing picture. 


THE canal was simply packed with barges 
and great ungainly scows in the vicinity of 
the town, awaiting their turn to slip through 
the locks into the freer water of the Rupel, 
and heigh ! for Antwerp, or even the coast- 
wise towns of Holland. It was good to feel 
as one proceeded along the tow-path that 
here, in this world of change, was a stream of 
life flowing onward through the generations 
serene and changeless. " Every now and 
then we met or overtook a long string of boats 
with great green tillers ; high sterns with a 
window on either side of the rudder, and 
perhaps a jug or flowerpot in one of the 
windows ; a dinghy following behind ; a 
woman busied about the day's dinner, and a 
handful of children." Every day since R. L. S. 
paddled in this same stretch of water 
the canal has presented the same picture of 
life, and thirty years hence, it is safe to 
prophesy, the wayfarer will find no change, 


Along the Route of "An Inland Voyage" 

as these canals remain the great highways of 
Belgium and France for the transport of goods 
that are in no haste; and when we come to 
think of it, a great proportion of the commodi- 
ties of life may be carried from place to place 
in no gasping hurry for prompt delivery. 

Stevenson has many profitable reflections 
on the life of the canal-folk, with which in 
the course of his journey he was to become so 
familiar. " Of all the creatures of commercial 
enterprise/' he writes, " a canal barge is by 
far the most delightful to consider. It may 
spread its sails, and then you see it sailing 
high above the tree-tops and the windmill, 
sailing on the aqueduct, sailing through the 
green corn-lands, the most picturesque of 
things amphibious. Or the horse plods along 
at a foot-pace, as if there were no such thing 
as business in the world ; and the man dream- 
ing at the tiller sees the same spire on the 
horizon all day long. . . There should be 
many contented spirits on board, for such a 
life is both to travel and to stay at home. . . . 
I am sure I would rather be a bargee than 
occupy any position under heaven that re- 
quired attendance at an office. There are few 
callings, I should say, where a man gives up 
less of his liberty in return for regular meals." 
But our philosopher, when he goes on to 
enhance his comfortable picture of a bargee's 
life, is scarcely correct in saying that " he can 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

never be kept beating off a lee shore a whole 
frosty night when the sheets are as hard as 
iron." For these great clumsy craft know 
well the scent of the brine, and there are times 
w r hen the snug outlook on the towing-path, 
and the slow business of passing through 
innumerable locks are changed for floundering 
in heavy seas and a straining look-out for 
a safe harbour. Not all their days are smooth 
and placid, and sometimes, we may imagine, 
the dainty pots of geraniums, that look so 
gay against the windows as we pass, must be 
removed to safer places, while the family 
washing, drying on deck to-day, has to be 
stowed elsewhere, and the tow-haired children, 
now playing around the dog-kennel on the top 
of the hatches, have to be sent below when 
salt waves break over the squat prow of the 

The journey along the canal bank was to 
me a very pleasant one, and I had hopes of 
being more fortunate than the canoeists in 
reaching Brussels with a dry skin. They had 
to paddle in an almost continual drizzle, and 
even made shift to lunch in a ditch, with the 
rain pattering on their waterproofs. But 
when I got as far as Villevorde, where gangs 
of men were labouring on the extensive works 
in connection with the railway and the new 
water supply, the rain began, and I was wet 
to the skin long before I had reached the royal 



Where R. L. S. and his companion stayed for some days awaiting 
the arrival of the canoes by rail from Brussels. 

Along the Route of "An Inland Voyage" 

suburb of Laeken, where, for evidence of 
Belgium's industrial progress, witness the 
splendid improvement on the canal at this 
point, soon to become a system of docks and 
water-ways resembling ^in | extent j a great 
railway junction. 


ONE of the most amusing episodes in "An 
Inland Voyage" was the encounter of the 
canoeists with the young boatmen of the 
" Royal Sport Nautique," who in their enthu- 
siasm for rowing gave a warm welcome to 
the strangers, and by assuming the latter to 
be mighty men of the paddle, led them into 
the most unwarranted boasting about the 
sport. " We are all employed in commerce 
during the day," said the Belgians, " but in 
the evening, voyez-vous, nous sommes serieux." 
An admirable opening for a characteristic bit 
of Stevensonian philosophy : " For will any- 
one dare to tell me that business is more 
entertaining than fooling among boats ? " 

Whether or not the newer generation of 
Brussels boatmen are as serious as the youths 
of thirty years ago I -cannot say. The <next 
afternoon, being Sunday, I came outjagain 
from Brussels to make enquiries concerning the 
" Royal Sport Nautique," and found a commo- 

In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

dious brick building occupying the site of the 
boathouse wherein Stevenson had been enter- 
tained, but no signs of nautical life about it. 
There was the slip where the Cigarette and 
the Arethusa were drawn up out of the 
canal, and on the roadway opposite stood 
this new boathouse and clubroom, with 
the dates 1865 94 indicating, as the only 
member whom I found on the premises 
explained, that the club had been founded 
in the former year, and the building erected 
in the latter. But he was a churlish fellow, 
this coxcomb in his Sunday dress, and barely 
answered my questions. If I too, had paddled 
my own canoe, perhaps it might have been 
otherwise ! The day was fine, and the canal 
was busy with little excursion steamers that 
were well patronised by holiday-makers, and 
were covered almost to the water-line with 
flaring advertisements of Scotch whiskies 
and English soaps, only one out of a dozen 
advertisements being of local origin : a cir- 
cumstance that would, we may be sure, have 
drawn from Stevenson some pages of gay 


FOLLOWING the example of the original 
travellers, I took train from Brussels to the 
French frontier town of Maubeuge, where in 


Along the Route of "An Inland Voyage" 

real earnest their canoe voyage began. To 
the traveller who has wandered the highways 
of France south and west of Paris, such a town 
as this presents some uncommon features, and 
I cannot but think that R. L. S. gives a wrong 
impression of it. ' There was nothing to do, 
nothing to see/' he tells us, and his only joy 
seems to have been that he got excellent meals 
at the " Grand Cerf," where he encountered the 
dissatisfied driver of the hotel omnibus, who said 
to him : " Here I am. I drive to the station. 
Well ! Then I drive back again to the hotel. 
And so on every day and all the week round. 
My God ! is that life ? >! And you remember 
Stevenson's comment : " Better a thousand 
times that he should be a tramp, and mend 
pots and pans by the wayside, and sleep under 
the trees, and see the dawn and the sunset 
every day above a new horizon." Here spoke 
the lover of romance ; but the facts are quite 

Maubeuge I found a bright little town, 
surrounded by mighty ramparts with spacious 
gates and bridges over the fosse. It is 
picturesquely situated on the river Sambre, 
on whose banks stand large warehouses and 
manufactories, while the shops bear evidence 
of prosperity. Even I' art nouveau has reached 
out from Paris and affected the business 
architecture of the town. There is a bustling 
market-place, a handsome little square with 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

a spirited monument to the sons of the 
country-side who have fallen for France, a 
grey old church, and a pleasure-ground with 
a band-stand and elaborate arrangements for 
illumination on gala nights. Indeed, I can 
imagine life to be very tolerable in Maubeuge, 
which is really the residential centre of an 
immense industrial district resembling more 
closely than any other part of France our own 
Black Country. 

Stevenson makes no mention of having 
visited the church, which is interesting in one 
respect at least. Beneath the stucco casts of. 
the stations of the cross some cure of an evan- 
gelical turn of mind has ventured on a series 
of little homilies unusual in my experience 
of French churches. Thus, under the repre- 
sentation of Christ falling while bearing His 
cross we read : " Who is it that causes Jesus 
to fall a second time ? You, unhappy person, 
who are for ever falling in your faults, because 
you lack resolution. Ask, therefore, of God 
that you may henceforth become more faithful 
unto Him/' 

Only in the most insignificant way can 
Maubeuge have changed since Sir Walter 
Simpson was nearly arrested for drawing the 
fortifications, " a feat of which he was hope- 
lessly incapable," so that I suspect something 
of misplaced sentiment in Stevenson's im- 
pressions of the place. For my part, I should 

8 4 


"A miry lane led us up from Quartes with its church and 
bickering windmill." R. L. S. 

Where "the landlady stood upon the bridge, probably lamenting 
she had charged so little," when the canoeists arrived back by river 
from Quartes after having been treated like pedlars at Pont 

Along the Route of "An Inland Voyage" 

find it difficult to mention a town of the same 
size in England or Scotland to compare with 
Maubeuge as a place to pass one's days in. 
That omnibus driver with the soul of a Raleigh 
may have been in some measure a creature of 
the romancer's fancy. At all events, it is 
likely enough that he has travelled far since 
1876, as I take him to have been a man of 
middle age then. The hotel omnibus with its 
two horses still makes its journey to and from 
the station, but- the driver is a stout young 
fellow of florid face, who, I am sure, is perfectly 
contented with his lot, and enjoys his meals. 
" C'est toitjours la meme id" said Veuve 
Bonnaire, the landlady of the " Grand Cerf," 
when I chatted with her in the bureau after 
luncheon. Yet not always the same, for 
where was M. Bonnaire ? And I fear that 
our canoeists, if they could visit the hostelry 
again would scarce recognise in this lady of 
gross body their hostess of thirty years ago. 
The building itself is quite unchanged, I was 
assured, and I ate my food in the same room 
and in just such company as the voyagers 
dined military officers all absurdly alike in 
sharp features, small moustache and tuft on 
chin, and ungallant baldness of head ; and 
three or four commercial travellers, each with 
a tendency to " a full habit of body." 


THE whole establishment of the " Grand 
Cerf " accompanied the canoeists to the water's 
edge when they were ready to take their leave. 
Madame Bonnaire, however, has quite forgot- 
ten that exciting episode of her middle life ; 
but there, we have Stevenson's word for it, and 
the good woman must accept the fame. The 
day was a dismal one, we are told wind and 
rain, and " a stretch of blighted country " to 
pass through. I heartily wished for a speedy 
end to that same stretch. For six or seven 
miles the road is lined with factories and dirty 
cottages, while dirty electric cars rattle along, 
well-laden with passengers, for here France is 
at work and grimy ; here is the France of 
which the tourist along the beaten tracks has 
no notion. A stout gentleman with whom I 
conversed by the wayside was very proud of 
the varied industries of the district. " Look 
you ; we have glass works, pottery works, 
iron foundries, engine works, copper, and 
many other industries in the neighbourhood." 
Still, I was glad when, a mile or two beyond 
Hautmont, I found myself outside this region 
of smoke and growling factories and ad- 
vancing into a pleasant pastoral country, the 
river only a little way from the road. Steven- 


Along the Route of "An Inland Voyage" 

son's word picture of the scene is photographic 
in its accuracy, but his art environs it with 
that ethereal touch the old engravers could 
give to a landscape, an art that has been lost 
to us by the vogue of cheap modern " pro- 


" After Hautmont," he writes, :( the sun 
came forth again and the wind went down ; 
and a little paddling took us beyond the iron- 
works and through a delectable land. The 
river wound among low hills, so that some- 
times the sun was at our backs, and sometimes 
it stood right ahead, and the river before us 
was one sheet of intolerable glory. On either 
hand, meadows and orchards bordered, with a 
margin of sedge and water-flowers, upon the 
river. The hedges were of a great height, 
woven about the trunks of hedgerow elms ; 
and the fields, as they were often small, looked 
like a series of bowers along the stream. 
There was never any prospect ; sometimes a 
hill-top with its trees would look over the 
nearest hedgerow, just to make a middle 
distance for the sky ; but that was all. The 
heaven was bare of clouds. . . . The river 
doubled among the hillocks, a shining strip of 
mirror glass ; and the dip of the paddles set the 
flowers shaking along the brink.", 

In this land of many waters every male 
creature seems to be a disciple of Sir Isaak 
Walton. A prodigious number of anglers will 


IvTihe Track of R. L. Stevenson 

be encountered ; I must have seen hundreds. 
Every day and all day they are dotted along 
the canals and rivers as patient as posts, and 
apparently as profitably employed. It was 
a continual wonder to me how they could spare 
the time ; and a pleasure also, for it is cheering 
to know that so many fellow-creatures can 
afford to take life so leisurely, and that the 
factory may whistle and the surburban train 
shriek laden to the town without causing them 
to turn a hair. " They seem stupefied with 
contentment/' says R. L. S. in a fine passage, 
" and when we induced them to exchange a 
few words with us about the weather, their 
voices sounded quiet and far away." 


Ax the little hamlet of Quartes, " with its 
church and bickering windmill " the latter 
gone these many years the canoeists went in 
search of a lodging for the night, but had to 
trudge with their packs to the neighbouring 
village of Pont sur Sambre for accommodation. 
They would have fared better at Quartes to- 
day, as there is now a clean little auberge hard 
by the bridge, kept by a jovial fellow, 
who told me that his son had taken up photo- 
graphy, with deplorable results. " He takes 
my photograph, I assure you, M'sieu, and 




" Away on the left, a gaunt tower stood in the middle of 
the street." R L. S. 

Along the Route of "An Inland Voyage" 

makes me look like a corpse in the Morgue " 
and the landlord would laugh and show two 
rows of dusky teeth beneath his wiry mous- 
tache " and when I say I 'm not so awful as 
that, he will say that now I see myself as I 
really am, for, look you, the camera must tell 
the truth." He laughs again, and rising, 
says : " But come with me here," throwing 
open the door of a private room. " Now 
there 's a portrait I had done in Brussels, and 
I 'm really a decent-looking chap in that. 
So I say to my son, whenever he makes a new 
and worse picture of me : ' There 's your papa 
to the life, done by a real photographer/ ' 
I am sure they are a happy family at the 
inn at Quartes, and they enjoy life, the score 
or two of barges and boats that pass their door 
every day keeping them in touch with the outer 
world of towns. The landlord informed me 
that he had several times been as far as Paris 
by the rivers and canals, and that there are 
excursions all that distance nearly 200 miles 
by water every summer. 


PONT SUR SAMBRE is a long thin village, a mile 
or so from Quartes, and different from ether 
villages only in the possession of a strange 
lone tower that stands in the middle of the 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

wide street. Stevenson makes note of it, and 
says : " What it had been in past ages I know 
not ; probably a hold in time of war ; but 
nowadays it bore an illegible dial-plate in its 
upper parts, and near the bottom an iron 
letter-box. " As I was preparing to take a 
photograph of this landmark, a buxom woman 
came up and begged that I might photograph 
her. I protested my inability to do so with 
any satisfaction, having no stand for my 
camera. " But you have a camera ; isn't that 
enough ? And I am so anxious for a photo- 
graph. " What would you in such a case ? 
Especially as she said she could wait a month 
or more for me to send a print from England. 
So the widow Cerisier poses in the foreground 
of my picture of the strange tower at Pont 
a tower which, she told me, has weird under- 
ground passages leading away into regions of 

It was at a little ale-house within sight of 
the tower that Stevenson and his friend passed 
the night, the landlady treating them as 
pedlars, and they enjoying the experience. 
Here, too, they fell in with a real pedlar, 
Monsieur Hector Gaillard of Maubeuge, who 
travelled in grand style with a tilt-cart drawn 
by a donkey, and was accompanied by his 
wife and his young son. Pedlars' fortunes 
seem to have improved since those days, as I 
found a travelling cheap-jack at Pont, with a 


Along the Route of "An Inland Voyage" 

very commodious wagon, which must have 
required two horses to move it about, cun- 
ningly contrived to open into a veritable 
bazaar, around which housewives and children 
clustered like bees. Another packman was 
showing his wares hard by on a lorry equally 
commodious, where he displayed to advantage 
an immense assortment of second-hand clothes 
and remnants of cloth, while his wife was in- 
ducing the thrifty women of Pont to buy. 

The Sambre at Pont looks very alluring, 
especially when the sun shines and projects 
the green shadows of the waving willows across 
its sluggish waters. Barges pass under the 
bridge at a snail's pace, and away among the 
winding avenue of poplars and willows that 
marks the river's zigzag course through the 
rich and restful meadow-land we see the masts 
of other boats moving with consummate slow- 
ness. R. L. S. illustrates the erratic course 
of the river by stating that while they could 
walk from Quartes to Pont in about ten 
minutes, the distance by river was six kilo- 
metres, or close on four miles. The folk at 
the ale-house were amazed when their guests, 
after walking to Quartes next morning, arrived 
by river an hour or so later as the owners of 
two dainty canoes. " They began to perceive 
that they had entertained angels unawares. 
The landlady stood upon the bridge, probably 
lamenting she had charged so little ; the son 

9 1 

In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

ran to and fro, and called out the neighbours 
to enjoy the sight ; and we paddled away 
from quite a crowd of wrapt observers. These 
gentlemen pedlars indeed ! Now you see 
their quality too late.'* 


THE country between Pont and Landrecies 
wears many signs of quiet prosperity ; houses 
are numerous, orchards well-stocked, the 
people and never is the highway utterly 
deserted smiling and contented, to all 
appearance. The river at a point about six 
miles from Landrecies skirts a part of the 
forest of Mormal, and our sentimental traveller 
turns the occasion to profit thus : 

" There is nothing so much alive, and yet 
so quiet, as a woodland ; and a pair of people, 
swinging past in canoes, feel very small and 
bustling by comparison. And surely of all 
smells in the world, the smell of many trees is 
the sweetest and most fortifying. The sea 
has a rude, pistolling sort of odour, that takes 
you in the nostrils like snuff, and carries with 
it a fine sentiment of open water and tall ships ; 
but the smell of a forest, which comes nearest 
to this in tonic quality, surpasses it by many 
degrees in the quality of softness. Again, the 
smell of the sea has little variety, but the smell 


As it was at the time of " An Inland Voyage." 


" We were skirting the Forest of Mormal, a sinister name to the ear, but a 
place most gratifying to sight and smell." R. L. S. 

Along the Route of "An Inland Voyage" 

of a forest is infinitely changeful ; it varies 
with the hour of the day, not in strength 
merely, but in character ; and the different 
sorts of trees, as you go from one zone of the 
wood to another, seem to live among different 
kinds of atmosphere. Usually the resin of 
the fir predominates. But some woods are 
more coquettish in their habits ; and the 
breath of the forest of Mormal, as it came 
aboard upon us that showery afternoon, was 
perfumed with nothing less delicate than 

Further on he says : " Alas ! the forest 
of Mormal is only a little bit of a wood, and it 
was but for a little way that we skirted by its 
boundaries." So it may have seemed to the 
canoeists, who saw only a scrap of the great 
forest, that thrusts southward to the river 
at a place called Hachette. But it was not 
without some misgiving that I found myself 
suddenly plunged into the woodland, and 
discovered that I had six miles of it to pene- 
trate and roads to ride which a little boy in a 
cart described eloquently by stretching his 
arm to its limit and then sweeping it down to 
the cart, and up and down half a dozen times ! 
The forest has indeed, as R. L. S. observes, 
" a sinister name to the ear/' and I felt if I 
must speak the truth a little quickening of 
the pulse when I had ridden about half an hour 
through its lonely rough roads, with rabbits 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

and other wild creatures of the undergrowth 
making strange rustlings among the leaves by 
the wayside. The sun had been going down 
as I came into the forest, but the air among 
the trees was chilling and wintry after the 
warm high-road, not a slanting ray of sunshine 
penetrating the dense growth of trees. The 
only pedestrians whom I met were a party of 
rough sportsmen, who eyed me as a curious 
bird when, in answer to their questions, I said 
I had come from London. I had wandered 
from the direct road through the forest, it 
appeared, and one of the men, having a map, 
was able to work out a route for me ; but it 
was another half-hour which seemed like 
half a day before I caught a welcome glimpse 
of the clear evening sky among the lower 
branches, and presently emerged on the main 
road into Landrecies, at a place suggestively 
named Bout du Monde. 


IF there is another town so dead as Lan- 
drecies in all the department of Le Nord, I 
have a great wish not to pass a night within 
its walls. It is changed times there since the 
passage of R. L. S., although it was triste 
enough when " Arethusa " and " Cigarette " 
spent two days at the roomy old Hotel de la 


Along the Route of "An Inland Voyage" 

Tete d'Or. " Within the ramparts/' he says, 
" a few blocks of houses, a long row of barracks 
and a church, figure, with what countenance 
they may, as the town. There seems to be 
no trade ; and a shopkeeper, from whom I 
bought a sixpenny flint-and-steel, was so much 
affected that he filled my pockets with spare 
flints into the bargain. The only public 
buildings that had any interest for us were the 
hotel and the cafe. But we visited the church. 
There lies Marshal Clarke ; but as neither of 
us had heard of that military hero, we bore 
the associations of the spot with fortitude.'' 

Marshal Clarke, whose tomb looks as new 
as though it had been set up yesterday, was 
one of Napoleon's generals, and, as his epitaph 
reminds us, sometime minister of war. Had 
he hailed from Scotland instead of Ireland he 
might have been more interesting to R. L. S. 

If Landrecies was so dull thirty years ago, 
picture it to-day, with its barracks almost 
empty, its ramparts demolished, and its less 
than 4,000 inhabitants in bed by nine o'clock ! 
" It was just the place to hear the round going 
by at night in the darkness, with the solid tramp 
of men marching, and the startling reverbera- 
tions of the drum. It reminded you, that even 
this place was a point in the great warfaring 
system of Europe, and might on some future 
day be ringed about with cannon smoke and 
thunder, and make itself a name among strong 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

towns/* Alas ! the barking of a melancholy 
dog and the clock of the Hotel de Ville ringing 
out the lazy hours were the only sounds I 
heard that night, though just before dusk a 
wandering camelot selling in the street a sheet 
of " all the latest Paris songs " made a welcome 
diversion. I sampled his stock, and found it 
to consist of doggerel rhymes about the Russo- 
Japanese War, mingled with some amorous 
ditties, and a piece of a devotional kind ! 
" C'est line ville morte," said a dumpy ]ady 
with a scorbutic face, who drank her after- 
dinner coffee in the dining-room with me. 
" Think of Paris, and then this ! " she sighed. 
I wondered what had brought her there, and 
doubtless she thought I was some cycling 
fellow who had lost his way. 

But if the military glory of Landrecies is 
departed, it makes a brave effort to recall the 
past with an elegant column near the site of the 
north gate, whereon are recorded the sieges 
which Landrecies withstood, the last being in 
the Franco-German War. Also erected since 
Stevenson's time is a striking monument to 
the great Joseph Fra^ois Dupleix, whose 
gallant effort to found an Indian empire for 
France was frustrated by Clive, and who, born 
in Landrecies, spent his substance for his 
fatherland, only to die in poverty and neglect. 

The landlord of the hotel assured me that he 
remembered the visit of my heroes, even 


Sweet was our rest in the ' Golden Sheep" at Moy/' R. L. S. 


"Moy was a pleasant little village." R. L S. 

Along the Route of "An Inland Voyage" 

mentioning the hour of their arrival and de- 
parture. He was a young man then ; but to-day 
his hair is streaked with grey. The Jitge de Paix, 
who entertained the travellers, is still to the 
fore : a bachelor then, he is a widower now. 

I noticed an odd feature of the hotel : its 
meat safe was the roof of the passage to the 
courtyard. Here, hanging from hooks fixed 
in the roof, were joints of beef, legs of mutton, 
hares, rabbits, and so forth an abundant 
display ; and when the cook was in need of an 
item, she came out with a long pole and 
reached down the piece she wanted. 


THE canoeists left Landrecies on a rainy 
morning, the judge under an umbrella seeing 
them off. My lot was pleasanter, for the 
morning was fine and the landlord's son, a 
bright lad, with those babyish socks which 
French boys wear, escorted me some way out 
of the town on his bicycle, chatting merrily 
about the state of the roads, and evincing 
great surprise when he heard that we would 
be fined for cycling on the footpath in England. 
My route lay along the highway to Guise for 
a time and close to the canal, passing through 
a gentle undulating country with far views of 
thickly-wooded fields and little hills. The 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

hamlets by the way were surrounded by hop 
fields, the great poles with their fantastic 
coverings of the vine being the most noticeable 
feature of the wayside, just as R. L. S. had 
observed them when the hop-growers of to-day 
were bien jeune, as the old gentleman at the 
play in Paris described Stevenson himself. 
Etreux, where the canal journey ended, I found 
a thriving and agreeable little town, the rattle 
of the loom being heard from many an open 
door, and the thud, thud of flails in the farm- 
steadings on the outskirts. At Etreux the 
canoes were placed on a light country cart one 
morning, and the travellers walked to Vaden- 
court by way of Tupigny, a village where I was 
served with a make-shift lunch at a little inn, 
the landlady doing the cooking and laying the 
table with a baby held in her left arm ! Vaden- 
court is full of weavers, and here close by the old 
bridge over the river the Arethusa andCigarette 
were launched in the fast-flowing water of the 
River Oise. 


THE canoeists were now in the full swing of 
perhaps the most enjoyable part of their 
journey. Let a canal be never so beautiful, it 
is still a canal, and no adventure need be 
looked for there ; but a river that runs wild 
and free is a possible highway to the enchanted 


Along the Route of "An Inland Voyage" 

kingdom of Romance. We have the avowal 
of R. L. S. that on this sedgy stream, wriggling 
its devious ways by field and woodland, he 
had some of the happiest moments of his life. 
" We could have shouted aloud," he says in 
a glowing passage. [( If this lively and beauti- 
ful river were, indeed, a thing of death's con- 
trivance, the old ashen rogue had famously 
outwitted himself with us. I was living three 
to the minute. I was scoring points against 
him every stroke of my paddle, every turn of 
the stream. I have rarely had better profit 
of my life. For I think we may look upon our 
little private war with death somewhat in this 
light. If a man knows he will sooner or later 
be robbed upon a journey, he will have a bottle 
of the best in every inn, and look upon all his 
extravagances as so much gained upon the 
thieves. And above all, where, instead of 
simply spending, he makes a profitable invest- 
ment for some of his money, when it will be out 
of risk of loss. So every bit of brisk living, 
and above all when it is healthful, is just so 
much gained upon the wholesale filcher, death. 
We shall have the less in our pockets, the more 
in our stomach, when he cries, ' Stand and 
deliver.' A swift stream is a favourite artifice 
of his, and one that brings him in a comfortable 
thing per annum ; but when he and I come to 
settle our accounts, I shall whistle in his face 
for these hours upon the upper Oise." 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

Indeed, he came near to settling accounts 
with old Death more readily than he could 
have cared ; for not many miles from Vaden- 
court, in attempting to shoot below the over- 
hanging trunk of a fallen tree, the lively 
" Arethusa " was caught in its branches, while 
his canoe went spinning down stream relieved 
of its paddler. He succeeded in scrambling on 
to the tree-trunk, though he " seemed, by the 
weight, to have all the water of the Oise in my 
trouser-pockets." But through all, he still held 
to his paddle. " On my tomb, if ever I have 
one, I mean to get these words inscribed : ' He 
clung to his paddle/ ' Brave heart, this is 
in truth but a humorous phrasing of the 
stately requiem on the stone upon Vaea Top. 

It was a dripping " Arethusa " that got into 
Origny Sainte-Benoite that night, and but 
for the ready and resourceful " Cigarette " 
the adventure might have ended less happily. 
Although Origny is a dusty little village, as 
dull as any in all Picardy, the canoeists rested 
there a day, and had good profit of the people 
they met at the inn, as Stevenson's pages 
witness. The landlord was a shouting, 
noisy fellow, a red Republican. " ' I 'm a 
proletarian, you see/ Indeed, we saw it very 
well. God forbid that I should find him 
handling a gun in Paris streets ! That will 
not be a good moment for the general public." 



Hastily and unnecessarily " tidying herself" while being 
photographed at her door. 

"Little did the Bazins know how much they served us." R. L. S. 


AN accident to my bicycle in the neighbour- 
hood of Origny made it necessary for me to 
go on to Moy by train, on a quaint little railway 
worked chiefly by women, who act as station- 
mistresses, ticket-clerks, restaurant-keepers, 
and guards of the level crossings. The 
carriages were filled chiefly with anglers, and 
every little station had a gang of them armed 
with a prodigious number of rods and lines, 
and each carrying a pail with a brass lid. I 
gathered that the pails were empty almost 
without exception, as sport had been ex- 
tremely bad, though numerous patient 
creatures with rod and line were still to be seen 
in the drizzling rain along the river, which is 
here broken into many backwaters, lying in flat 
land among scraggy pine woods and good green 
meadows. One sturdy fellow who, like his 
companions, bore his ill-fortune with a smiling 
face, averred that though he 'd fished all day 
and caught nothing, he had bagged fifteen 
broche the previous day between one o'clock 
and half-past two, and between three and five 
he had caught an unbelievable number of trout. 
Anglers are the same in all lands, I suspect. 

f< Moy (pronounced Moy) was a pleasant 
little village, gathered round a chateau in a 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

moat/* as our author records. " The air was 
perfumed with hemp from neighbouring fields. 
At the ' Golden Sheep ' we found excellent 
entertainment." I asked for the " Golden 
Sheep/' and was directed to an establishment 
that was named the Hotel de la Poste. I 
passed on and asked another villager, but he 
sent me back, as I found on following his 
instructions, to the same hotel. The postman 
put me right at length by explaining that the 
landlord had rechristened his house three 
months before in honour of the new post 
office across the way, a shoddy little building 
where I bought stamps from a middle-aged 
woman next morning. The landlady of the 
hotel, who might pass in every particular, 
save the myopia, for the " stout, plain, short- 
sighted, motherly body, with something not 
far short of a genius for cookery/' described 
by R. L. S., agreed with me that her husband 
had made a sad mistake in dropping the old 
sign of the " Collier d'Or," " but he would 
have his own way, and there you are ! " If I 
could have got the fellow a fat, jolly mortal 
to understand that to have the name of his 
hotel in a book by R. L. S. was an honour 
worth living up to, perhaps the old sign would 
have been fished out, regilded and placed in 
its old position. But he had not been the 
patron thirty years ago, and he did not care a 
straw for anything so remote, though his wife 


Along the Route of "An Inland Voyage" 

had a gleam of pleasure when I quoted to her 
Stevenson's note : " Sweet was our rest in the 
' Golden Sheep ' at Moy." 

It is a progressive place, althougroit seems 
to go to bed at eight o'clock, for there is a good 
supply of electric light furnished by water 
power, of course in the hotel and other 
establishments ; but not a solitary street 
lamp to pierce the blue-black of an autumn 
night. I must tell you that I was the only 
guest at the inn, yet a splendid dinner was 
prepared for me. Soup, fish with mayonaise, 
fillet of beef with mushrooms, green haricots 
au beurre, cold chicken, and a delicious salad 
of white herbs with a suspicion of garlic, a 
sweet omelet, pears, grapes, cheese, bread 
and butter, and, if I had cared, a whole bottle 
of red wine. An excellent cafe noir followed, 
in the estaminet, where my hostess apolo- 

?ised for lighting only one electric lamp " pour 
economic, vous savez." My bedroom was 
commodious and well-appointed, and I had a 
good French petit dejeuner next morning. 
The bill ? Three shillings and ninepence, I 
declare ! Pour I' economic / Madame, I sym- 
pathise, and some day I must return to make 
a visit more profitable to you. 



FROM Moy to La Fere is a very short journey 
even by the river, but the canoeists had 
lingered till late afternoon before leaving 
the former place, which " invited to repose/' 
and it was dark when they got to La Fere in 
their chronic state of dampness. " It was a 
fine night to be within doors over dinner, and 
hear the rain upon the windows." They had 
heard that the principal inn at the place was 
a particularly good one, and cheery pictures 
of their comfortable state there arose in their 
minds as they stowed their canoes and set 
forth into the town, which lies chiefly east- 
ward of the river, and is enclosed by two great 
lines of fortification. But they reckoned 
without their hostess ! The lady of the inn 
mistook them for pedlars, and rushed them 
back into the dismal night. " Out with you 
out of the door ! " she screeched. " Sortez ! 
Sortez ! Sortez par la porte ! " Stevenson's 
picture of the incident is full of sly humour, 
but the feelings of the travellers must indeed 
have been poignant. " We have been taken 
for pedlars again," said the baronet, " Good 
God, what it must be to be a pedlar in reality !" 
says his companion of the pen. " Timon was 
a philanthropist alongside of him. " He 



Where the travellers stayed 

"The Hotel du Nord lights its secular tapers within a stone-cast 
of the church." R. L. S. 

Along the Route of "An Inland Voyage" 

prayed that he might never be uncivil to a 
pedlar. But after all, it was for the best. 
That cosy inn would not have afforded the 
essayist such interesting matter for reflection 
as he found at " la Croix de Malte," a little 
working-class auberge at the other end of the 
town, where the Porte Notre-Dame gives 
exit to the straggling suburbs. 


THERE is no passage in the whole of An 
Inland Voyage so moving, so simple in its 
intense humanity, as that wherein its author 
sets down in his own inimitable way his im- 
pressions of the humble folk who kept this 
inn. Scarcely hoping that I might be so 
fortunate as to find either of the Bazins alive, 
I asked at one of the numerous cafes opposite 
the great barracks, whence crashed forth the 
indescribable noise of a brass band practising 
for the first time together, if there was an inn 
in the town kept by one Bazin. To my de- 
light I was told there was, and you may be 
sure I made haste to be there. I found the 
place precisely as Stevenson pictures it, noting 
by the way a tiny new Protestant chapel with 
the legend " Culte Evangelique " over its door, 
a cheering sight to Protestant eyes in so 
Catholic a country as the north of France. 

In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

" Bazin, Restaurateur Loge a pied," there 
was the altered sign on the cream-coloured 
walls of the house. In the common room of 
the little inn, which was full of noisy re- 
servists that memorable night when the 
canoeists sought shelter there, I found two or 
three rough but honest-looking fellows drink- 
ing, while a grey-haired woman, pleasant and 
homely of appearance, sat at lunch with a 
young woman and a youth, the latter wearing 
glasses and being in that curious condition of 
downy beard which we never see in England. 
I stood on the sandy floor by the little semi- 
circular bar, with its shining ranks of glasses, 
waiting the attention of a young woman 
who was serving the customers with some- 
thing from an inner room, when the old lady, 
looking up at me through her spectacles, 
asked what I wanted. " To speak with the 
patron," I replied. " Well ? " she said. 
" Have I the pleasure of addressing Madame 
Bazin ? " I asked, and on her answering with 
a slight show of uneasiness, I proceeded to 
explain that I had come to see the inn out of 
interest in a celebrated English author, who 
had once stayed there and had written so 
charmingly about Madame and Monsieur 
Bazin. In an instant the old lady and the 
younger folk were agitated with pleasure, 
and, to my surprise, they knew all about the 
long-ago visit of R. L. S. and his friend. 

1 06 

Along the Route of "An Inland Voyage'' 

s< Perhaps he was your papa," Madame sug- 
gested as the likeliest reason for my having 
come so far on a matter so sentimental. And 
the good soul's eyes brimmed with tears when 
she told me that her husband had been dead 
these three years. Stevenson had sent them a 
copy of his book, and they had got the passage 
touching the voyagers' stay at the inn 
translated by a young friend at college, so 
that worthy old feazin had not been suffered 
to pass away without knowing how he and his 
good wife had ministered to the heart of one 
of the best beloved writers of his generation. 
You will remember Stevenson's beautiful 
reference to these worthy people. But let me 
quote it, for it may be read many times with 
increase of profit : 

" Bazin was a tall man, running to fat ; 
soft spoken, with a delicate, gentle face. We 
asked him to share our wine ; but he excused 
himself, having pledged reservists all day long. 
This was a very different type of the workman- 
innkeeper from the bawling, disputatious 
fellow at Origny. He also loved Paris, where 
he had worked as a decorative painter in his 
youth. . He had delighted in the museums 
in his youth, ' One sees there little miracles of 
work/ he said ; ' that is what makes a good 
workman ; it kindles a spark.' We asked him 
how he managed in La Fere. ' I am married,' 
he said, ' I have my pretty children. But, 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

frankly, it is no life at all. From morning to 
night I pledge a pack of good enough fellows 
who know nothing.' . . . Madame Bazin 
came out after a while ; she was tired with 
her day's work, I suppose ; and she nestled up 
to her husband, and laid her head upon his 
breast. He had his arm about her, and kept 
gently patting her on the shoulder. I think 
Bazin was right, and he was really married. 
Of how few people can the same be said ! 

" Little did the Bazins know how much 
they served us. We were charged for candles, 
for food and drink, and for the beds we 
slept in. But there was nothing in the bill 
for the husband's pleasant talk, nor for the 
pretty spectacle of their married life. And there 
was yet another item uncharged. For these 
people's politeness really set us up again in 
our own esteem. We had a thirst for considera- 
tion ; the sense of insult was still hot in our 
spirits, and civil usage seemed to restore us 
to our position in the world. 

"How little we pay our way in life ! Although 
we have our purses continually in our hand, 
the better part of service goes still unrewarded. 
But I like to fancy that a grateful spirit 
gives as good as it gets. Perhaps the Bazins 
knew how much I liked them ? Perhaps 
they also were healed of some slights by the 
thanks that I gave them in my manner ? " 

Is that not a lovely monument to have ? 

1 08 

Along the Route of "An Inland Voyage" 

Many of us who have made a greater clatter 
in the world than old Bazin will be less fortu- 
nate than he in this respect. And you see 
that although he had little affection for La 
Fere, he lived five-and-twenty quiet years 
there after Stevenson came his way. Yet not, 
in one sense, quiet, as the bugles are for ever 
braying, and even the street boys whistle 
barrack calls instead of music-hall ditties. 
As Madame told me, the town exists solely 
for the military, and we may be sure that it 
is none the sweeter on that account. But her 
little inn struck me as a wholesome and 
entirely innocent establishment. Those 
" pretty children " are men and women now, 
and the young man with the nascent whiskers, 
whom I took to be a clerk in the town, was a 
grandson of the old folk. Not a feature of 
the auberge has changed, except that the 
Maltese Cross, having served its day, has been 
taken dow r n. Stevenson who has lighted a 
little lamp of fame on this humble shrine 
and Sir Walter Simpson and old Bazin have 
all passed away, while children's children sit 
in the old seats ; truly the meanest works of 
man's hands are more enduring than man 
himself. Madame Bazin, to my regret, made 
a quick effort to throw aside her apron, and 
needlessly to tidy her bodice, when I asked 
her to face the camera. She was caught in 
the act by the instantaneous plate. Even 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

here, you see, the apron signifies servitude, 
and must not appear in pictures ; yet it and 
the cap, which latter I have seldom seen 
north of Paris, are the only redeeming features 
of the country Frenchwoman's dress. The 
women of rural France give one the impres- 
sion of being in permanent mourning, and 
consequently, when they do go into real 
mourning, they have to emphasise the fact 
with ridiculous yards of flowing crape. 
Madame Bazin had never heard of Stevenson's 
death, and I felt curiously guilty of an ill 
deed in telling her about that grave in far 


THE Oise runs through a stretch of pastoral 
country south of La Fere, known as " the 
Golden Valley," but a strath rather than a 
valley in character. It was a grey day on 
which I journeyed, and little that was golden 
did I see. But the quaint old town of Noyon, 
as grey and hoar as any in France, is rich in 
the gold of history ; " a haunt of ancient 
peace." It stands on a gentle hill, about a 
mile away from the river, and is one of the 
cleanest of the old French towns that I 
visited, reminding me somewhat of Lichfield ; 
in atmosphere, I imagine, rather than in any 
outward resemblance, since I would be at a 


Along the Route of "An Inland Voyage" 

loss to point to the likeness if I were asked. 
R. L. S. had no more agreeable resting-place 
on all his voyage than at Noyon. The travel- 
lers put up at a very prosperous-looking 
hostelry, the Hotel du Nord, which stands 
withdrawn a little way from the east end of 
the grand old cathedral the glory of Noyon, 
and one of the gems of early French Gothic, 
though perhaps the least known to English 

Seldom in France do we find the cathedral 
so regally free of surrounding buildings. No 
shabby structures lean unworthy heads 
against its old grey walls, and where, on the 
north side, the canons' library, with its 
crumbling timbers of the fifteenth century, 
nestles under the wing of the church, the 
effect is entirely pleasing. At the west front, 
too, where there is a spacious close, with 
well-cared-for houses and picturesque gate- 
ways, one has a feeling of reverence which the 
surroundings of French cathedrals so often 
fail to inspire. There is a pleasant touch of 
humour in Stevenson's description of the 
exterior of the beautiful apse : 

u I have seldom looked on the east end of 
a church with more complete sympathy. As 
it flanges out in three wide terraces, and 
settles down broadly on the earth, it looks 
like the poop of some graat old battleship. 
Hollow-backed buttresses carry vases which 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

figure for the stern lanterns. There is a roll 
in the ground, and the towers just appear 
above the pitch of the roof, as though the 
good ship were bowing lazily over an Atlantic 
swell. At any moment it might be a hundred 
feet away from you, climbing the next billow. 
At any moment a window might open, and 
some old admiral thrust forth a cocked hat, 
and proceed to take an observation. The old 
admirals sail the sea no longer . . . but this, 
that was a church before ever they were 
thought upon, is still a church, and makes as 
brave an appearance by the Oise. The 
cathedral and the river are probably the two 
oldest things for miles around and certainly 
they have both a grand old age," 

Inside the cathedral he found much to 
engage his mind, and the somewhat perfunc- 
tory performances of certain priests jarred 
with the noble serenity of the building. " I 
could never fathom how a man dares to lift 
up his voice to preach in a cathedral. What 
is he to say that will not be an anti-climax ? " 
But, on the whole, he " was greatly solemn- 
ised," and he goes on to say : "In the little 
pictorial map of our whole Inland Voyage, 
which my fancy still preserves and sometimes 
unrolls for the amusement of odd moments, 
Noyon Cathedral figures on a most preposter- 
ous scale, and must be nearly as large as a 
department. I can still see the faces of the 



" The Sacristan took us to the top of one of the towers, and 
showed us the five bells hanging in their loft." R. L. S. 

Along the Route of "An Inland Voyage" 

priests as if they were at my elbow, and hear 
' Ave Maria, or a pro nobis,' sounding through 
the church. All Noyon is blotted out for me 
by these superior memories, and I do not care 
to say more about the place. It was but a 
stack of brown roofs at the best, where I 
believe people live very reputably in a quiet 
way ; but the shadow of the church falls upon 
it when the sun is low, and the five bells are 
heard in all quarters telling that the organ has 
begun. If ever I join the Church of Rome, I 
shall stipulate to be Bishop of Noyon on the 

This pretty fancy of his need lose none of 
its prettiness when we know that Noyon has 
not had a bishop since the Revolution, when 
the cathedral became a dependency of the 
Bishop of Beauvais, though it had been a 
bishopric so long ago as the year 531. But I 
am sorry R. L. S. was evidently not aware that 
when at Noyon he was in the town where 
John Calvin was born in 1709, his father being 
procurator-fiscal and secretary of the diocese ; 
for surely here was an opening for some real 
Stevensonian obiter scripta P. The beautiful 
old Town House, of Gothic and Renaissance 
architecture, dates back to the end of the 
fifteenth century, but all the ancient buildings 
of Noyon fall long centuries short of its history 
in age, as King Pippin was crowned here in 
752, and his infant son Carloman was at the 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

same time created King of Noyon, while in 
771 the town saw the coronation of Pippin's 
eldest son, the mighty Charlemagne, no less. 


THE last wet day of the voyagers was that 
on which they set out from Noyon. " These 
gentlemen travel for pleasure ? " asked the 
landlady of the little inn at Pimprez. " It 
was too much. The scales fell from our eyes. 
Another wet day, it was determined, and we 
put the boats into the train." Happily, 
" the weather took the hint," and they paddled 
and sailed the rest of the voyage under clear 
skies. At Compiegne they " put up at a big, 
bustling hotel, where nobody observed our 
presence." My impression of the famous 
town scarcely justified this, as in the day 
that I lingered there I seemed to meet 
everybody a dozen times over, and the 
company at a little cafe chantant in the even- 
ing was like a gathering of old friends, so 
many of the faces were familiar. Yet the 
town is populous, having some 17,000 inhabi- 
tants (about 2,000 of whom are English 
residents), and I was prepared for busier 
streets than I found. 

There can be few towns in France more 
agreeable to live in. It is pleasantly situated 


Along the Route of "An Inland Voyage" 

on the river Oise, here wide and lively with 
barge-traffic, and spanned by an elegant 
bridge. The older town lies south of the 
river in a sort of amphitheatre ; its streets 
are narrow and tortuous, but with bright shops 
and cafes in the neighbourhood of the Place 
de l'H6tel de Ville, while the fashionable 
suburbs extend, in splendid quiet avenues, 
eastward and south from the centre of the 
town, by the historic palace built in Louis 
XV.'s reign and the Petit Pare, which is 
really very large. While a great many of the 
English residents have chosen the town for 
the same reason that my hostess at Moy put 
on one electric light pour I' economic, vous 
savez together with its healthy and beautiful 
surroundings in the great forest of Compiegne, 
many more are there for the employment 
afforded by the important felt hat factory of 
Messrs. Moore, Johnson & Co., whose commo- 
dious works stand near the station on the north 
of the river. Despite its shops, its business 
prosperity, its red-legged soldiers, its visitors, 
Compiegne is dull enough of an evening, and 
the brightly lighted but almost empty cafes 
leave one wondering how the business pays. 

(< My great delight in Compiegne," says 
inland voyager, " was the town-hall. I doted 
upon the town-hall. It is a monument of 
Gothic insecurity, all turreted and gargoyled, 
and slashed and bedizened with half a score of 

In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

architectural fancies. Some of the niches are 
gilt and painted, and in a great square panel 
in the centre, in black relief on a gilt ground, 
Louis XII. rides upon a pacing horse, 
with hand on hip and head tnrown back. 
There is royal arrogance in every line of him ; 
the stirruped foot projects insolently from the 
frame ; the eye is hard and proud ; the very 
horse seems to be treading with gratification 
over prostrate serfs, and to have the breath 
of the trumpet in his nostrils. So rides for 
ever, on the front of the town-hall, the good 
king Louis XII., the father of his people. 

" Over the king's head, in the tall centre 
turret, appears the dial of a clock ; and high 
above that, three little mechanical figures, 
each one with a hammer in his hand, whose 
business it is to chime out the hours and 
halves and quarters for the burgesses of 
Compiegne. The centre figure has a gilt 
breast-plate ; the two others wear gilt trunk- 
hose ; and they all three have elegant, flapping 
hats like cavaliers. As the quarter approaches, 
they turn their heads and look knowingly 
one to the other ; and then, kling go the three 
hammers on the three little bells below. The 
hour follows, deep and sonorous, from the 
interior of the tower ; and the gilded gentlemen 
rest from their labours with contentment. 

" I had a great deal of healthy pleasure 
from their manoeuvres, and took care to miss 


" My great delight in Compiegne was the Town Hall." R. L. S 

Along the Route of "An Inland Voyage" 

as few performances as possible ; and I found 
that even the ' Cigarette/ while he pretended 
to despise my enthusiasm, was more or less 
a devotee himself. There is something highly 
absurd in the exposition of such toys to the 
outrages of winter on a housetop. They 
would be more in keeping in a glass case 
before a Niirnberg clock. Above all, at night, 
when the chlidren are abed, and even grown 
people are snoring under quilts, does it not 
seem impertinent to leave these ginger-bread 
figures winking and tinkling to the stars and 
the rolling moon ? The gargoyles may, fitly 
enough, twist their ape-like heads ; fitly enough 
may the potentate bestride his charger, like a 
centurion in an old German print of the Via 
Dolorosa ; but the toys should be put away 
in a box among some cotton, until the sun 
rises, and the children are abroad again to 
be amused." 


THERE is but little interest in the remaining 
stages of Stevenson's journey ; not because 
the towns through which the canoeists now 
passed are less worthy of note than any 
already described, but for the ample reason 
that R. L. S. had, in some measure, lost his 
earlier delight in the voyage. He pretends 
that on the broading bosom of the Oise the 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

canoes were now so far away from the life 
along the riverside, that they had slipped out 
of touch with rural folk and rural ways. But 
this is not strictly true, when we know that the 
river, as far as Pontoise, is seldom greatly wider 
than the canals on which the Arethusa and 
the Cigarette had set out with high hopes of 
adventure a fortnight before. The towns are 
quaint and sleepy. The voyagers were nearing 
the end, the river ran smooth, the sky was 
bright, and a packet of letters at Compiegne 
had set them dreaming of home. Here was the 
secret ; the spell was broken ; their appetite 
for adventure had been slaked ; every mile 
of easy-flowing water was taking them not 
away to unknown things, but homeward to 
familiar ones. 

Pont Sainte Maxence, the end of their first 
stage below Compiegne, is a featureless little 
town, the Oise making a brave show through 
the centre of it, and I do not suspect its 
church of any stirring history. R. L. S. found 
its interior " positively arctic to the eye." 
It was here he noticed the withered old woman 
making her orisons before all the shrines ; 
" like a prudent capitalist with a somewhat 
cynical view of the commercial prospect, she 
desired to place her supplications in a great 
variety of heavenly securities." I passed 
through Creil and Precy in the afternoon, 
following close to the river, which now skirts 


Along the Route of "An Inland Voyage" 

a country of gentle hills on the east, but 
westward fringes a vast level plain, with 
nothing but groves of poplar to break the line 
of the distant horizon. 


IN the gloaming I arrived at Pontoise, 
where I was told a fete was in progress ; 
but the only signs of hilarity were two booths 
for the sale of pastries and sweet stuffs on the 
square in front of the station, and one small 
boy investing two sous in a greasy-looking 
puff. The rues of Pontoise have high-sound- 
ing names, but they are dull beyond words, 
though only eighteen miles away the " great 
sinful streets " of Paris are gleaming with 
their myriad lights. 

Pontoise in the daylight might have been 
different ; but seen in the dusk, I decided 
upon the eight o'clock train to Paris, and so 
ended my pilgrimage. Nor did I feel any 
lowering enthusiasm at the end, for Stevenson 
has nothing to tell us of the place beyond 
saying, " And so a letter at Pontoise decided 
us, and we drew up our keels for the last time 
out of that river of Oise that had faithfully 
piloted them, through rain and sunshine, for 
so long.'* He has not a word for the twelfth- 
century church of St. Maclou, his " brither 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

Scot," or the tomb of St. Gautier at Notre 
Dame de Pontoise. 

" You may paddle all day long/' he 
concludes ; " but it is when you come back at 
nightfall, and look in at the familiar room, 
that you find Love or Death awaiting you 
beside the stove; and the most beautiful 
adventures are not those we go to seek." 
Yet he was ever an adventurer in search of 
beauty, and who shall say his quest was vain ? 



O <u co 

B 8-S 


The Most Picturesque Town 
in Europe ' 

" After repeated visits to Le Puy, and a deal of high 
living for myself and my advisers, a sleeping sack was 
designed, constructed, and triumphantly brought home." 


THERE will, of course, be differences of opinion 
as to which is the town most worthy of this 
description ; but there is surely no better 
judge than Mr. Joseph Pennell, who has seen 
every place of any historic or natural attrac- 
tion on the Continent, and whose taste for the 
picturesque none will call in question. He is 
the author of the phrase that heads this 
chapter, as applied to the little-known town of 
Le Puy, " chief place " of the Department of 
Haute Loire in the south of France. It is one 
of the few towns that have more than justi- 
fied the mental pictures I had formed of them 
before seeing the real thing. But Le Puy is 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

not only the most conceivably picturesque of 
towns ; it is deeply interesting in its character 
and history, no less than in its appearance. 

With the exception of Mr. Pennell, and 
among a circle of people who have travelled 
much in France, I have met none who have 
ever visited Le Puy. A young English gover- 
ness^ to whom I spoke at a little Protestant 
temple in the town had been staying there 
for close upon a year, and had not met a 
single English visitor ; so it would appear one 
has an opportunity here to write of a place 
that is still untrampled by the tourist hordes 
that devastate fair Normandy. 

There are many and excellent reasons why 
few English or American tourists make their 
way to this quaint and beautiful town of the 
French highlands. It lies 352 miles by rail from 
Paris, and can only be reached by a fatiguing 
journey in trains that seem to be playing at 
railways, and have no serious intention of 
arriving anywhere. A good idea of the round- 
about railway service will be gathered from 
the fact that the actual distance of the town 
from Paris is nearly 100 miles less than the 
length of the railway journey. It can be 
reached by leaving the Mediterranean line at 
Lyons and continuing for the best part of a 
day on tiresome local trains ; or via Orleans 
and Clermont Ferrand, which would surely 
require the best part of two days. It was by 


" The Most Picturesque Town in Europe" 

the latter route, and in easy stages, that I 
first arrived there in the early evening of a 
grey June day four years ago. 

Between Clermont Ferrand and Le Puy the 
railway traverses some of the most beautiful 
scenery in Europe, but nothing that one sees 
on the way prepares one for the sensation of 
the first glimpse of this wonderful mountain- 
town. The train has been steadily puffing its 
slow way by green valleys and pine-clad hills, 
across gorges as deep as the deepest in Switzer- 
land, and past little red-roofed hamlets for 
hours, when suddenly, as i; seems, a great peak 
thrusts itself heavenward, carrying on its back 
a mass of tiny buildings, and on the top of all 
an immense statue of the Virgin. Then another 
seems to spring up from the valley, holding a 
church upon its head, and the whole country 
now, as far as eye can reach, is studded with 
great conical hills thrown up in some far-off 
and awful boiling of earth. Curiously, the 
train seems turning tail on this wonderful 
scene, and one by one the different objects 
that had suddenly attracted our attention 
are lost to view, while we pursue a circuitous 
route, which in a quarter of an hour brings 
them all into view again, and presently we 
have arrived at the station of Le Puy, by the 
side of the little river Dolezon, between which 
and the broader Borne extends the hill 
whereon the town is built. 



THE modern part of the town lies close to 
the railway in the level of the valley, and as 
there is a population of more than 20,000 
people, the life of the streets is brisk enough 
to suggest a town of five times that size in 
England. Along the Avenue de la Gare, the 
Boulevard St. Jean, and the Rue St. Haon 
we go, wary of the electric trams, to our hotel 
opposite the spacious Place du Breuil, where 
spouts a handsome fountain to the memory 
of a local metal-worker who furnished the 
town with its beautiful Musee Crozatier, and 
where the elegant architecture of the Municipal 
Theatre, the Palais de Justice and the Prefect- 
ure supply a touch of modern dignity that 
that contrasts not unpleasantly with the 
ancient and natural grandeur of the town. 

I have stayed in many a strange hotel, but 
that of the " Ambassadeurs," whither we 
repaired, is perhaps the most uncommon in 
my experience. It was reached from the main 
street through a long, dark tunnel, opening at 
the end into a badly-lighted court, whence a 
flight of stairs gave entrance to the hotel 
building, which inside was like an old and 
partially-furnished barracks, with wide stone 
stairs and gloomy passages eminently adapted 


" The Most Picturesque Town in Europe" 

for garrotting. But the bedroom was com- 
modious, and its windows gave on another 
market-place, where had been the original 
frontage of the hotel. For all its cheerless 
appearance, the " Ambassadeurs " was by no 
means uncomfortable, and, needless to say, the 
cooking was excellent. 

There are some towns that ask of you only 
to wander their streets, and others that 
challenge you to closer acquaintance with 
their sights. Paris or Brussels, for example, 
pours its bright life through boulevard and 
park, and you are charmed to walk about with 
no urgent call to any place in particular ; but 
who can linger in Princes Street of Edinburgh 
with the grey old castle inviting him to climb 
up to it, or the Calton Hill boldly advertising 
itself with its mock Roman remains ? Le 
Puy has both the charm of the quaintest kinds 
of street life and the challenge of its rare and 
curious monuments. 

One has a restless feeling, a sense of things 
that " must be done," when one catches a 
glimpse of the stately old cathedral standing 
high on the hill, and the massive Rock of 
Corneille with the great figure of Notre Dame 
de France on top, or the church of St. Michel 
pricking up so confidently on its isolated rock. 
The natural curiosity of man is such that he 
cannot be content until he has clambered to 
these and other high places in and around Le 

I2 5 

In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

Puy. One makes first for the cathedral, and 
a bewildering labyrinth of ancient and evil- 
smelling lanes has to be wandered through 
before the building is reached. These little 
streets are all paved with cobbles of black 
lava, and many of the houses are built in part 
of the same material. Their dirtiness is 
unqualified, and yet the people seem to live 
long amid their squalor, for at every other door 
we note women of old years busy with their 
needles and pillows making the lace, which is 
one of the chief industries of the town. 


THE nearer we come to the cathedral the 
more difficult is it to observe its general pro- 
portions, and, indeed, it can only be seen to 
advantage from one or other of the neigh- 
bouring heights. But it is a building that, 
in almost any position, would still be remark- 
able, as it is a striking example of Romanesque 
architecture. The great porch is reached by a 
splendid flight of steps, sixty in number, 
where in the second week of August each year 
pilgrims come in their thousands to kneel and 
worship the Black Virgin, the chief glory of 
the town in the eyes of its inhabitants. The 
builders of the cathedral have striven to com- 
bine dignity and austerity, and the impression 


" The Most Picturesque Town in Europe ' ' 

which the outside of the building makes upon 
the visitor is strangely at variance with the 
flummery that surrounds the worship of the 
Black Virgin within. One feels that the men 
who back in the twelfth century reared these 
massive walls and built this beautiful cloister 
had not their lives dominated by a cheap and 
ugly wooden doll such as their fellows of to-day 
bow down before. We found the sacristan a 
young man of most amiable disposition ; so 
friendly indeed that on one of our subsequent 
visits, and during the office of High Mass, 
when he was attending upon the celebrant, 
he nodded familiarly to us on recognising us 
among the congregation. If the truth must 
be told, we were more interested in the con- 
tents of the sacristy than in the cathedral 
itself. Here were stored many rare and 
beautiful examples of ancient wood-carving, 
picture frames, missals, altar vessels, and, 
above all, a manuscript Bible of the ninth 
century. This last-mentioned we were shown 
only on condition that we would tell no one in the 
town. Then opening a great oaken cupboard, 
he produced first a brass monstrance, similar 
to the usual receptacle for the consecrated 
wafer of the Eucharist, but containing instead 
behind the little glass disc a tiny morsel of 
white feather sewn to a bit of cloth. 

' This/* said he, " is a piece of the wing of 
the angel who visited Joan of Arc/' 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

" Indeed," I' remarked, with every evidence 
of surprise, " and who got hold of the feather 
first ? " 

" The mother of Joan/' he replied, as 
though he were giving the name of his tailor ; 
and he proceeded to describe with much 
circumstance and detail the wonderful things 
that had been done by this bit of feather. " It 
is, M'sieu, an object of the greatest veneration, 
and has attracted pilgrims from far parts of 
France. It has cured the most terrible 
diseases ; it has brought riches to those who 
were poor ; it has brought children to barren 
women," and many other wonders I have 

In a very similar setting he showed us a tiny 
thorn. " This, M'sieu, is a thorn from the 
crown that Jesus wore on the Cross/' and 
while we were still gazing upon the sacred 
relic he produced a small box sealed with red 
wax and having a glass lid, behind which was 
preserved a good six inches of " the true 
Cross." I thought of a Frenchman whom I 
had met at an hotel recently an unbelieving 
fellow who said that there was as much wood 
of " the true Cross " preserved in the churches 
of France as would make a veritable ladder 
into heaven. Most wonderful of all, the sacris- 
tan dived his hand into a sort of cotton bag, and 
produced a Turkish slipper, worn and battered, 
but probably no more than fifty years old. 


" The Most Picturesque Town in Europe" 

The good man handled the thing as if it 
had been a cheap American shoe he was 
offering for sale. Then looking us boldly in 
the face, he said, " Void, le soulier de la 
Saint e Vierge." The shoe of the holy Virgin ! 
One did one's best to be overcome with 
emotion, but I claim no success in that effort. 
The ecclesiastical showman drew our attention 
to the pure Oriental character of the work- 
manship of the sacred slipper, but I declare 
frankly that it was not until the Protestant 
pastor of the town mentioned the fact next day 
that I realised that the shoe was "a No. 9 ! " 
Among the other contents of the sacristy we 
noted two maces, one of elaborate design 
richly ornamented in silver, and the other of 
plain wood only slightly carved. We were 
told they were carried in funeral processions, 
" the ornamental one for people of good family 
and the plain one for common folk." Oh, 
land of liberty, equality, fraternity ! 

After exhibiting to us the costly vestments 
of the bishops, canons, and other dignitaries 
of the church, the sacristan came with us to 
point out the far-famed Black Virgin of the 
cathedral, which a first inspection of the 
interior had failed to reveal to us. We now 
found it to be a small and ugly image fixed 
above the high altar. It was hardly bigger 
than a child's doll, and was dressed in a little 
coat of rich brocade. From the middle of the 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

idol a smaller head, presumably that of the 
Holy Child, projected through the cloth, and 
this, like the head of the larger figure, wore a 
heavy crown of bright gilt. I do not pretend 
to remember one tithe of the miracles attri- 
buted to this most venerated object by our 
good friend, but I know at least that he assured 
me it had burned for thirty-six hours during 
the Revolution without being consumed, and 
had thrice been thrown by sacrilegious hands 
into the river Borne, only to reappear 
mysteriously in its place over the altar. This 
story does not run on all fours with the curt 
description of the image given by M. Paul 
Joanne in his guide to the Cevennes " an 
imitation of the old Madonna destroyed in the 
Revolution." It is eminently a case in which 
"you pays your money and you takes your 
choice." I reckoned the entertainment pro- 
vided by the sacristan cheap at a franc. 


ENOUGH, perhaps, has been indicated to give 
some idea of the superstitious character of the 
people of Le Puy. Nowhere in France have 
I found so many evidences of mediaeval super- 
stition ; the Black Virgin is throned supreme 
in the minds of the people, and, unlike most 
French communities if we except the priest- 


" The Most Picturesque Town in Europe" 

ridden peasantry of Brittany the men-folk 
of Le Puy seem to be as devoted as their women 
to the church. The black coats of the clergy 
swarm in street and alley. In the town itself 
there are many institutions packed with young 
priests, and some little way out, on the banks 
of the Borne, there is a training school as large 
as a military barracks, with the pale faces of 
black-gowned youths peeping from many 
windows. Almost every conceivable type of 
priest is to be encountered here, from the 
gaunt, ascetic enthusiast to the fat and 
ruby-nosed Friar Tuck. The people of the 
southern highlands, like the old-fashioned folk 
of Scotland, have had for generations a passion 
to see at least one of their family in the priest- 
hood, apart very often from any consideration 
of fitness, moral or intellectual. Here, as I 
should judge, is the reason for one's seeing so 
many coarse and ignorant faces among the 
priests of Le Puy. 

The gigantic figure of the Virgin crowning 
the rock of Corneille, behind the cathedral, is 
reached by a long and toilsome pathway, but 
the view from the top for the statue is hollow, 
and contains a stairway inside with numerous 
peep-holes is perhaps unequalled in the whole 
of France. For mile upon mile the country 
stretches away in great billowy masses of dark 
mountain and green plain, and the little white 
houses with their red roofs are sprinkled 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

everywhere around Le Puy, suggesting a sweet 
and wholesome country life that is hard to 
reconcile with the dark superstition of the 
town. This monument, however, is of little 
interest a vulgar modern affair cast from 
213 guns taken at Sebastopol. More to our 
taste is the quaint little building called the 
Baptistry of St. John, which, standing near the 
cathedral, takes us back to the fourth century, 
and earlier still, for it is built on the foundation 
of an ancient Roman temple. You see, Le 
Puy was a flourishing Roman town when our 
forefathers in England were living in wattle 
huts. We have made some progress in 
England since those far-off days, but here, 
though changes rude and great have taken 
place, one may reasonably doubt whether 
there is much to choose between the present 
condition of Le Puy and that vanished past. 


THREADING our way downhill among the 
filthy ruelles, we pass into the wide and modern 
Boulevard Carnot, where the Sunday market 
is being held and everything may be bought, 
from a tin-opener to a donkey, from a rosary 
to a cow. A spirited statue of the great La 
Fayette, who was born not far away, at the 
castle of Chavagnac, stands at the top of this 


Image of the Black Virgin in the Cathedral 

Remains of Roman Temple, Le Puy, with a fountain to Virgin, 
a Calvayy, and the Mairie 


" The Most Picturesque Town in Europe" 

street, where the new Boulevard Gambetta 
strikes westward with its clanging electric 
trams. Down near the river-side, where the 
market comes to an end, we visit the old 
church of the Dominicans, dedicated to St. 
Laurence, and in a dark and musty corner we 
are shown a tomb with a recumbent figure 
carved upon it. Here reposes, we are told, 
the dust of the greatest of the heroes of old 
France none other than that mighty warrior 
Du Guesclin, memories of whom the wanderer 
in French by-ways meets with as often as the 
tourist in England comes upon a house that 
sheltered Charles II. after the battle of Wor- 
cester. There is every reason for believing 
that the valorous but ugly Du Guesclin he 
was an " object of aversion " to his own 
parents was buried at St. Denis, but my 
excellent M. Joanne assures me that this 
statue is an authentic likeness of the hero ; 
and the Encyclopedia Britannica (which in 
another place mentions St. Denis as the place 
of burial) says that the church of St. Laurence 
" contains the remains of Du Guesclin/' 
What will you ? 

The electric tram lands us at the suburb of 
Espaly, and from the high road we could 
almost throw a stone to the massive rock, 
with its castle-like walls enclosing on the top 
a little garden of trees. But it is another 
matter to pick our way, ankle-deep in mire, 

In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

to the entrance-gate, through the hovels that 
surround it. Clustering to the rock we pass 
are buildings from which priests and " sisters " 
come and go with a surprising mingling of the 
sexes, and when we have climbed to the top a 
dark-eyed sister shows us for half a franc a 
collection of the most extraordinary Romish 
trash we have ever looked upon. The chapel is 
free to us, and within its incense-laden interior 
we find several comfortable priests poring over 
books or sitting with insensate stare at the 
candles burning on a particularly tawdry altar. 
The place is in a way unique, as the chapel is 
not a building at all, but is hewn out of the 
volcanic rock, being thus an artificial grotto 
consecrated to worship. Its rough walls are 
hung with votive tablets and studded with 
crude stuccos of many saints, giving it the 
appearance of a toy bazaar. Only recently 
the large bronze statue of St. Joseph that 
crowned the rock of Espaly, above the grotto- 
chapel, was blown down, and visitors are 
invited to contribute towards the cost of 
replacing it. 

A little distance away is the higher and 
more remarkable volcanic mass known as the 
Pic d' Aiguille, with a handsome and well- 
proportioned church upon its summit. One 
has to climb a long and winding footpath and 
then close on three hundred steps to reach the 
building, which we found quite deserted, some 

" The Most Picturesque Town in Europe ' ' 

village lads doing the " cake-walk " around 
an angelic form with a box of donations to St. 
Michael, the patron saint of the deserted 
sanctuary. These gamins also seemed to 
derive much pleasure from ringing the bell 
still hanging in the ancient tower. It was a 
matter of speculation why the priests should 
continue to use the stuffy and unwholesome 
grotto of St. Joseph, with this airy, noble 
building lying vacant. We can only suppose 
that the toil of climbing the higher rock is 
greater than their zeal. Near by the base of 
the Pic d' Aiguille one notices a curious con- 
junction of old paganism and modern mario- 
latry an ancient temple of Diana flanked by 
a massive crucifix on the one hand and a 
modern Gothic fountain and shrine to the 
Virgin on the other. 


After all, and somewhat unwillingly, I find 
that I have written rather of the religious side 
of this interesting town than of its picturesque- 
ness. But sensational as the first impression of 
its unique and beautiful outlines undoubtedly 
is, it is not that, nor yet the quaint and 
entertaining habits of the people, that comes 
uppermost in the mind after some days' 
acquaintance with the place. One leaves 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

Le Puy convinced, almost at a glance, of its 
claim to be considered the most picturesque 
town in Europe, but depressed with the 
abounding evidence that its people, despite 
their electric trams and their fine modern 
buildings, are still largely the thralls of darkest 
superstition. For the difference between the 
religion that here passes for Roman Catholi- 
cism and that we know by the same name in 
England is greater than the difference between 
the latter and the most Calvanistic Protestant- 
ism. To me, at least, Le Puy will be ever 
the city of the Black Virgin. 



The Country of the Camisards 

" These^are the Cevennes with an emphasis : the 
Cevennes of the Cevennes." R. L. STEVENSON. 


THE word Camisard in the south of France, 
like Covenanter in Scotland, recalls 

"Old, unhappy, far-off things, 
And battles long ago." 

Both describe people who had much in 
common, for the Camisards were the Coven- 
anters of France. The origin of the term need 
not detain us more than a moment. It is 
variously attributed to the " Children of 
God " having worn a camise, or linen shirt, 
as a sort of uniform ; to camisade, which 
means a night attack, that having been a 
feature of their warfare ; while some his- 
torians have derived it from camis, a road 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

runner. Enough that it stands for a race of 
people whose devotion to the Reformed Faith, 
whose fearless stand for religious liberty, 
entitles them to rank among the heroes of 

As one may suppose that the general reader, 
however well informed, is likely to be some- 
what hazy in his knowledge of the Camisards 
unless, indeed, he has had the good fortune 
to read one of the later, as it is one of the 
best, of Mr. S. R. Crockett's romances, Flower- 
o '-the-Corn, which gives a vivid and moving 
picture of the Protestant rebellion in the 
Cevennes it may be well that I set down at 
once a brief outline of the events which, two 
centuries ago, made these highlands of the 
South one of the historic regions in storied 

The revocation of the Edict of Nantes, in 
1685, was a transforming episode in the 
history of Europe. It represented the trium- 
phant issue of the sinister policy of the 
Jesuits, who had long been scheming to undo 
the work of the Huguenot wars, whereby the 
rights of Protestants to hold public worship 
and to take part in the government of the 
country had been recognised as a sort of 
political compromise. 

The atrocities inflicted by the Roman 
Catholics on their fellow-citizens of the Protes- 
tant faith during the reign of terror, which 


The Country of the Camisards 

began in October of 1685, need not be recalled ; 
they are among the blackest pages in the 
annals of Romish tyranny. But we must 
know that in the mountainous regions of the 
south of France, where the work of the Refor- 
mation had been fruitful, and blessed in 
inverse ratio to the poverty of the people and 
the barrenness of their country, these hardy 
hill folk were too poor to quit their villages, 
and too devoted to their religious faith to 
submit meekly to the new order. Like all 
peoples whose lot it is to scrape a scanty 
living from a grudging soil, the inhabitants 
of the Cevennes resemble in many ways the 
Highlanders of Scotland and Wales. We find 
in them the same qualities of sturdy independ- 
ence, patience, endurance ; the same strain of 
gravity, associated with a deep fervour for 
the things that are eternal. Thus isolated in 
their mountain fastnesses, hemmed in by the 
ravening hordes of Catholicism and constitu- 
ted authority, they determined to fight for 
the faith they valued more than life. In this 
hour of awful trial it was not surprising that, 
out of the frenzy of despair, strange things 
were born, and an era of religious hysteria 
began, simple women, poor ignorant men, 
children even, in great numbers, being thought 
to come under the direct inspiration of God, 
arising as :< prophets " to urge the rude 
mountaineers into a holy war with " His Most 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

Christian Majesty, Louis, King of France and 

But although there had been many encoun- 
ters of an irregular kind between the Camisards 
and the leagued officials of Pope and King 
in the closing years of the seventeenth 
century, it was not until that weird figure, 
Spirit Seguier, who has been called the 
" Danton of the Cevennes," planned the mur- 
der of the Archpriest du Chayla at the little 
town of Pont de Montvert, on the 23rd of 
July, 1702, that the first blow in the Protestant 
rebellion may be said to have been struck. 
Of this tragic event R. L. Stevenson writes : 

" A persecution, unsurpassed in violence, 
had lasted near a score of years, and this was 
the result upon the persecuted : hanging, 
burning, breaking on the wheel, had been in 
vain ; the dragoons had left their hoof-marks 
over all the country side ; there were men 
rowing in the galleys, and women pining in 
the prisons of the Church ; and not a thought 
was changed in the heart of any upright 

On the I2th of August, nineteen days after 
the murder of the Archpriest, the right hand 
of Seguier was stricken from his body, and he 
was burned alive at the spot where he had 
driven home the first knife into the oppressor 
of his people. 



So began the war of the Camisards, for the 
faggots that burned the prophet only added 
to the fire he lighted when he struck at Du 
Chayla. Presently his place, as leader of the 
revolt, was taken by an old soldier named 
Laporte, who gave the rising a touch of 
military discipline, and soon the Camisards 
had many captains, all men who believed 
themselves endowed with the gift of 

The Protestants of the Cevennes, thorough 
in every habit of life, took up their arms and 
set about the making of entrenchments and 
works of defence with the determination of 
men prepared to fight to a finish. It is easy 
for us in these peaceful days to deprecate 
their vengeful deeds, but let us remember, in 
charity, that if they met blood-thirstiness 
with the same, they were maddened by a 
system of oppression so brutal as to be almost 
beyond our belief. Their leader, Roland, 
issued a dispatch which for callous sugges- 
tion has seldom been equalled in the annals 
of war : " We, Count and Lord Roland, 
Generalissimo of the Protestants of France, 
we decree that you have to make away with, 
in three days, all the priests and missionaries 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

who are among you, under pain of being 
burned alive, yourselves as well as they." 

But the most picturesque figure among the 
Camisards was introduced when Jean Cava- 
lier, a baker's apprentice at Geneva, returned 
to his native mountains, and by sheer force 
of a military genius to which history offers 
few parallels became the chief leader of the 
Camisards while still in his teens. The story 
of his life is romantic beyond the invention 
of any novelist. Not only did he succeed 
over a period of three years in defending 
many important parts of the Cevennes from 
organised attacks, but in the course of that 
time he met and defeated successively Count 
de Broglie and three Marshals of France 
Montrevel, Berwick, and Villars although at 
one time there was a force of 60,000 soldiers 
in the field against him. At Nages, a little 
village in the southern Cevennes, he encoun- 
tered Montrevel, and, outnumbered by five 
to one, he succeeded, after a desperate conflict, 
in effecting a successful retreat with more 
than two thirds of his thousand men. Not 
even the blessings of the Pope on the royalist 
troops, and on the " holy militia," raised 
among the Catholic population, brought the 
submission of the Camisards one day nearer. 
Commander after commander retired baffled, 
and Montrevel' s policy of extermination 
during which four hundred and sixty-six 


The Country of the Camisards 

villages in the Upper Cevennes were burned, 
and most of the population put to the sword 
left Cavalier, still a mere lad, master of the 
southward mountains, threatening even to 
attack the great city of Nimes. 

Marshal Villars, a renowned soldier, recog- 
nised the hopelessness of continuing the 
methods of barbarism pursued by his pre- 
decessors, and succeeded in concluding an 
honourable peace with Cavalier in the summer 
of 1704, whereby the Camisards were granted 
certain important rights affecting the liberty 
of conscience and of person. But Roland 
and the more fanatical section of the Protes- 
tant army held out until January of 1705, 
their battle-cry being, " No peace until we 
have our churches," Cavalier's treaty having 
recognised the right to assemble outside 
walled towns, but not in churches. 

It is this extraordinary baker's apprentice 
who at twenty-four had concluded a long and 
desperate war, in which he played a part 
entitling him to be remembered with national 
heroes such as William Tell and Sir William 
Wallace that Mr. S. R. Crockett has made 
the chief figure in his brilliant romance of 
the Cevennes, Flower-o '-the-Corn. 


THE little-known region of the Gausses is 
" the Cevennes of the Cevennes," but Steven- 
son in his travels did not visit the innermost 
Cevennes, and was during most of his journey 
only on the outskirts of the real country of 
the Camisards. The chief of these great 
plateaux is the Causse de Sauveterre, which 
extends south-west from the town of Mende 
for upwards of forty miles, and is in parts 
at least twenty miles wide. It is divided 
from the Causse M6jan on the south by the 
splendid gorges of the river Tarn, and due 
south of the Mejan, with the beautiful valley 
of the Jonte between, lies the Causse Noir, 
some twenty miles east and west, and ten 
from the Jonte on its north to the no less 
beautiful glen on its south, where flows the 
river Dourbie. Still southward, and with 
only this waterway dividing, extends the 
splendid mass of the Causse du Larzac, some 
thirty miles in length, from the neighbourhood 
of Millau to the ancient Roman town of 
Lodeve, which boasted a continuous bishopric 
from the year 323 to the Revolution, and is 
now a bright and populous industrial centre. 
These are the more notable of the Causses, 
and all, no doubt, formed one mighty plateau 


(From a photograph by Mr. S. R. CROCKETT) 


The Country of the Camisards 

in prehistoric times ; but numerous swift 
flowing rivers have through the ages worn 
them asunder, producing a series of magnificent 
ravines that contain some of the finest 
scenery in France, and on whose sides we can 
trace the slow and steady work of the streams 
wearing down to their present courses through 
the limestone, the local name for which is 
can, whence causse. 

To describe the character of the Camisard 
country, and to convey some idea of it to 
English readers, is no easy matter, since 
there is nothing in the British Islands, and 
little elsewhere in Europe, to which it may 
be readily compared. Yet the effort must be 
made, since the peculiar nature of the country 
is of first importance to the understanding of 
its people and their historic resistance of all 
the might of France two centuries ago. 

Conceive, then, a vast expanse of rugged 
and rock-strewn land, covering it may be an 
area of two or three hundred square miles, 
and terminating abruptly on every side in 
mighty ravines, or ending in precipitous cliffs, 
that look down on wide and fertile valleys, 
frown on smiling plains. This is what the 
word Causse stands for, and the wonder is 
that folk should be content to live in dreary 
little villages high up on these stony fields, 
when a thousand feet and more in the plains 
and valleys below rich and fruitful soil invites 

u 145 

In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

the husbandman. But so it is, and in this 
region of France we have the strange circum- 
stance of two peoples, differing in many 
essentials of character, living within a day's 
walk of each other, and mingling but little in 
the intercourse of life. As you thread your 
way through the valleys of the Tarn, the 
Dourbie, or any of the other streams that 
follow the rifts between the Gausses, you 
realise that up there among the clouds live 
people who have small commerce with their 
fellows in the valleys, and in such a town as 
Millau, whose inhabitants must look each day 
of their lives at the giant walls of the Causse 
Noir and the Larzac, upreared to the imme- 
diate east of their own paved streets, there are 
thousands who have never scaled these heights. 

Mr. Crockett gives us this graphic word- 
picture of the Larzac : 

" The surface of the Causse once Yvette 
had attained to the higher levels spread out 
before her, plain as the palm of a hand, save 
for those curiously characteristic rocks, 
which, apparently without connection with 
the underlying limestone, stand out like 
icebergs out of the sea, irregular, pinnacled, 
the debris of temples destroyed or ever foot 
of man trod there spires, gargoyles, hideous 
monsters, all dejected in some unutterable 
catastrophe, and become more horrible in the 
moonlight, or, on the other hand, modified to 


The Country of the Camisards 

the divine calm of the Bhudda himself, by 
some effect of illumination or trick of cloud 
umbration. . . . 

" A wonderful land, this of the Gausses, 
where the rain never comes to stay. Indeed, 
it might as well rain on a vast dry sponge, 
thirty miles across and four or five thousand 
feet in height. The sheep up there never 
drink. They only eat the sparse tender grass 
when the dew is upon it. Yet from their 
milk the curious cheese called Roquefort is 
made, which, being kept long in cool lime- 
stone cellars the cellules of the stony sponge 
puts on something of the flavour of the 
rock plants thyme, juniper, dwarf birch, 
honeysweet heath from which it was dis- 


A COUNTRY better adapted to the exigencies 
of defence against an attacking army from 
the plains could not be imagined, for, as the 
novelist says in another passage, " It seemed 
impossible for any living thing to descend 
those frowning precipices. Even in broad 
daylight the task appeared more suited to 
goats than to men." The roads which now 
connect these great uplands with the lower 
country are marvels of engineering, and you 
can count as many as twenty or thirty 

In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

" elbows " in the track, from the point at 
which it leaves the valley until it disappears 
over the edge of the table-land, the entire 
length of it being in view at one stroke of the 
eye. The task of ascending is laborious in 
the extreme, and much sitting at cafes, 
which is the habit of the townsfolk, does not 
equip them for the undertaking. Few way- 
farers are encountered, and when the summit 
of the Causse is gained the signs of life are 
still meagre. The roads, now flat and dusty, 
lie like bright ribbons on a dull and melan- 
choly stretch of earth. Here and there a 
lonely shepherd is seen tending a flock of 
shabby-looking sheep, that crop the sparse 
herbage in fields where stones are more 
plentiful than grass. 

Miss M. Betham-Edwards is one of the few 
writers who have visited this little-known 
corner of France, and in the following passage 
she refers to what is perhaps its most curious 
feature : 

" Another striking feature of the arid, 
waterless upper region is the aven, or yawning 
chasm, subject of superstitious awe and 
terror among the country people. Wherever 
you go you find the aven ; in the midst of a 
field for parts of this sterile soil have been 
laid under cultivation on the side of a 
vertical cliff, of divers shapes and sizes : 
these mysterious openings are locally known 


(From a Photograph by Mr. S. R. CROCKETT) 

The Country of the Camisards 

as ' Trous d'enfer ' (mouths of hell). Alike, 
fact and legend have increased the popular 
dread. It was known that many an unfortu- 
nate sheep or goat had fallen into some abyss, 
never, of course, to be heard of after. It was 
said that a jealous seigneur of these regions 
had been seen thus to get rid of his young 
wife one tradition out of many. According 
to the country-folk of Padirac, the devil, 
hurrying away with a captured soul, was 
overtaken by St. Martin on horseback. A 
struggle, amid savage scenery, ensued for 
possession of the soul. ' Accursed saint,' 
cried Satan, ' thou wilt hardly leap my 
ditch ' with a tap of his heel opening the 
rock before them, splitting it in two the 
enormous chasm, as he thought, making 
pursuit impossible. But St. Martin's steed 
leaped it at a bound, the soul was rescued, 
and the prince of darkness, instead of the 
saint, sent below." 

Many of the avens have been explored by 
M. E. A. Martel, and his adventures in these 
underground tunnels and caves have rarely 
been equalled in modern exploration. 


THE scene of Flower-o '-the-Corn, so far as it 
is laid in the Cevennes, occupies but a small 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

part of that splendid chain of mountains, 
but it is perhaps the most picturesque part. 
Much of the action is centred in the little 
Camisard town of La Cavalerie, situate at an 
altitude of nearly 2,500 feet on the lonely 
plateau of the Larzac, some ten miles along 
the main road from Millau, a beautiful and 
important cathedral town in the valley of 
the Tarn. To-day, as in the past, the 
innkeeper is usually the man of most 
importance in these mountain towns, but I 
have visited no auberge that would com- 
pare, in romantic situation, with that so 
graphically described by Mr. Crockett under 
the style of " le Bon Chretien" at La 
Cavalerie : 

" To those unacquainted with the plan of 
such southern houses, it might have been 
remarkable how quickly the remembrance of 
the strange entrance-hall beneath was blotted 
out. At the first turn of the staircase the 
ammoniacal stable smell was suddenly left 
behind. At the second, there, in front of 
the ascending guest, was a fringed mat lying 
on the little landing. At the third Maurice 
found himself in a wide hall, lighted from the 
front, with an outlook upon an inner court- 
yard in which was a Judas-tree in full leaf, 
with seats of wicker and rustic branches set 
out. Here and there in the shade stood small 
round tables, pleasantly retired, all evidencing 


The Country of the Camisards 

a degree of refinement to which Maurice had 
been a stranger ever since he left those inns 
upon the post-roads of England, which were 
justly held to be the wonder of the world." 

One fears that the " good old times " have 
disappeared from the Gausses, as most of the 
inns, built, like many of the houses, in sunk 
positions by the roadside, so that one enters 
on the top flat, sometimes by way of a crazy 
wooden bridge, are sad advertisements of 
poverty. The houses are often like that in 
which Mr. Crockett's heroine lodged in the 
little Camisard town of St. Vernan, in the 
valley of the Dourbie, " built out like a 
swallow's nest over the abyss." For it is 
noteworthy that most of these highland 
villages cluster along the river courses, as 
though the hill-folk were fain to have the sound 
of the glad waters in their ears. In the valley 
of the Jonte I marvelled often at these 
" swallows' nests." Many of the cottages 
have a scrap of garden, surrounded by a wall 
not higher than three feet, from the base of 
which the cliff sweeps down at an acute angle 
to the river bed, six hundred feet below. 
Children play in these tiny eeries with as little 
concern as youngsters in a city court. 

Not all the surface of these great table-lands 
lies flat and stone-strewn ; one will often come 
on dark forests of pines, and sometimes the 
woodman has a better return for his labour 

In the track of JR.. L. Stevenson 

than the shepherd. But on every hand the 
conditions of life are primitive beyond any- 
thing in our own land. Here, more frequently 
than in his native Normandy, may we find 
the sullen clod depicted by Millet in the " Man 
with the Hoe." " Stolid and stunned, a brother 
to the ox," as Markham has described him in 
his powerful poem. It is, indeed, difficult to 
realise that among these crumbling villages 
and beggarly fields we are in the heart of 
fair France. 


THERE is little to choose between the 
Catholic and Protestant villages ; all are 
more or less in a state of dilapidation, all 
have poverty written on their walls ; but to 
mingle with the people and discuss affairs 
with them, quite apart from all questions of 
religion, is a sure and ready way to discover 
how great is the difference between the two 
classes. The one is usually a sullen and 
unintelligent mortal, tied neck and crop to 
the stony soil on which he has been born ; 
the other bright, receptive of ideas, quick 
with life and hope, and, if he be old, happy in 
the knowledge that his sons have gone forth 
from this bare land equipped by the liberal 
training of the Protestant schools to take 
dignified part in the great life of the Republic. 



The Country of the Camisards 

For you will find that even in the veritable 
strongholds of a debased and superstitious 
Catholicism all the important officials are 

The Protestants of to-day are no unworthy 
descendants of the men whom Cavalier led 
against the forces of civil and religious 
tyranm^, and though these lonely mountains 
shelter also many who are still willing slaves 
of the yoke which the sturdy " Sons of God n 
endeavoured to shake off for ever, the 
Camisards of two centuries ago did not fight 
and die in vain ; their children's children are 
to-day the little leaven that may yet " leaven 
the whole lump." 

The Wonderland of France 


' WHATEVER you do, you must not miss the 
valley of the Tarn the finest scenery in 
Europe." Thus wrote a celebrated novelist 
and traveller to me when sending some hints 
on my projected tour in the Cevennes, a 
district which to Mr. S. R. Crockett is almost 
as familiar as his own romantic Galloway. I 
have good reason to be grateful for his advice, 
as the river Tarn is the waterway through 
what I shall venture to call the Wonderland 
of France. A clever writer has observed that 
" there are landscapes which are insane," and 
truly in this little-known corner of southern 
France nature has performed some of her 
maddest, most fantastic freaks. Here she is 
seen in a mood more sensational than the 
weird imaginings of a Gustave Dore ; there 
is no scenery that I have looked upon or read 
about in any other part of Europe comparable 
with this of the Tarn. In the old world at 

In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

least it is unique, and we have to go for 
comparison to the renowned canons of the 

Not the least curious feature of the story of 
the Tarn, its awesome gorges and wondrous 
caverns, is the fact that less than thirty 
years ago the region was " discovered " to 
France by M. E. A. Martel, the celebrated 
grottologist, with as much eclat as it had been 
an island in an unknown sea. Of course, the 
whole district, like every other part of France, 
had long ago taken its place in history and 
romance ; but although many a generation 
of peasant folk and monkish fraternities had 
lived out their lives in these southern fast- 
nesses, the Tarn country-side had not before 
been explored by one in search of the pic- 
turesque or the wonders of Nature. Thus, in 
every sense of the word, M. Martel is to be 
reckoned a discoverer, and the surprise is that, 
despite a somewhat tiresome journey, there 
are so few English tourists who find their way 
to this enchanted land. The journey is no 
more fatiguing than that to Geneva or Lucerne, 
which in the summer months swarm with 
English visitors, and, for all their beauties, 
possess nothing to equal the natural glories 
of the Tarn. 

There are several ways of reaching this 
little-known corner of France, but the best is 
undoubtedly by way of Mende, a fine town 







The Wonderland of France 

434 miles south of Paris, " chief place " of the 
Department of the Lozere. Mende, although 
one of the cleanest and brightest of the French 
towns, with a population of less than 10,000, 
and pleasantly situated in a wide green valley, 
with low and sparsely-timbered hills billowing 
on every side under a sky so blue and in at- 
mosphere so clear that the eye seems to 
acquire an unusual power of vision, would 
scarcely be worth the journey for itself alone. 
But it is the real starting-place for the descent 
of the Tarn gorges, and it possesses many 
excellent hotels and an ample service of 
coaches for the journey across the great 
plateau of the Causse de Sauveterre to Ste. 
Enimie, a distance of about eighteen miles. 
This would be the most convenient route for 
the traveller who depended upon the train 
and coach for his locomotion, but those who, 
like the writer, make use of the bicycle, would 
be well advised to make Florae their starting- 
point, as not the least beautiful part of the 
river scenery lies between that pretty little 
town and Ste. Enimie. 


IT fitted well with my plans one summer to 
explore a much longer reach of the Tarn than 
most visitors are in the habit of following, and 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

I should have been sorry indeed to have missed 
any part of the journey. In company with 
another friend of the wheel, I struck eastward 
from Mende along the lovely valley of the Lot, 
and crossing the great mountain range that 
gives its name to the Department of the Lozere 
we first came upon the Tarn at Pont de Mont- 
vert, some fourteen miles north-east of Florae, 
at which point R. L. Stevenson began his 
acquaintance with the river. From this 
sleepy old town the river runs through a 
deep and narrow valley, the slopes thick 
with mighty chestnut trees, and the sce- 
nery in parts somewhat reminiscent of 
our Scottish Highlands, and totally unlike 
those reaches which, in its south-westerly 
course, render it unique among the rivers of 
Europe. For a few miles beyond Florae the 
aspect of the country is somewhat similar in 
kind, but on a more massive scale, the valley 
wider and more pastoral ; but when one has 
reached the little town of Ispagnac, which sits 
snugly amid its fruitful orchards, the real 
character of the Tarn begins to reveal itself. 
It was after sunset when we had come thus 
far on our journey to Ste. Enimie, a distance 
of about seven miles from Florae, and never 
am I likely to forget the weird and thrilling 
impression of our passage from Ispagnac to 
Ste. Enimie, a matter of fifteen miles. The 
night comes quickly in that latitude, and as 


The Wonderland of France 

we advanced along the well-made road that 
follows the sinuous course of the river, at first 
mounting steadily until the noise of the water 
is heard but faintly far below, and then for 
mile upon mile gradually tending downward, 
the gloaming deepened into dark, and the gorge 
of the river, at all times awe-inspiring, took on 
in many a strange and mysterious shadow of 
the night a moving touch of Dantesque 
grandeur. We had left behind us all the tree- 
bearing slopes, and the river now ran in a 
great chasm of volcanic cliffs, shooting their 
fantastic pinnacles a thousand feet into the 
darkling sky, and presenting many an outline 
that might have been mistaken for the towers 
and bastions of some eerie stronghold. Not a 
soul was passed on all the miles of road, no 
sound was heard but the varying noise of the 
water, nothing moved in our path except an 
occasional bat, that zigzagged its noiseless 
flight across the road. One sat on the saddle 
with a tight hold on the handle bars, and kept 
as close as possible to the uprising rock, for 
towards the river was a sheer drop of some 
500 feet, and only a low coping stood between 
us and disaster. So tortuous was the road, 
that, being at one time some little distance in 
advance of my companion, I awaited his 
approach, and could see the light of his lamp 
shoot out like a will-o'-the-wisp into the middle 
of an abyss, and then disappear in a hollow of 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

the rocks, only to emerge again and flash upon 
an uncanny bridge across some gaping gully. 
For a considerable time we gazed enraptured 
on Venus, which is here seen with a radiance 
seldom witnessed in England, and seemed to 
lie like a glittering gem on the very brow of a 
mighty cliff. Presently summer lightning 
began to play along the riven lips of the valley, 
and continued at thrilling intervals to add a 
touch of dramatic intensity to a scene already 
sensational enough. 

The only place of habitation through which 
we passed was the little village of Prades, 
where the lighted window of a cafe with noise 
of merriment within, and the solemn gruntling 
of oxen in an open stable, gave one a little 
human encouragement though the street lay 
void and black. As you may suppose, it was 
with no small satisfaction that we at length 
wheeled into Ste. Enimie at half-past nine 
o'clock, and found mine host of the Hotel de 
Paris delighted to welcome two belated 


STE. ENIMIE, which has a population of 
1,000, is the chief town of its canton, and is 
cosily tucked away close by the river side in a 
great amphitheatre of hills and cliffs, the 
meeting-place of three important highways : 

1 60 

Showing the mass of the Cansse Mejan rising on the left 



" The river roars between precipices, that rise sheer and stupendous 
from its brink." 

The Wonderland of France. 

that by which we had come, and the road 
across the Sauveterre from La Canourgue, 
and that across the other mighty plateau, the 
Causse Me Jan. The town is of great antiquity, 
and is said to owe its origin to a certain prin- 
cess named Enimie, daughter of Clotaire II., 
who, being tainted with leprosy, was cured by 
some waters at this place, and founded a 
monastery here at the close of the sixth 
century. This religious house became one of 
the richest in all Gevaudan, but was sup- 
pressed, like so many of its kind, at the time 
of the great Revolution. The remains of the 
building are still an interesting feature of the 
place, and high on the cliff above is the 
hermitage of the saint, a little chapel built 
about the cave in which she is supposed to 
have slept. The river is here crossed by a 
splendid bridge, which the builders were busy 
improving at the time of our visit. 

While the mistress of the hotel was preparing 
what we later pronounced a most excellent 
meal, mine host was telling me surprising 
things in the dining-room, to which one gained 
access through a fine old-fashioned kitchen. 
With one of Taride's large scale maps before 
me, whereon was shown a " national road " 
right through the gorges of the Tarn to Millau, 
I asked for some particulars of the route, and 
was smilingly informed that it did not yet 



In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

" But it is here, shown by a thick red line, 
on this map/' 

" Quite so, m'sieu ; many cyclists come here 
with a map like that and think they can cycle 
all the way. But there is no road as yet, 
though in five years or six there will be one. 
The only way to descend the Tarn from here 
to Le Rozier is in a barque." 

Now, experience has made me doubtful of 
anything a hotel-keeper in a tourist resort will 
tell you about boats and coaches, for you never 
know to what extent he is financially interested 
in the matter, and he of the Hotel de Paris was 
avowedly the agent of the company to whom 
belong the boats used for the descent of the 
river. Although his hotel had a modern and 
well-appointed annexe token of the growing 
popularity of the place where hotels are 
rapidly increasing in person he resembled a 
brigand grown stout with easeful days, and 
one naturally grew more suspicious when he 
protested that it would not make the difference 
of a sou to him whether we went by boat or 
toiled ourselves to death across the mountains. 
A good friend at Florae none other than the 
Free Church minister had also assured us 
there was no road beyond Ste. Enimie, but 
that the boat charges were not dear. " Nor 
are they," said the hotel-keeper ; " it is only 
thirty-six francs (thirty shillings) all the way, 
which is very cheap." We were unable to 


The Wonderland of France. 

see eye to eye with him then, but subsequently 
came round to his opinion when we knew how 
much labour and skill could be purchased for 
this modest outlay. 


You must know that the Tarn and its ways 
are not to be measured by the ordinary ex- 
periences of holiday travel. At seven o'clock 
in the morning you wake and breakfast with- 
out loss of time, in order to set out without 
delay and reach Le Rozier, thirty miles to the 
south, in time for six o'clock dinner. On the 
beach, close by the hotel, lie a number of flat- 
bottomed barques, rudely constructed affairs, 
exactly similar to fishing-punts used in shallow 
English waters. A plank of wood with a back 
to it, and covered with a loose cushion, is laid 
athwart the primitive craft, and here you take 
your seat. It is possible, I believe, for six 
passengers to be carried, but personally I 
should be loath to trust myself in such a boat 
with more than four, for two boatmen are 
necessary to each punt. The charge is for 
the boat irrespective of numbers, so that we 
might have had two more in ours without 
adding to the cost, but our bicycles helped us 
to square matters. Our boatmen were rough, 
half -shaven fellows, and he who took his place 
at the stern seemed to have been drinking 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

unnecessarily early in the morning. But both 
knew their business thoroughly, and were 
alive to every current and whirlpool in the 

Their system of navigation is at once simple 
and effective, the only possible method of 
using the water-way. Armed with a strong 
pole, they stand, the one in front and the other 
behind, and allow the barque to glide down 
the swift current of the river, which runs, as I 
should judge, at six or eight miles an hour. 
Its course is broken up by innumerable gravel 
beds and rocky snags, and while we seem to be 
on the very instant of dashing into a seething 
whirlpool one of the boatmen will, with ad- 
mirable precision, jab his pole into a hidden 
gravel bank and thrust the boat once more 
into the main current. Beautiful was it to 
watch how skilfully the men made use of this 
current, and that, guiding the frail craft 
straight into what seemed a perilous swirl of 
breakers, only that they might avail them- 
selves of a different current resulting there- 
from, and pilot us into a quiet pool by the 
beach on the very lip of a thundering weir. 

It is indeed difficult to convey any adequate 
idea of the sensation of such a journey, where 
the water itself is at once the element and the 
cause of the progress. One sits as in a cockle 
shell on the enchanted sea, gliding along 
magically amid scenes of unequalled splendour; 


The Wonderland of France. 

but, alas ! the bronzed youth at the prow and 
the hairy wine-bibber at the stern are no 
creatures of fairyland, but the very serviceable 
mortals without whose aid the wonders of the 
Tarn would have remained to this day as 
distant as the realms of faery. 

The panorama, which seems to pass us 
slowly on both sides of the river for the 
absence of mechanical propulsion gives one 
the illusion of sitting still while the cliffs on 
each hand move past the boat is of ceaseless 
change. For a time the hills reach up, green 
and carefully cultivated, to the higher basaltic 
cliffs, that rise perpendicular to the edge of 
the plateau, a thousand feet or more above our 
level, and then as they suddenly narrow, with 
never a foothold for the tiniest of creatures, 
the river roars between precipices that soar 
sheer and stupendous from its water, or in 
some cases lean forward so that at a little 
distance both sides seem to meet and form an 
arch across the stream. And the whole is rich 
in colour, the prevailing grey of the rocks being 
varied by great masses in which warm reds and 
browns occur, while every crevice is picked out 
with greenery, and wherever the foot of 
venturesome man can scramble there have 
been those bold enough to terrace patches of 
the slopes where vines and even tiny crops of 
wheat contrive to grow. One of the most 
beautiful and romantic pictures is supplied by 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

the ancient castle of La Caze, which occupies 
a sheltered corner in a bend of the river, where 
above it the cliffs uprear with great hollows 
and - rotundities, illustrating how in the un- 
known ages the water has eaten its way down 
from the upper level to its present bed. 

The Chateau de La Caze is set about by 
many tall and leafy trees, and one could 
imagine no holiday more enjoyable than a few 
days passed here, for Oh, ye romantic and 
practical Frenchmen ! the castle has been 
transformed into an hotel, where all the 
appointments and even the costumes of the 
servants recall the Middle Ages in which it was 
built. As we approached, one of our boatmen 
took up a large conch and, blowing into it, set 
the gorge echoing as from a foghorn ; but we 
had decided not to visit the chateau, as it was 
our purpose to lunch farther down at La 
Malene, and the sounding of the conch was 
meant only to attract the attention of some 
of the servants, to whom our boatmen shouted 
that we had thrown on the river-bank about a 
quarter of a mile above the castle a sack of 
loaves for its inmates. 


BETWEEN Ste. Enimie and La Malene there 
are four or five points at which we have to 


The Wonderland of France 

change our barque, where the river leaps over 
dangerous weirs, and several changes are 
necessary on the lower beach. It is due to 
this manoeuvring and to a wait of nearly two 
hours at La Malene, while the bateliers lunch 
and gossip boisterously at one of the hotels 
the voyageurs also being not unmindful of 
refreshment that Le Rozier is not reached 
until six o'clock, despite the rapid course of 
the river. 

La Malene is one of the three places south 
of Ste. Enimie, and still in the real canon of 
the Tarn, where the river is crossed by bridges ; 
all splendid structures, designed to withstand 
the spring floods when the current carries with 
it many a mighty block of ice and all sorts of 
debris from the hills. The first and newest of 
the bridges is passed at St. Chely, a small and 
dirty, but extremely picturesque, hamlet half- 
way between Ste. Enimie and La Malene, 
where we explored a wonderful series of 
ancient cave dwellings, and where, by the way, 
an enterprising photographer has joined the 
modern to the prehistoric by painting an 
advertisement of his wares on the face of the 
cliff overlooking the former haunts of the 

La Malene is, to my thinking, one of the 
most beautiful points on the route. The little 
town sits in the mouth of a great ravine that 
reaches far into the Causse de Sauveterre, 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

and on the opposite side the majestic mass of 
the Causse Mejan climbs to well-nigh 1,800 
feet above the river, the mountain road 
wriggling upward from the bridge in a series 
of wonderful twists and turns, " exactly like 
an apple paring thrown over the shoulder of 
the engineer," as Mr. Crockett has said of 
another highway in the farther south. It 
takes a man, walking at his best, more than an 
hour to climb that same road, as I can testify, 
and never for a moment during the ascent is 
the little town at the foot out of view. This 
will convey some idea of the barrenness of the 
mountain-side, where cattle and sheep crop 
a scanty herbage on fields that slope like the 
roof of a house and are thickly strewn with 
stones and boulders. At La Malene also 
there is a mediaeval castle, which, like La Caze, 
is the property of that great tourist agency, 
"La France Pittoresque," and now serves as a 
hotel ; but we were more interested in the old 
church of Romanesque design, where we saw 
the common grave of the thirty-nine villagers 
who were slain by the Republican troops during 
the Terror, and are remembered throughout 
the Cevennes as " the Martyrs of La Malene." 
It is striking proof of the terrible thoroughness 
of that bloody regime that even to this remote 
and sequestered nook the gory hand of the 
Terror stretched out. 

The French are the best of all road-makers ; 

1 68 

The Wonderland of France. 

more than any of the Latin peoples they have 
retained and fostered this gift of their Roman 
forebears. The highway they are now con- 
structing along the Tarn was almost com- 
pleted between St. Enimie and La Malene, 
at the time of our passing, and a splendid 
road it promised to be, here running like 
a gallery along the face of a cliff and there 
tunnelling some mighty bluff that juts out 
into the canon. But the river will always 
remain the real highway, as the scenery can 
only be viewed to full advantage from a seat 
in a barque, and the bateliers need not fear the 
competition of the road that is in the making. 


IF one were innocent enough to believe the 
boatmen who live by the tourist traffic, it 
would be difficult to know which part of the 
Tarn is the most beautiful. At St. Enimie 
you would be assured, in the event of your 
being undecided as to the whole trip, that the 
stretch between that town and La Malene was 
by far the best ; while at La Malene you would 
find the local boatmen emphatic as to the 
unrivalled beauty of the canon between that 
point and Les Vignes, where the third bridge 
stands ; and as surely when you arrived there 
you would be told the Tarn was only beginning 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

to be worth seeing from there to Le Rozier ! 
Naturally, it is impossible for two boatmen to 
take you a voyage which, occupying twelve 
hours, requires more than double that time 
and many times more energy, to bring the 
empty boats back to the starting-places. 
Thus the bateliers are prejudiced in favour of 
their own particular part of the journey, and 
the only way is to make the entire trip ; but 
indeed that is for all who do not cycle impera- 
tive, as the expense of reaching a railway 
station from any of the places mentioned 
before Le Rozier would be prohibitive, and 
one must continue the journey from the last- 
named place to Millau by coach and train, for 
which only a small charge is made. 

My own impression, if one can distinguish 
among scenes so differently beautiful, is 
that the canon between La Malene and Les 
Vignes presents its most surprising aspect. 
At Les Detroits the giant walls lean forward 
in a bold and menacing way, and further on, 
at the Cirque des Baumes and Les Baumes 
Basses, we see some of Nature's most pic- 
turesque effects, while the Pas de Soucy is a 
wild and thrilling part of the journey, where 
the great basaltic masses are scattered about 
as if an awful earthquake had but recently 
shaken them into their fantastic positions. 

But really there seems to be no end to the 
beauty of the Tarn, and when one has arrived 


The Wonderland of France. 

at Le Rozier fresh wonders await the eye, and 
scenes rivalling anything we have witnessed 
are still to behold, if we will make a short 
detour into the valley of the Jonte, where the 
ancient town of Peyreleau sits like a queen 
enthroned among enfolding hills. If one can 
go a little farther along this tributary of the 
Tarn and visit the famous grotto of Dargilan, 
discovered by M. Martel in 1884, a strange and 
beautiful underworld, before which the most 
extravagant fantasies of the Arabian Nights 
pale into insignificance, will be revealed. 
There, by the light of torches, we can wander 
through gigantic caverns of stalactite greater 
and more awe-inspiring than any cathedral, 
and journey by canoe on underground rivers, 
in what those practical Frenchmen once 
again ! is " the property of the Society 'La 
France Pittoresque.' ' 

Even that part of the Tarn between Le 
Rozier and Millau, no longer a gorge, but 
broadening into a smiling and fruitful valley, 
with the great impregnable wall of the Causse 
Noir frowning along its eastern length, is full 
of beautiful vistas ; but the wild and rugged 
grandeur of the canon has given place to scenes 
of pleasant pastoral life, and we cycle along 
a highway fringed with cherry trees in fruit, 
passing many a populous little town before we 
enter the leafy boulevards of the historic and 
prosperous city of Millau. 


The Town of Tartarin 


THE custom observed by English authors of 
giving fictitious names to places described in 
works of romance as for example, Mr. Hardy's 
" Casterbridge " (Dorchester) and Mr. Barrie's 
" Thrums '' (Kirriemuir) has so brought 
their readers to accept the most faithful 
realism for romance, that when they take up 
a French novel they are apt to think the places 
mentioned therein are treated in the same 
way. But those who have any acquaintance 
with French fiction will know that the novelists 
across the Channel follow a method entirely 
opposed to ours. An English reader who 
may have enjoyed to the full the famous 
trilogy of " Tartarin " books may well be 
excused if he supposes that the town of 
Tarascon is largely a creation of their author, 
Alphonse Daudet. It is true that if he has 
ever travelled from Paris to Marseilles by way 
of Lyons and Avignon he will have passed 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

through Tarascon, with its wide and open 
station perched high on a viaduct, and the 
porter bawling in his rich, southern tongue, 
" Tarascon, stop five minutes. Change for 
Nimes, Montpellier, Cette." And if he has 
as he cannot fail to have delightful memories 
of the incomparable Tartarin, his feet will itch 
to be out and wander the dusty streets in the 
hope of looking upon the scenes of the hero's 
happy days ; to peep perchance at his tiny 
white- washed villa on the Avignon Road with 
its green Venetian shutters, where the little 
bootblacks used to play about the door and 
hail the great man as his portly figure stepped 
forth, bound for the Alpine Club " down 
town." There would certainly be small other 
reasons for tarrying at this ancient town of 
France ; it owes such interest as it possesses 
chiefly to the genius of Daudet, whose inimit- 
able humour has vivified and touched it with 

I had been wandering a- wheel over many a 
league of these fair southern roads one summer 
before I found myself at the ancient Roman 
city of Nimes, the rarest treasure of France, 
and it was a visit to Daudet' s birthplace there 
that suggested the idea of going on to Tarascon 
a desire intensified by the ardour of a gentle- 
man from that town whom I met at a hotel, 
and who perspired with indignation as he 
denounced " that Daudet " for libelling the 


The Town of " Tartarin ' ' 

good folk of Tarascon. ' Tartarin ! The 
whole thing 's a farce. There never was such 
a man ! " But he asserted that the town was 
well worth seeing, if I could only forget 
Daudet's ribald nonsense. 

It went well with my plans for reaching the 
main route back to Paris to make a little 
journey through the fragrant olive groves 
along the high road to Remoulins in order to 
visit the world-famous Roman aqueduct 
known as the Pont du Gard, near to which a 
gipsy told Tartarin he would one day be a 
Iking, and thence by the banks of the river 
Gardon to Beaucaire and Tarascon. Not 
often have I made a literary pilgrimage of so 
pleasant or profitable a nature. 


You must know, of course, what a rare 
fellow this Tartarin was Coquin de bon sort ! 
I am not sure that I should speak of him in the 
past tense ; although his creator eventually 
gathered him to his fathers, Tartarin was built 
for immortality, and at most his passing was 
a translation ; he is for all time the archetype 
of southern character, and Tarascon is alive 
with him to-day. Of medium height, stout 
of body, scant of hair on his head, but bushy- 
whiskered and jovial-faced, you will see his 

In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

like sipping absinth at any cafe on the 
promenade of the sleepy old town, or playing 
a game of billiards with the grand manner of 
a Napoleon figuring out a campaign. 

Tartarin, blessed with all the imagination 
of the generous south, was indeed an in- 
effectual Bonaparte, in the body of a good- 
natured provincial. " We are both of the 
south," he observed to his devoted admirer 
Pascalon, when that faithful henchman, at a 
crisis in his hero's career, pointed out the 
similarity between him of Corsica and him of 
Tarascon. Daudet makes him, in a bright 
flash of self-knowledge, describe himself as 
" Don Quixote in the skin of Sancho Panza," 
and Mr. Henry James has in this wise elabora- 
ted the point with his usual deftness : 

" There are two men in Tartarin, and there 
are two men in all of us ; only, of course, to 
make a fine case, M. Daudet has zigzagged 
the line of their respective oddities. As he 
says so amusingly in Tartarin of Tarascon, in 
his comparison of the very different prompt- 
ings of these inner voices, when the Don 
Quixote sounds the appeal, ' Cover yourself 
with glory ! ' the Sancho Panza murmurs the 
qualification, ' Cover yourself with flannel ! ' 
The glory is everything the imagination 
regales itself with as a luxury of reputation 
the regardelle so prettily described in the 
last pages of Port Tarascon ; the flannel is 






The Town of "Tartarin" 

everything that life demands as a tribute to 
reality a gage of self-preservation. The 
glory reduced to a tangible texture too 
often turns out to be mere prudent under- 

It is true that a good deal of the humour that 
attaches to Tartarin is of the unconscious sort. 
He and his brethren of Provence stand in 
relation to their fellow-countrymen much as 
the Irish to the English in the matter fof 
humour, but in that only. They are often 
the butt of northern witticisms, and are said 
to be experts in drawing the long bow. Taras- 
con in this respect no more than many a score 
of little towns in the Midi ; but it suited the 
author's purpose admirably to locate the home 
of his hero there, as the place possesses many 
quaint little peculiarities of its own which 
fitted in admirably with the scheme of 
Tartarin' s remarkable career. 


SINCE I visited the town the Tarasconians 
have proved worthy of their reputation, as a 
picture post card has been put in circulation 
bearing a photograph of "La Maison de Tar- 
tarin." It shows a square and comfortable 
white house, flat-roofed, with a series of loop- 
hole windows that give it a murderous look. 



In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

In front is a large garden, where an old baobab 
stretches forth its branches and innumerable 
exotics mingle their strange leaves in the 
beautiful disorder of the primeval forest. So, 
at least, I gather from a French journal. Yet, 
while pointing out the mendacity of the picture 
post card, the journal in question publishes 
with every evidence of sincerity an equally 
apocryphal account of the real Tartarin, who 
we are told, was a person named originally 
Jean Pittalouga, a native of the south of 
Sardinia, not a Frenchman at all. He was 
bought out of slavery by the Brotherhood of 
the Trinity, and came to Tarascon to manage 
the property of the fraternity in that town. 
As Sidi-Mouley-Abdallah was the superior of 
Morocco and that country was part of Barbary, 
Pittalouga became known in Tarascon, because 
of his romantic experience among the Moors, 
first as Sidi-Barbari, and then as Barbarin. 
The time came when the Trinity fraternity 
had to clear out, and with them Barbarin, 
who now rented a neighbouring farm on the 
outskirts of the town the veritable " Maison 
de Tartarin " of the post card. But he did not 
die there. He went away with the Trinity 
fathers into Africa, and is believed to have 
been devoured entirely by some terrible wild 
beast, with whom he had disputed the 
sovereignty of the desert. To all of which, 
as Daudet remarks of the member of the 


The Town of "Tartarin" 

Jockey Club travelling avec sa niece, " Hum ! 
hum ! " 

One may note here that the author did first 
write of his comic hero as Barbarin ; but as 
the French law affords the fullest measure of 
protection to living people whose names may 
be introduced in works of fiction, and as there 
lived in Tarascon a certain M. Barbarin, who 
wrote to Daudet a letter worthy of his hero, 
wherein he threatened the utmost rigour of 
the law unless the novelist ceased to make 
sport of " what was dearer to him than life 
itself, the unspotted name of his ancestors," 
Daudet altered the name to Tartarin, and was 
inclined to think in after years, when the fame 
of his creation had travelled around the globe, 
that his hero would never have been so popular 
under his original name. It may have been 
a case of " apt alliteration's artful aid " ; but 
one may suppose that Tartarin would have 
been equally popular by any other name. 
He embodies the extravagant, and not the 
least lovable, side of French character, as 
truly as Uriah Keep and Mr. Pecksniff repre- 
sent English humbug and hypocrisy ; he has 
many points of similarity with Mr. Pickwick, 
but the last-mentioned can hardly be com- 
pared with him as reality seen through the 
eye of kindly caricature. 



TARTARIN was, in a word, an epitomy of 
innocent vanities ; large-hearted, generous, 
he had the Caesarian ambition to be the first 
man in his town ; he was imbued with the 
national hunger for " la Gloire," and many 
were the amusing ways in which he sought to 
demonstrate his prowess. To impress his 
townsmen, the dear old humbug surrounded 
himself with all sorts of foreign curiosities. 
His garden was stuffed with exotics from every 
clime, most notable of all the wonderful 
baobab, which he grew in a flower-pot, 
although that is the unmatched giant of 
the tree kingdom ! His study was decked 
with the weapons of many strange and savage 
people, and, like a miniature museum, his 
possessions were ticketed thus : " Poisoned 
arrows ! Do not touch ! " " Weapons 
loaded ! Have a care ! J: 

His earliest exploits were as chief of the 
" cap-hunters," for, you see, in those days the 
good folk of Tarascon were great sports, and 
the whole country-side having been denuded 
of game, they were reduced to the device of 
going forth in hunting-parties, and after a 
jolly picnic they would throw up their caps 
in the air and shoot at them as they fell ! 

1 80 



The Town of "Tartarin" 

" The man whose hat bears the greatest 
number of shot marks is hailed as champion 
of the chase, and in the evening, with his 
riddled cap stuck on the end of his rifle, he 
makes a triumphal entry into Tarascon, midst 
the barking of dogs and fanfares of trumpets/' 
Tartarin, however, determined to cover 
himself with glory as well as flannel by 
making an expedition into Algeria and 
Morocco, there to try his prowess on the lions 
of the Atlas. His ludicrous adventures on 
this great enterprise how he shot a donkey 
and a blind lion, and returned to Tarascon 
pursued by his devoted camel form the theme 
of the first of Daudet's three charming stories. 
The years pass with Tartarin lording it at 
Baobab House, and at the club every evening 
spinning his untruthful yarns, beginning : 
" Picture to yourself a certain evening in the 
open Sahara." Then comes the further 
adventures of " Tartarin in the Alps," and I 
confess that when, a good many years ago, I 
first clambered up a portion of Mont Blanc it 
was of Tartarin' s famous ascent I thought 
rather than of Jacques Balmat's ; the fiction 
was more vivid in my mind than the fact ; 
and again at the Castle of Chillon I say it 
fairly the comic figure of Tartarin imprisoned 
there was more engaging to the imagination 
than that of Bonnivard ; and, by the bye, in 
the famous dungeon one can see scratched on 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

the wall the signatures of both Lord Byron 
and Alphonse Daudet. 

The last, and in some respects the best, of 
all the Tartarin books like Mulvaney, the 
mighty Tarasconian has his fame " dishpersed 
most notoriously in sev'ril volumes " is Port 
Tarascon, wherein are detailed the mirthful 
misadventures of the great man, and many of 
his townsmen who, under his direction, set 
sail to found a colony in Polynesia, an under- 
taking that proved fatal to his fame, and ended 
eventually in his self-exile across the river to 
Beaucaire, where he died soon after ; of sheer 
melancholy we may suppose. 


It was into the busy little town of Beau- 
caire, which lies around its ancient castle of 
Bellicardo, on the west bank of the broad 
Rhone, glaring across at Tarascon, that I 
wheeled one bright day in June. Beaucaire, 
for all its canal, wharves, and signs of pros- 
perous industry, is as tidy a town as I have 
seen, and the fine old castle, ruined by Riche- 
lieu, where in the golden age of Languedoc's 
poesy the troubadors sang their ballads at the 
Court of Love, is beautifully situated on a 
little hill by the river-side, quite near to the 
magnificent suspension bridge which figures 


The Town of "Tartarin" 

so humorously in Port Tarascon. The 
rivalry between the two towns, their mutual 
jealousies, furnished Daudet with many an 
opportunity to poke fun at them. " Separa- 
ted by the whole breadth of the Rhone, the 
two cities regard each other across the river 
as irreconcilable enemies. The bridge that 
has been thrown between them has not brought 
them any nearer. This bridge is never crossed 
in the first place, because it 's very dan- 
gerous. The people of Beaucaire no more go 
to Tarascon than those of Tarascon go to 
Beaucaire/' As the gentleman I met at Nimes 
would have said, " Zut ! It is not true." 
But that is neither here nor there. 

Tartarin, up to his forty-ninth year, had 
never spent a night away from his own home. 
" The very limit of his travels was Beaucaire, 
and yet Beaucaire is not far from Tarascon, as 
there is only the bridge to cross. Unhappily 
that beastly bridge had been so often swept 
away by the storms ; it is so long, so rickety, 
and the Rhone so broad there that zounds, 
you understand ! . . . Tartarin preferred to 
have a firm grip of the ground." But this 
must have referred to the old bridge that made 
way for the present magnificent structure, 
which crosses the river in four spans and is 
1,456 feet in length. However, it was this 
suspension bridge, and no other, across which 
the hero's cronie Bompard came with such 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

bravery to witness for his friend, when Tar- 
tarin, fallen from his high estate, was on trial 
at the court of Tarascon for having been party 
to a gigantic swindle in the great colonising 
fraud of Port Tarascon, a charge from which, 
as we know, he was rightly acquitted. Bom- 
pard at the time of the trial was in hiding at 
Beaucaire, where he had become conservator 
of the Castle and warden of the Fair Grounds 
Beaucaire' s annual fair is famed all over 
France " but when I saw that Tartarin was 
really dragged into the dock between the 
myrmidons of the law, then I could hold out 
no longer ; I let myself go I crossed the 
bridge ! I crossed it this morning in a terrible 
tempest. I was obliged to go down on all 
fours the same way as when I went up Mont 
Blanc. . . . When I tell you that the bridge 
was swinging like a pendulum, you '11 believe 
I had to be brave. I was, in fact, heroic/' 


THE view from the bridge as one crosses to 
Tarascon is as pleasant a picture as may be 
seen in any part of old France. The noble 
stream, broken by sedgy inlands, sweeps on 
between its low banks, and rising sheer from 
the water's edge on a firm rock-base, almost 
opposite the picturesque mass of Bellicardo, 



The Town of " Tartar in ' ' 

are the massive walls of the ancient castle of 
Tarascon, founded by Count Louis II. in the 
fourteenth century and finished by King Rene 
of Anjou in the fifteenth, and at one time 
tenanted by Pope Urbain II., but now, like 
many another palace of kings, fallen to the 
condition of a common prison. Within these 
grim walls Tartarin passed some of his in- 
glorious days, but days not lacking romance, 
for was not Bompard from the opposite height 
signalling o' nights to him by means of 
mysterious lights ? 

If one has never seen photographs of 
Tarascon it will be a surprise, as it is surely a 
pleasure, to note how faithfully the artists 
who illustrated Daudet's books have repro- 
duced in their charming little vignettes the 
chief features of the actual town. There to 
the south of the bridge is the tiny quay from 
which we are to suppose the Tootoopumpum 
sailed away with the flower of Tarascon' s 
aristocracy on that ill-starred expedition to 
the South Seas. Daudet is careful to preserve 
some slight respect for the truth by explaining 
that the vessel was of shallow draft ; but, even 
so, the Rhone is here not navigable to ocean- 
going steamers. 

Proceeding straight into the town, we arrive 
in a minute or so at the Promenade, with its 
long rows of plane trees, as in most French 
towns, only in Tarascon the trees seem to 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

frow higher and leafier than anywhere else. 
t opens out a short distance from the riverside, 
and although it cannot be strictly called the 
" Walk Round " for the reason which the 
author gives that it encircles the town it 
certainly traverses a goodly portion of Taras- 
con, and takes in en route that " bit of a square' ' 
to which he makes so many sly allusions. 

Almost the first thing one notices after cross- 
ing the bridge is the " Hotel of the Emperors/' 
close by the Hospice at the opening of the 
Promenade. This title is worthy of Daudet 
himself ! Along the south side of the 
Promenade stand the chief cafes and shops ; 
as one sits by a table at a door watching the 
passers-by, the scene is entirely agreeable. 
Everybody seems to have walked out of 
Daudet 's page. The men are of two types 
chiefly those of the stout and bearded figure, 
such as Tartarin himself possessed, and the 
thin and sharp-featured fellows of Italian 
caste, like Bezuquet and Costecalde, with 
their bright, black eyes and fierce moustachios. 
Most of them, this sunny day, are abroad in 
their shirt sleeves, and almost to a man they 
wear the soft black felt hats such as our 
English curates affects 



THERE is a musical jingle of spurs, as some 
baggy-trousered soldiers pass on their way to 
the fine cavalry barracks which the town 
possesses. There go a pair of comfortable- 
looking priests in their long black gowns, 
their good fat fingers twined behind them ; 
but nowhere do we see the white habit of the 
friars, whose monastery of Pamperigouste the 
gallant Tartarin and his crusaders defended 
from the Government troops so long ago ! 
The women-folk whom one sees about are nearly 
all hatless, but they wear a dainty substitute 
in the shape of a little cap of white muslin and 
lace, and a pelerine of the same material over 
their shoulders and breast. Small, plump, 
swarthy, they are true daughters of the south, 
and by that token better to look upon than 
their sisters of the north. Here and there one 
may see a woman touched with something of 
the Paris fashion, members of that local 
aristocracy to which belonged the charming 
Clorinda of Pascalon's hopeless passion. 

There is a constant toot-toot or tinkle of 
bells as cyclists go by, for the wheel has come 
into great popularity here as elsewhere since 
Tartarin made his tragic exit across the bridge. 
Perhaps the most unmistakable evidences of 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

provincialism are supplied by the antiquated 
types of vehicles with their fat-faced drivers 
and their unshorn horses, many of the latter 
being harnessed with the most extravagant 
kinds of collars and saddles that project a 
couple of feet or more above the level of the 
animals' backs. 

The whole scene is one of peaceful and happy 
life, and it is good to look upon people who are 
in no hurry to do business and seem to take 
things easily. Across the way, there, the 
chemist is standing at his door, with those 
great glasses of coloured water, that seem to 
have gone out of fashion in England, shining 
in his window, while he rolls a cigarette for 
the white-legged postman who has stopped to 
give him a letter, and chats with him in the 
passing. He might be Bezuquet himself, did 
we not know of the misfortune that befell 
the latter, when he was tatooed out of recog- 
nition by the South Sea Islanders, and had to 
wear a mask when he came home ! 

Going down a street that leads northward 
from the Promenade, we pass the Mairie, a 
quaint old building from whose balcony floats, 
not the Tarasque, but the tricolor, and by 
whose doorway are posted notices of coming 
bull-fights, for Tarascon is still keen on its 
ancient sport despite the restrictive legislation. 
Near by is the public market, and the whole 
district swarms with dogs of every breed. We 

1 88 

The Town of "Tartarin" 

peep into the church of St. Martha, which is 
no bad example of the Pointed Gothic and 
occupies the site of an old Roman Temple. 
One of the kings of Provence is buried here, 
but more interesting is the tomb of the saint 
to whom the church is dedicated. 


ST. MARTHA and the Tarasque are the peculiar 
glories of the Tarasconians, who, you must 
know, would almost strike you if you breathed 
the word " Tartarin " to them, and have never 
forgotten Daudet for his satires on the town. 
We cannot do better than go to Daudet for 
the legend of St. Martha and the beast. 

' This Tarasque, in very ancient days, was 
nothing less than a terrible monster, a most 
alarming dragon, which laid waste the country 
at the mouth of the Rhone. St. Martha, who 
had come into Provence after the death of our 
Lord, went forth and caught the beast in the 
deep marshes, and binding its neck with a sky- 
blue ribbon, brought it into the city captive, 
tamed by the innocence and piety of the saint. 
Ever since then, in remembrance of the service 
rendered by the holy Martha, the Tarasconians 
have kept a holiday, which they celebrate 
every ten years by a procession through the 
city. This procession forms the escort of a 

In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

sort of ferocious, bloody monster, made of 
wood and painted pastboard, who is a cross 
between the serpent and the crocodile, and 
represents, in gross and ridiculous effigy, the 
dragon of ancient days. The thing is not a 
mere masquerade, for the Tarasque is really 
held in veneration ; she is a regular idol, 
inspiring a sort of superstitious, affectionate 
fear. She is called in the country the Old 
Grannie. The creature has herself stalled in 
a shed especially hired for her by the town 

Daudet's light sketch of the Tarasque may 
be supplemented by a more circumstantial 
account of the strange ceremony from a writer 
on old customs (William S. Walsh), who in- 
forms us that " the famous Miracle Play of 
' Sainte Marthe et la Tarasque,' instituted, it 
was said, by King Rene in 1400, was one of 
the last Proven9al coronlas to disappear, as in 
its day it was one of the most popular. Even 
after the Mystery Play was itself abandoned, 
a remnant of it lingered on until the middle of 
the nineteenth century in the annual processon 
of La Tarasque, celebrated on July 2gth, not 
only at Tarascon, but also at Beaucaire. The 
main feature was the huge figure of a dragon, 
made of wood and canvas, eight feet long, 
three feet high, and four feet broad in the 
middle. The head was small, there was no 
neck, the body, which was covered with scales, 


The Town of " Tartarin ' ' 

was shaped like an enormous egg, and at the 
nether extremity was a heavy beam of wood 
for a tail. Sixteen mummers, gaily capari- 
soned and known as the Knights of la Tarasque 
were among its attendants. Eight of the 
knights concealed themselves within the body 
to represent those who had been devoured, and 
furnished the motive power, besides lashing 
the tail to right and left, at imminent risk to 
the legs of the spectators. The other eight 
formed the escort, and were followed by 
drummers and fifers and a long procession of 
clergy and laity. The dragon was conducted 
by a girl in white and blue, the leading string 
being her girdle of blue silk. When the dragon 
was especially unruly and frolicsome she 
dashed holy water over it. A continuous 
rattle of torpedoes and musketry was kept up 
by those who followed in the dragon's train." 
The celebration of the Tarasque has taken 
place several times, I believe, since the pro- 
hibition, while the procession of St. Martha is 
held annually ; but as my visit did not syn- 
chronise with either, I had to be content with 
securing photographs from a local photo- 
grapher, who was more inclined to discuss the 
weather and smoke his cigarette than sell his 
wares, and left his wife at the time of my 
call, in a state of partial undress between 
changing her visiting costume for an indoor 
dress to do the business of hunting up prints 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

for me. It will be remembered by those who 
have read Port Tarascon that Tartarin foresaw 
his own downfall from the day on which, under 
the impression that he was shooting at a whale, 
he planted a bullet in the gross carcase of the 
Tarasque, which had been taken with the 
emigrants to the South Seas and was swept 
overboard to become a waif of the waves. 


ONE of the peculiarities of Tarascon is its 
railway station on the outskirts of the town. 
It is situated some thirty feet above the level 
of the street, and you gain the platform by 
climbing several long flights of stairs, up which 
it is no light task to carry a heavily-burdened 
bicycle. During most of the day there is little 
evidence of life in or around the station, and a 
clerk will cheerfully devote a quarter of an 
hour to explain to you the absurdities of the 
railway time table ; but five or six times a day 
the place wakes up on the arrival of a train 
from or to the capital, for all the trains in 
France seem to have a connection, however 
tardy and remote, with the octopus of Paris. 
Then there is much ringing of bells and blowing 
of trumpets, and you almost expect to see the 
quaint and portly form of Tartarin himself 
returning from his great adventure in the 


The Town of " Tartar in ' ' 

Sahara or his ascent of Mont Blanc. But you 
reflect that these and many other of his doings 
were much too good to be true, and take your 
place in the corner of the carriage, making 
yourself comfortable for the long and dreary 
journey to Paris. 

The last thing you see as the train steams 
away is the white stretch of the Avignon Road 
lying between the railway and the river, its 
little white houses and modern villas close- 
shuttered and growing indistinct in the soft 
southern twilight. 


La Fete Dieu 


FOR centuries the igth of June has been to 
the people of France a day of high festival. 
No one who has happened to be travelling in 
Normandy or Brittany or indeed in almost 
any of the French provinces about this time 
of the year can have failed to notice the 
celebration of the Fete Dieu, and many may 
have wondered what it was all about. It 
has existed so long as one of the national 
customs, varying in its observance in different 
parts of the country, and having passed 
through many periods of change, that a few 
years ago he would have been accounted a 
rash and uninspired prophet who would have 
foretold that the Republican Government 
might have the temerity to lay its embargo 
on this sacred institution. But, behold the 
day when the secular hand of M. Combes 
had stretched out into the remotest parts 
of fair France, and following hard upon 

In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

the upsetting of monastic peace, came the 
prohibition of religious processions in public. 
The effect of this order was to limit the 
fete in many places to a mere perambulation 
of the exterior of the church, and in others 
the procession was confined entirely to the 
interior, though here and there, it would seem, 
the function took place just as it did genera- 
tions before M. Combes and the anti-clericals 
arose into power. 

The festival is clearly of pagan origin, like 
so many of the ceremonies of the Christian 
church ; it corresponds with the Corpus Feast 
in Spain, the exhibition of the holy sacrament 
having been grafted on to the heathenish 
rights very early in the Christian era. There 
seems to be evidences of the ceremony having 
been observed in some form or other centuries 
before 673, as in that year an ecclesiastical 
council, held at Braga in Spain, spoke of 
" the ancient and traditional custom of 
solemnly carrying the Host on the shoulders.'' 
It was Pope Urbain IV., who vainly en- 
deavoured to stir up a new crusade on behalf 
of his former diocese of Jerusalem, that 
officially recognised and instituted as regular 
offices of the church in 1264 the ceremonies 
connected with the Fete Dieu. But, despite 
this papal ordinance, the festival did not 
become one of general observance until, some 
generations later, there had grown around the 



Photographed at Morlaix, in Brittany 

La Pete Dieu 

purely religious part of it a mass of painfully 
secular tomfoolery, which turned the fete into 
a great saturnalia. In the days of that merry 
monarch, King Rene, it had assumed such 
proportions that an entire week was devoted 
to the celebration, " courts of love," tourna- 
ments, jousts, mystery plays, and many other 
amusements being associated with the solemn 
procession of the sacred sacrament. Flourish- 
ing more or less, the fete continued annually, 
without interruption until the great Revolu- 
tion, which gave short shrift to the old taste 
for processions ; but under Louis XVIII. it 
was re-established, and the State even fur- 
nished troops as escorts for those taking part 
in the processions. Times are changed indeed 
when we find Le Pelerin, an illustrated weekly 
newspaper devoted entirely to the interests 
of pilgrimages, publishing cartoons which 
show the police dispersing the pious partici- 
pants in the procession of the Fete Dieu, 
while rowdy socialists are permitted to wave 
their red rags in the highway. 


THE festival, which has thus fallen upon 
evil times, might possibly have gone more 
steadily downhill to the limbo of old customs 
if the Government had left it alone, as of 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

recent years it has not been gaining in popu- 
larity, and, practically speaking, only we men 
and children have shown active interest in it 
under the direction of the priests and lay 
officials. Throughout Normandy it was a 
rare thing to see men taking part ; but in 
Brittany, and especially at the quaint old 
town of Morlaix, which is famed for its high 
railway bridge and its Fete Dieu, and holds 
an extremely jolly kermesse, with dancing 
and the selling of cheap rubbish, immediately 
after the holy sacrament has been carried 
through the streets, a larger proportion of 
men were to be seen engaging in the ceremony ; 
while in the far south, among the peasants of 
Provence and Aveyron, the men have long 
been as attached to this and similar fetes of 
the church as the women, taking part with a 
comic gravity of demeanour absurdly out of 
keeping with their usually gay and careless 
behaviour. Generally speaking, the Fete 
Dieu, as celebrated during modern years, has 
been a picturesque, but brief and inoffensive 
ceremonial, that did not greatly disturb 
anybody, and seemed to please the women 
and children. In the course of time it might 
have died out as a public institution, though 
it must always survive, in some manner, as a 
religious festival ; but the Government, in its 
crusade against the enemies of the Republic 
for such undoubtedly are the Catholic priests 


La Fete Dieu 

may find that it has, by its very prohibi- 
tion, reawakened interest in this ancient and 
decrepid institution of the church. 

As for the familiar procession of the Fete 
Dieu, there is not very much to describe : a 
brief notice of one may be taken as typical of 
all. The first indication that the visitor would 
have of something unusual toward was the 
strewing of the principal streets with rushes. 
Almost every shopkeeper would be seen with 
an armful of the green blades, laying them 
down to fullest advantage in the middle of 
the road. This done, the next thing was to 
bring out long sheets of white linen, which were 
tacked a little way below the windows of the 
first story, and hung downward to within a 
foot or so of tthe ground, the entire route 
being thus lined with a continuous stretch of 
white, whereon busy hands had pinned roses 
and other flowers, sometimes attempting 
designs such as a heart or a cross, or the 
monogram " I H S." Each shopkeeper seemed 
to vie with his or her neighbour to produce a 
more elaborate evidence of pious interest in 
the coming procession ; but I have noticed 
frequently that many performed their part in 
the most perfunctory manner, only rushing 
up their white linen and sticking on a flower 
or two when the head of the procession was 
actually in sight, and whipping off the sheets 
as soon as it had passed by. 



IN many parts of the town, often in the 
front garden of a private house, in some 
outside corner of a church or in a market- 
place, elaborate shrines, made of wood, 
covered with cloth, and decorated with rushes 
and flowers, would be erected. In one 
small town I have counted upwards of a 
dozen such erections, enclosing gaudy statues 
of the saints, especially well disposed towards 
those who supplied the money for the shrines. 
But here again I have noticed the proverbial 
economy of the French nation asserting 
itself, the attendant at such a gorgeous shrine 
lighting the numerous candles only on the 
approach of the procession, and blowing them 
out the instant it had passed, when also the 
dismantling of the shrine would begin ! I 
recall a particularly gorgeous shrine which I 
saw many years ago in the town of Falaise. At 
a considerable distance the numerous candles 
seemed to be burning so brilliantly, that I was 
not altogether surprised on going up and 
examining them to find the supposed 
candles were actually incandescent electric 
lamps. Thus the preliminary arrangements 
of the populace for the coming of the 


La Fete Dieu 

The route was, as a rule, one that had been 
followed for years, but the erection of a 
particularly elaborate shrine by some person 
blessed with pelf and piety, in a street not 
within the usual itinerary, would be regarded 
as sufficient to justify a detour. 

I have never witnessed the procession with- 
out being refreshed by its suggestion of old- 
world ease. " Build your houses as if you 
meant them to last for ever," was Ruskin's 
advice. " Proceed as if your procession had 
started at the Flood and was going on till 
Doomsday, " would seem to be the motto that 
inspires the demonstrators in the Fete Dieu. 

In the distance the sound of music is heard, 
and after a time at the far end of the road 
the head of the procession is seen moving 
towards us at a pace as much slower than a 
funeral as that is slower than a horse 
race. First comes the beadle, or church 
officer attached to the cathedral, whose blue 
or red uniform, with cocked hat, knee breeches, 
white hose and buckled shoes, remind one of 
the dress of our soldiers in the seventeenth 
century, a get-up very similar to that of the 
Swiss Guard at the Vatican, these beadles 
being, indeed, generally known as the 
" Swiss," though they are loutish and ignorant 
fellows, with as much regard for religion as the 
chucker-out at a roaring London tavern. 
But for all that, the Swiss makes a mighty 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

picturesque figure at the head of the proces- 
sion, his sword hanging at his hip, and a long 
mace carried in his hand as he steps out 
slowly and endeavours to combine dignity 
with scowls at the children who follow him, 
the little girls in their white muslin dresses, 
made for their first communion, and the 
little boys in the sort of midshipman's suit 
universally worn by French lads at the time 
of their confirmation, a white armlet being 
donned on this occasion and a rosary tied 
around it. Following the children, who carry 
banners with various religious devices, come 
bands of music and different groups of men 
and women, who also march under certain 
banners that indicate their membership of 
some brotherhood or sisterhood. 


THERE are brotherhoods of the Holy Sacra- 
ment in many parts of France whose creden- 
tials date back to the Middle Ages, and who 
seem to exist solely for the purpose of being 
privileged to walk in religious processions, 
with a ludicrous gown lavishly trimmed, and 
having on the front, after the manner of a 
herald's tabard, a picture of Christ. The 
brethren of the various " charities," which 
in France correspond in some degree to our 


La Fete Dieu 

friendly societies, also wear uniforms, and, 
in some parts of the country assist in the 
procession. In the past many unseemly dis- 
turbances arose out of the rivalry of these 
brotherhoods as to their respective privileges 
in the Fete Dieu, and the sacred function was 
often marred by the most disgraceful scenes of 
rowdyism as the rivals fought for precedence, 
and especially for the right of bearing the 
canopy under which the Holy Sacrament is 
carried through the streets. 

The approach of the Host is heralded by 
the acolytes in their scarlet gowns with lace 
tunicles, who come singing, and precede the 
white-robed members of the choir, lay breth- 
ren and priests, who are either diligently 
reading from books, or mumbling unintelli- 
gently the orisons provided for the occasion. 
Succeeding these come more acolytes, swinging 
censers, and others who, walking backwards, 
bear large baskets of rose leaves, and scatter 
their fragrant burdens in handfuls on the road 
in front of the bishop. The latter, arrayed in 
his most gorgeous vestments, advances slowly, 
holding aloft, with well-assumed solemnity, 
to impress beholders with the awful sacredness 
of his charge, the elaborate brass monstrance 
or cabinet which encloses the consecrated 
wafer. The bishop, who thus displays before 
the just and the unjust the Holy Sacrament, 
walks under a canopy of richly embroidered 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

cloth, carried on four posts by specially 
chosen members of some of the brotherhoods, 
or perhaps by some unusually devout laymen, 
whose purses have not been altogether closed 
when the clerical hat has gone round. 

Previously to the approach of the dais 
covering the bishop and his holy burden, the 
spectators in the street have been laughing 
and joking with and about the demonstrators, 
and some of the children in the procession 
have shown lamentable forgetfulness of the 
solemn nature of the function by putting out 
their tongues at us, and turning back to say 
derisively, " les Anglais ! " for this was before 
the days of the Entente. But the moment 
the bishop and the Host come up, down flop 
the spectators on their knees, crossing them- 
selves, the men removing their hats, though 
I confess with pleasure that many a time I 
have seen groups of men showing as much 
reverence to the sacred wafer as Cockney 
crowds do to the Lord Mayor's coachman on 
show day. 

The procession is now at an end so far as 
our particular standpoint is concerned, and 
already the white sheets are disappearing all 
along the road, shopkeepers turning their 
attention to business again. But it is winding 
its way through other streets, pausing to 
make special obeisance before the temporary 
shrines, and to rehearse prayers cunningly 



La Fete Dieu 

adapted to the peculiar requirements of the 
saints to whom the shrines are dedicated. 
And so after, it may be, two or three hours 
perambulation, the demonstrators return to 
the cathedral, where High Mass is celebrated ; 
this over, they are free to make merry to 
their heart's desire. And they do. 


M'sieu Meelin of Dundae 


PLEASE do not consider it an affectation of 
superior knowledge if I begin by saying it is 
improbable that one out of a hundred of my 
readers has ever heard of Morbihan and the 
wonderful druidical remains in the Commune 
of Carnac. To be quite frank, I had never 
heard of them myself until one dusty summer 
day when I cycled into the little village of 
Carnac away on the south coast of Brittany, 
and within sight of the historic bay of Ouiberon. 
The village of Carnac, whose population 
numbers only some six hundred souls, is one 
of the most interesting in Brittany, where 
almost every hamlet has some historic touch 
to engage the attention of the visitor. It 
consists practically of a little square of houses 
surrounding the ancient parish church, dedi- 
cated to Saint Corneille. This saint is the 
patron of cattle, and in September the town 
is the centre of a series of most picturesque 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

celebrations, the peasants journeying hither 
from all parts of the surrounding country, 
accompanied by their cattle, horses, and even 
their pigs, for the pig is as notable a feature of 
rural life in Brittany as it is in Ireland. Saint 
Corneille, for a reason which will be explained 
further on, is supposed to take a very personal 
interest in the welfare of the Breton's cattle, 
and to see the simple peasants on their pil- 
grimage to his shrine, and later in the cere- 
monies of parading their beasts around the 
church and kneeling before his statue on the 
west front of the tower, kneeling again and 
sometimes even fighting for a dip in the water 
from his fountain, is to realise how sincere is 
their belief in his powers. But this is only by 
the way ; my present intention is not to spend 
any more time in describing the quaint 
ceremonies that have long made Carnac a 
centre of pilgrimage, and have been the theme 
of many a story and poem by French writers. 
Leaving the little square and striking east- 
ward along the main road, I noticed a small, 
plain building, almost the last of the few 
straggling houses in that direction, bearing in 
bold letters the legend " Musee Miln." The 
name had a pleasant suggestion of my ain 
countree, and in a trice I was knocking at 
the door, curious to know what lay behind. A 
tall, well-knit, clean-shaven Breton of about 
forty years of age opened and bade me welcome. 


(The second view is a continuation of the first) 

" M 'sieu Meelin of Dundae " 

He was carelessly dressed like any village shop- 
keeper in his shirt sleeves, and wearing a pair 
of carpet slippers ; certainly presenting no 
aspect of the antiquary or the scholar, although 
it was not long before I found that he was a 
man of remarkable attainments in archaeology. 
As far as I remember, the charge for admission 
was one franc, and although at first it seemed 
a large price to pay for looking at a roomful 
of things in glass cases, I left with the con- 
viction that I had made an excellent bargain. 
The museum I found to consist of an ex- 
tremely valuable assortment of relics of the 
Stone and Bronze Ages. Admirably arranged 
and catalogued were hundreds of flint arrow- 
heads and axes, some of the latter being of 
that earliest type before man had the sense to 
pierce the axe-head for the handle, but stuck 
the wedge-like head of the axe through a hole 
in the shaft. There were also many examples 
of rude instruments belonging to the Bronze 
Age, some Roman swords and a skeleton in a 
prehistoric stone coffin. The interest of these 
curiosities lay not only in their intrinsic value 
to the antiquary, but in the fact that they had 
all been dug up from the tumuli in the Com- 
mune of Carnac. But to me they assumed at 
once a far more vivid interest, when the custo- 
dian explained that the antiquary who had 
discovered most of them, and whose money 
had founded the museum, was " M'sieu Meelin 



In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

of Dundae." When I explained that I was a 
countryman of this Mr. Miln, the curator 
launched into a warm description of that 
worthy's abounding good qualities, and re- 
called with the fervour of the French his own 
personal association with Mr. Miln in the work 
of excavation. He pointed with pride to a 
very ordinary oil painting of his old friend and 
master, which disclosed him as a fresh-com- 
plexioned, white-haired gentleman of unmis- 
takable Scottish type, and assured me that he 
was " un hoMme tres inter ess ant et tres aimable." 
I could readily believe the eulogy, as it was a 
kindly old Scotch face that looked out of the 
canvas at me. 


I WONDER if the memory of Mr. Miln is 
treasured in Dundee. The chances are that 
what I have to tell of him may be news to his 
fellow-townsmen of to-day. A reference to 
that excellent work, Chambers' s Biographical 
Dictionary, discloses the fact that he is 
remembered there to the extent of exactly 
two lines : 

" Miln, James (1819-81), a Scotch antiquary 
made excavations at Carnac in Brittany, 1872- 

That is all, but behind these two lines lie 
the long story of a romantic life in a foreign 


" M 'sieu Meelin of Dundae " 

land and a little measure of fame among an 
alien people. In this respect the life of James 
Miln resembles curiously the lives of so many 
of his fellow-countrymen, who have wandered 
to the ends of the earth in the pursuit of their 
avocations, and left traces of their work every- 
where except in the place of their birth. 

My knowledge of the life of this notable 
Scotsman and his work is gleaned from the 
scholarly little brochure written by M. Zacharie 
le Rouzic, the slippered custodian of the 
" Musee Miln." It appears that James Miln 
was born at Woodhill in 1819, and while still 
young travelled in India, China, and spent 
some years in other parts of the far east. On 
his return to Scotland he threw himself with 
enthusiasm into antiquarian research and 
scientific studies. He succeeded to the estate 
of Murie in Perthshire on the death of his 
father, James Yeanan Miln, of Murie and 
Woodhill, and later to that of Woodhill in 
Forfarshire at the death of his brother, to 
whom that property had descended. His 
particular line of study for nearly forty years 
of his life would seem to have been the origin 
and development of portable firearms, and for 
a man of such peaceful pursuits it is strange 
to be told that he was especially ardent in 
encouraging every experiment for the per- 
fection of rifles. Another of his hobbies was 
concerned with the improvement of the 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

telescope ; but all kinds of scientific instru- 
ments seem to have been objects of his study 
and inventive genius. In the experimental 
days of photography he speedily achieved 
success with the camera, and made a large 
collection of photographs of ancient sculptures 
in the east of Scotland. An accomplished 
linguist and something of an artist, he illus- 
trated with his own pencil all his works on 
archaeology, which M. Le Rouzic assures us 
was always his favourite study. 

It was during the summer of 1873 that Miln 
first visited Carnac, where he encountered his 
friend, Admiral Tremlett, of Tunbridge Wells, 
who was interested in the wonderful neolithic 
remains in the neighbourhood, and became his 
guide in a series of explorations. Miln's 
enthusiasm was immediately aflame when he 
contemplated this rich and sparsely-explored 
field of research awaiting the excavator. His 
first idea was to purchase the ground on which 
some of the most interesting remains were 
standing, but finding this impossible, he 
approached the farmers on whose land the 
unbroken mounds, which represented burial- 
places of prehistoric people, were situated, and 
obtained leave from them to commence the 
work of excavation, to which he immediately 
resolved to devote himself during 1875 and 
1876. The result was a series of important 
discoveries. Perhaps the most important of 


" M 'sieu Meelin of Dundae " 

the remains unearthed were those of a Roman 
villa, consisting of eleven chambers, and sur- 
rounded by several other buildings, among 
which were baths and a small temple, that 
were believed to date back to the first half of 
the fourth century. Numerous examples of 
Roman pottery, glass, jewellery, money, a 
bronze statue of a bull, and many other 
curiosities were dug up. Within sight of the 
museum, and only a few minutes' walk away, 
is a tumulus surmounted by a little chapel to 
Saint Michael, and here in 1876 Miln made 
many notable discoveries, including the re- 
mains of an eleventh-century monastery. 


THE results of these excavations were des- 
cribed in a large work written and illustrated 
by himself, and issued in Edinburgh and Paris. 
By January of 1877 he was busily prosecuting 
his explorations at Kermaric, a gunshot 
distant from Carnac, and the work went 
steadily on with the most fruitful results in 
many other parts of the district until the end 
of 1880, when Miln returned to Edinburgh in 
order to produce another book describing his 
researches. Unhappily, in the midst of his 
literary labour, he was seized with a brief 
illness, which at the end of six days resulted 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

in his death on Friday, 28th January, 1881, 
at twelve minutes to eleven, as the faithful 
M. le Rouzic records. 

James Miln was a member of the Scottish 
Society of Antiquaries, la Societe royale des 
Antiquaries du Nord, the Academy of Copen- 
hagen, and several learned societies in England 
and the Continent. " Cest avec une doulou- 
reuse emotion que I' on apprit, a Carnac, la 
nouvelle de sa mort," to quote again his faithful 
henchman. The museum with its precious 
contents was secured to Carnac through the 
efforts of Mr. Robert Miln, the son of the 
antiquary, and his friend Admiral Tremlett, 
and was opened on the 22nd May, 1882, since 
when it has remained a centre of great interest 
and importance to all antiquarian students, 
and an enduring monument to " M'sieu Meelin 
of Dondae." 

This is a brief outline of the life of a little- 
known Scotsman, which is worth recalling as 
an example of the quiet, unostentatious way 
in which the Scot will carry on any enterprise 
that lies near to his heart, with no eye to 
personal advertisement, but out of sheer 
pleasure in the work his hand has found to do. 
Thus it is that one meets with traces of our 
countrymen in the remote and unfrequented 
corners of earth, and at the ring of an old 
name the mind of the wanderer is carried 
back across " the waste of seas " to the land 


" M 'sieu Meelin of Dundae " 

whose sons, by some strange irony of fate, are 
prone to find their life-work far from home. 


BUT my story must not end here, although 
we take our leave of James Miln and his 
museum. It is almost impossible to describe 
in any adequate way the historic value of this 
part of Brittany. Stonehenge, in England, is 
a national monument which we zealously 
treasure, yet its value, compared with the 
neolithic remains of Morbihan, is as a drop in 
a bucket of water. In the region to the east 
and north of Carnac druidical remains are as 
plentiful as blackberries in an autumn hedge. 
The sight of what are known as " les aligne- 
ments de Carnac " is one never to be forgotten. 
Standing on the little mound by the chapel of 
Saint Michael already mentioned, and looking 
northward across the plain, we see an enor- 
mous range of menhirs or druidical stones 
standing like an army at attention. There 
are no fewer than 2,813 of these massive stones 
to be seen from this point, and the imagination 
is busy at once striving to picture the strange 
rites practised here by unknown people before 
the dawn of history. Dotted all over the vast 
plains are dolmens and cromlechs of varying 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

One of the largest dolmens that I visited is 
known as the Merchants' Table. It stands 
near Locmariaquer, and consists of an enor- 
mous stone laid flat on the top of a series of 
smaller stones. Originally the supporting 
stones would be only slightly imbedded in the 
earth, but in the ages that have passed the 
soil has accumulated until they are now sunk 
six or eight feet deep, but still project above 
the ground to the height of four or five feet. 
The roof-stone must weigh some hundred tons, 
and one of the mysteries is how a people, whose 
instruments were of the most primitive kind, 
could place such a mammoth block in so 
elevated a position. The dolmens, of which 
the Merchants' Table is one of the finest ex- 
amples, were probably places of burial, and 
are always approached by a smaller chamber of 
the same rude construction. The interior of 
the one in question bears many strange carv- 
ings, that remain an enigma even to the most 

Some authorities believe these structures 
may have been used as houses ; others suppose 
them to have been altars, so that it will be 
seen their purpose has not yet been decided 
upon by their most learned students. The 
cromlechs, which are a series of stones standing 
in a circle, were most probably sanctuaries, 
and there is reason to believe that it was here 
the Druid priests practised their unknown 


" M 'sieu Meelin of Dundae " 

rites. They are generally to be found at the 
end of an " alignment," and are oriented, so 
that the likelihood is the worshippers stood 
within the long rows of stones, which would 
correspond to the choir of a cathedral, and the 
priests were in the cromlech looking toward 
the rising of the sun. 

To return for the last time to the great army 
of menhirs, or single stones, seen from St. 
Michael's chapel near Carnac, the legend 
popular in the district is that when St. 
Corneille, a Pope of Rome, was being pursued 
by an army of pagan soldiers, he had with 
him two oxen, which carried his belongings 
and sometimes himself when he was fatigued. 
One evening, when he had arrived near a 
village where he would have rested the night, 
he determined to press on beyond it because 
he had heard a young girl insult her mother ! 
He saw soon afterwards that the soldiers, who 
had been following him, were arranged in line 
of battle, and he was between them and the 
sea. So he stopped, and transformed the 
entire army into stones. This is at least a 
picturesque way for accounting for those 
marvellous remains that have baffled the 
minds of men to explain. 


Round About a French Fair 


THE rambler in old France can seldom under- 
take a little journey during the summer with- 
out coming upon some town where a fair is in 
progress. At least, that has been my own ex- 
perience, and in the course of wide wanderings 
through the highways and by-ways of the 
most delightful land in Europe I have wit- 
nessed many fairs in towns so far apart as 
Morlaix and Montluson, Orleans and Beau- 
caire, Rennes and Lisieux. Nowhere does 
the distinctive character of a people show 
itself more strongly than in its public fairs and 
rejoicings. Thus, if one desired to get at a glance 
a glimpse into the different natures of the 
Briton and the Gaul, a visit to Glasgow Fair 
or Nottingham's famous Goose Fair, followed 
by a look round the great fair of Rennes or 
Orleans, would do more for one's education in 
this regard than a great deal of book learning. 
An extensive and peculiar knowledge of 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

Scottish and English holiday-making, which 
the vagrant life of journalism has enabled me 
to acquire, goes far to justify in my mind, 
when I think of the Frenchman and his merry- 
making, the charge directed against us by our 
friends across the Channel that we take our 
pleasures sadly. There is very little to choose 
between an English and Scottish festival of 
the common people, though that little of 
brightness and genuine high spirits is in favour 
of the former. A more vulgar, tasteless, 
saddening spectacle than a Scottish saturnalia 
it is difficult to conceive. For ill manners, 
foul speech, stupid and low diversions, I have 
seen nothing so lacking in all the elements of 
joy as an Ayrshire country fair ; it has made 
me blush for my countrymen. But when such 
a melancholy festival has awakened memory's 
contrasts of sights seen in merry France, I have 
been glad to believe that, speaking generally, 
while a fair in Scotland or in England stirs up 
the less worthy elements in the people's 
character, such an occasion in France, on the 
contrary, calls forth some of the better traits 
of the people. 

In our own time, and due in some measure 
to the growth of refinement arising out of our 
improved education, the institution of the 
public fair in this country has been steadily 
declining in popularity ; but in France it still 
flourishes. There are other reasons for this, 


Round About a French Fair 

though the chief is again accepting a French 
criticism that we are essentially a nation of 
shopkeepers. The origin of the fair was, of 
course, the bringing together of people with 
goods to sell or barter, and a touch of pleasure 
was given to the business by the association of 
amusements therewith. Time was when 
Nottingham Goose Fair was an event of the 
highest importance in the commercial life of 
the district, and continued over a period of a 
month ; but with the rise of the shopkeeper, 
who has ever a jealous eye on the huckster, 
this, like many another of our fairs, has been 
gradually curtailed, on the plea of its inter- 
fering with regular business, until it is now 
limited to a week, and is threatened with 
reduction to three days. In France, however, 
many of the fairs still last for a month, al- 
though the most celebrated of all, that of 
Beaucaire, which is almost continental in its 
importance and is less a festival than a com- 
mercial institution, is held for one week only. 
At Orleans one of the finest fairs in France 
takes place annually in June, and continues 
for a whole month. It may be taken as typical 
of these provincial carnivals, and in endeavour- 
ing to give my readers some idea of its leading 
features, I shall be describing to them the 
character of French fairs in general. 



MOST of the towns in France are peculiarly 
adapted for the holding of festivals, with their 
wide main street and " bit of a square " ; but 
Orleans is especially fortunate in this respect. 
Although it is a town of not more than seventy 
thousand inhabitants, it possesses a series of 
spacious boulevards and public squares which 
would be thought remarkable in an English 
city of three or four times that population. 
The chief part of Orleans lies on the north bank 
of the wide and swiftly-flowing Loire, and the 
boulevards, following roughly the outline of 
an arc, compass the town with the river for 
base. The great width of these highways at 
a moderate estimate six times that of the 
Strand makes it possible for an immense 
number of booths and stalls to be ranged along 
them without in any degree obstructing the 
regular road traffic. Thus, if you arrive at the 
railway station during the fair month, you will 
find the entire stretch of the northern 
thoroughfares close on a mile and a half as I 
should estimate occupied by the show people, 
who have created a boulevard within a boule- 
vard, as the fair-ground is one long avenue of 
booths, with a wide promenade between and 
roadways as roomy as an English turnpike 


Round About a French Fair 

still remaining free to ordinary traffic on the 
outer edges. 

If it were the first affair of its kind you had 
seen in France, you would be immediately 
impressed by the remarkable cleanliness of 
the shows and of the attendants at the 
numerous stalls, where every variety of goods 
are on sale. What may be described as the 
business part of the fair is distinct from that 
devoted to amusements, and the high-class 
character of the stalls and their keepers is 
explained when we know that the tradesmen 
of the town have become hucksters for the 
nonce, most of these temporary structures 
being fitted up and conducted by local shop- 
keepers. The appointments of some of them 
are elaborate to a surprising degree, but never 
defaced by such crude and tasteless displays 
as we find at English fairs. 


To mention the varieties of business repre- 
sented by these stalls would be to enumerate 
every trade in the town, and a few more. 
Bakers and pastrycooks are there in abundance ; 
the stalls at which a bewildering choice of 
sweetmeats is displayed are marvels of neatness, 
and their name is legion. As many as five or 
six smartly-dressed young women with white 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

oversleeves will be busy at one counter supply- 
ing the customers, who are endeavouring to 
increase the purchasing value of their coppers 
by speculating at the roulette table kept by 
the proprietor, for at such time the Frenchman 
introduces the gambling element into every 
transaction where it can be applied. At the 
miscellaneous stalls, where all sorts of fancy 
goods are on sale, the " wheel of fortune " is 
practically the only method of exchange. 
Many of the places are run on the principle of 
" all one price," and thrifty housewives may 
be seen deliberating on the respective merits 
of knives and forks, cruet-stands, butter- 
dishes, and scores of minor household utensils, 
each to be had at the price of half a franc 
(fivepence). It is clear that the women-folk 
regard the occasion as an opportunity for 
getting unusual value for their money. 
Peasants may purchase an entire suit of 
clothes at some of the stalls, and if they 
are wishful of a crucifix or an image of the 
sacred heart, here they are in abundance, with 
rosaries, bambinoes, and all the brightly- 
coloured symbols of Catholic worship. 

But the real interest of the fair, and, of 
course, its most picturesque part, lies in the 
great Boulevard Alexandre Martin, which 
stretches eastward from the railway station. 
Here are congregated most of the places 
of entertainment. These, no less than the 


Round About a French Fair 

temporary shops of the tradesmen, present a 
striking contrast to anything one may see at 
an English fair. The Frenchman's instinctive 
feeling for art is everywhere noticeable, and 
the exterior decoration of the shows exhibits 
a lightness and daintiness of touch quite un- 
known in the same connection in England. 
The gilded horror of the ghost-show exterior, 
so familiar a feature of our own fairs, has no 
counterpart in France, but the booths wherein 
are exhibited " freaks of Nature " are curiously 
similar in both countries, the crude pictures 
on the canvas fronts being preposterous 
exaggerations of the objects to be seen within. 


WHAT strikes one particularly in wandering 
through the fair-ground at Orleans is that 
while all is different from an English festival, 
the difference is one of degree and not of kind. 
Here, for example, are several circuses, where 
performances very similar to those given by 
any travelling circus in our own land are 
" about to commence." On the outside plat- 
form two clowns are shouting to the crowd to 
walk up ; the gorgeous ring-master with his 
whip joins in the general advertisement; a girl 
and a boy are dancing to the music of a small 
but noisy orchestra. There is this difference, 



In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

however, between a French circus and an 
English one : the whole enterprise wears a 
more noticeable appearance of success, is better 
housed, the place being brilliantly lighted by 
electricity generated by an excellent portable 
plant, the performers better dressed. But 
curiously enough, the finest travelling circus I 
have ever seen in any land was Anderson* s 
" Cirque Feerique," which I came upon during 
a flying visit to the industrial town of Vierzon, 
some hundred and twenty-five miles south of 
Paris. The proprietor was a Scotsman ! 
"Mother Goose " was the chief item of the 
performance, and the coloured posters of the 
old lady and her goose had been printed in 
England ! 

Pitched close to such a circus stands a large 
wooden opera-house, capable of holding from 
six to eight hundred people, the seats being 
arranged on an inclined plane, the higher 
priced ones as substantial and comfortable as 
the stalls of one of our provincial theatres. 
The stage is commodious, and the performers 
as accomplished as any touring company 
that visits the second-class English towns. 
Indeed, their performance of " Les Cloches de 
Corneville " was given with a verve and a finish 
not seldom lacking in more ambitious opera 
companies one has seen at home. Instead 
of an orchestra, a very clever and good- 
1 coking young ladjr pianist played the 


Round About a French Fair 

accompaniments throughout the entire per- 

The travelling theatres, too, force com- 
parison with the regular playhouses in the 
smaller English towns, rather than with the 
wretched "tuppenny" shows that represent the 
drama at an English fair. Like the opera- 
house just described, they are fitted up sub- 
tantially, and in good taste, the charges for 
admission ranging from half a franc to three 
or four francs. Many notable French actors 
have graduated from these portable theatres, 
and, indeed, those who perform in them are of 
a class considerably above the mummers who 
exhibit in our " fit-ups " ; they are the best 
type of " strolling-players." 

One of the most detestable features of an 
English fair is the appalling noise created by 
mechanical organs. This is happily absent 
from the French fete, and of the few contri- 
vances of the kind which I remember at 
Orleans there was only one designed solely 
for the sake of noise. Perhaps the most 
remarkable of these orchestrions was a real 
triumph of musical machinery, around which, 
and contained within an immense and bril- 
liantly lighted wooden building, whirled an 
endless chain of fairy coaches, hobby horses, 
swan boats, and other fantastic vehicles, 
eminently contrived for the purpose of pro- 
ducing giddiness. This was truly the piece 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

de resistance of the Orleans Fair, and it would 
be impossible to conceive a more striking 
contrast than that between this really mag- 
nificent construction and the familiar English 
merry-go-round. Externally the building 
would have borne favourable comparison with 
a " Palace of Electricity " at some of our 
international exhibitions. The fa9ade was of 
Byzantine style, and myriads of beautifully- 
coloured electric lamps picked out the design, 
two huge peacocks with outspread tails, also 
composed of coloured lights, being introduced 
with most artistic effect on each side of the 
glittering archway. Inside, the decorations 
were gorgeous "to the nth degree/' as Mr.W. 
E. Henley might have said, but the scheme 
of colours was in perfect harmony, the whole 
making up a veritable feast of light that 
must dazzle and fascinate the simple country- 
folk wherever this wonderful merry-go-round 
is set up. At a moderate estimate, I should 
name 10,000 as the cost of this single show, 
and perhaps that will indicate the lavish way 
in which the French are catered for by their 
travelling showmen. 

Cinematographs there were in profusion, 
most of them exhibiting scenes of a kind which 
would speedily be suppressed on this side the 
Channel ; shooting galleries galore, exactly 
like our own ; peep-shows, marionette 
theatres, panoramas ; a booth with a two- 


Round About a French Fair 

headed bull and other monsters, a Breton 
bagpiper playing his instrument outside being 
worthy of inclusion in the list ; but one saw 
no " fat women " possibly because they are 
such common objects of French life ! A large 
switchback railway seemed to be very popular, 
and, like all the rival attractions, its pro- 
prietors claimed for it the distinction of having 
come " direct from the Paris Exhibition/' 
where it had been awarded first prize. The 
smallest side-shows, consisting of perhaps a 
few distorting mirrors, had all been " exhibited 
at Paris/' and the two-headed bull was 
advertised by a huge painting showing all the 
crowned heads of Europe and President Loubet 
examining the beast, which, on inspection, 
turned out to be only a little removed from the 
normal by having a head slightly broader than 
usual, with the incipient formation of a third 
eye in its forehead, and a muzzle remotely 
suggestive of two joined together. 


A PERFORMANCE which I enjoyed not a little 
was given by a quack doctor. An enormous 
carriage, resembling in outline an old stage- 
coach, but decorated with much carved 
moulding and thickly covered with gilt and 
crimson, which produced a most bizarre effect, 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

stood in an open space. Seated on the roof 
was a boy, who turned a machine which 
emitted the only hideous noise to be heard at 
the fair. In the open fore-part, richly 
cushioned, a man stood dressed in a dazzling 
suit of brass armour, his glittering helmet 
lying in front of him, and in his hand a small 
bottle of clear liquid. He was of the southern 
type, swarthy, wonderfully fluent of speech. 
He assured a gaping crowd that his medicine 
could cure any disease from toothache to 
tetanus, and he invited any sufferer to step up. 
Immediately one did so, the boy ground out 
the hideous din above, and the doctor sat for 
a few noisy seconds while his patient told him 
his trouble ! Then the racket was stopped 
with a wave of the quack's hand, and he 
explained for five minutes, in vivid words, the 
terrible nature of the patient's disease, and 
invited the poor wretch to pick any bottle 
from the stock in front of him. This done, he 
had to open his waistcoat and shirt for it was 
a severe pain in the left side from which he 
suffered and the quack in armour struck the 
bottom of the bottle on his knee, thus causing 
the cork to pop out. He now shook the bottle 
vigorously with his forefinger on the neck, and 
the fluid changed into green, brown, and 
finally black, whereat the simpletons around 
marvelled, as they were meant to do. The 
comic practitioner next thrust the bottle into 


Round About a French Fair 

the open shirt-front of his patient, and shook 
the contents of it against the victim's skin, 
pressing his hand for a few moments on the 
part. Then he asked the fellow to step down 
as cured, and go among the crowd " telling 
his experience." A dozen cases were treated 
in less than half an hour people with neural- 
gia, sprained wrists and ankles and always 
the same formula as to consultation, explana- 
tion, application ! A handful of liquid applied 
to a man's cheek evaporated mysteriously and 
worked wonders. Intending patients were 
told that the doctor could be consulted at the 
hotel near by during certain hours each day, 
and many must have gone to him there, for 
the fluent humbug had every appearance of 
driving a prosperous practice. 


BUT the feature of this fair which, more than 
any other, distinguished it sharply from any- 
thing to be seen in our country, w r as " The 
Grand Theatre of the Walkyries and of the 
Passion of N. S. J. C. J> The mysterious 
initials stand for the French of " Our Lord 
Jesus Christ." A gentleman with a shaggy 
head of hair, dressed in a well-fitting frock- 
coat, and possessed of an excellent voice, stood 
on the platform outside, surrounded by oil 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

paintings of sacred pictures and a dozen or 
more performers in the costumes of Roman 
soldiers, apostles and other Biblical characters. 
Judas was readily distinguished by his red 
hair, Mary by her nunlike garb. The show- 
man announced that the performance was 
" about to commence," and urged us to walk 
up and witness the most pleasing spectacle of 
the fair. A hand-bill distributed among the 
crowd described the entertainment as a 
" mimodrame biblique " of the Passion, played, 
sung, enterpreted and mimicked by forty 
persons ! ( This spectacle, unique in France, 
will leave in the minds of the inhabitants of 
this town an unforgettable memory. It is 
not to be confounded with anything else you 
may have seen ; it is no mere series of living 
pictures. At each performance M. Chaumont, 
the originator, will present twenty-one 
tableaux, three hundred costumes will be 
used, and three apotheoses will be shown. 
The establishment is comfortable, lighted by 
electricity from a plant of thirty-horse power. 
It is a spectacle of the best taste, pleasing to 
everyone, and families may come here with 
the fullest confidence. Balloons will be dis- 
tributed to the children every Thursday/' 
So ran the circular, which also contained the 
information (mendacious, I doubt not) that 
the entertainment was the property of a 
limited company with a capital of 20,000. 


Round About a French Fair 

When the signal to begin was given the 
place was not more than half filled, and the 
audience seemed in no reverential mood. A 
pianist began to play on a very metallic piano, 
and outside the voice of the manager was 
still heard urging the crowd to " walk up " 
and '" be in time/* The drop-curtain was 
rolled up, and the manager stepped inside 
the building as a number of characters in the 
sacred drama filed on to the stage. He 
explained, in a rapid torrent of words, what 
they were supposed to be doing, but Judas 
jingled the filthy lucre so lustfully that the 
pantomime was very obvious in its purport. 
The curtain fell again, and the manager 
stepped outside to harangue the crowd while 
the second tableau was being prepared ; but 
the ringing of a bell brought him in again, 
and so on through the whole series. 

It must be confessed that the performance 
was carried out with no small dramatic ability, 
and M. Chaumont gave a wonderfully realistic 
interpretation of the role of Chirst, some 
of the tableaux being strikingly conceived, 
as, for examples, the kiss of Judas and Christ 
before Pilate, the latter character being ad- 
mirably represented by a performer who 
looked a veritable Roman proconsul, and 
washed his hands with traditional dignity. 
The Crucifixion, too, was represented with 
vivid reality ; but the audience was disposed 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

to laugh at the writhing of the malefactors 
on their crosses, and did indeed giggle when 
the soldier held up the sponge of vinegar to 
the dying Saviour. It was obvious that the 
whole performance, although really dis- 
charged by the actors with remarkable fidelity 
to tradition, and a commendable assumption 
of reverence, was more amusing than im- 
pressive to the spectators, who, though moved 
to laughter when St. Veronica pressed her 
handkerchief to the face of Christ and, 
turning to the audience, displayed the miracu- 
lous impression of His features, applauded 
the more dramatic scenes liberally. What 
interested me personally was M. Chaumont's 
idea of a miracle. Save that of St. Veronica, 
I have forgotten the others enacted ; they 
were quite unfamiliar to me, but in the instant 
of each miracle a limelight was flashed for 
two or three seconds from " the flies/' and 
this was supposed to betoken the super- 
natural character of the affair. 


OF course, such a spectacle as I have 
described would be quite impossible in our 
country to-day, although time was in our 
history, when miracle plays were a recognised 
feature of the church in England. It was 


Round About a French Fair 

in no sense comparable with any of the 
passion plays still performed periodically in 
some continental towns, and while the 
incongruous surroundings of " The Grand 
Theatre of the Passion of N.S.J.C." were 
not calculated to induce a spirit of reverence 
in the spectators, it was a saddening spectacle 
to find an audience of Catholic people taking 
so lightly the representation of scenes which, 
however wrong in the light of history, should 
have been to them sacred subjects of faith. 

It was characteristically French that im- 
mediately opposite the theatre wherein this 
Biblical pantomime was presented stood a 
large exhibition containing an enormous 
collection of pathological models and curiosi- 
ties. This was, without doubt, the foulest 
display of unspeakable horrors to be seen in 
any civilised country in our time, for under 
the hypocritical plea of illustrating, by wax 
models and otherwise, the obstetrics of human 
life and the diseases of the body, its pro- 
prietor a woman, if you will believe me 
had gathered together a collection of incredi- 
ble horrors which men and women, and even 
young people, were allowed to inspect on the 
payment of one franc. The same exhibition, 
which is probably not over- valued at 20,000, 
was actually brought to London some few 
years ago, but the police speedily cleared it 
out of our country. 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

These blots, however, are the only blemishes 
on the Orleans Fair, and for brightness, 
gaiety, and general good taste, I must con- 
clude as I began, by saying that a French 
carnival is in every sense a more pleasing 
spectacle than any of our English or Scottish 
lairs present. 


The Palace of the Angels 


IT was in Evreux, while cycling through 
Normandy one summer, that my wife and I 
met three " new women," who were also 
touring the country a-wheel. Their route was 
for the most part the reverse of ours, but not 
so extended, and in discussing the country 
with them I asked how long they had spent at 
Mont St. Michel. " Oh, we have not gone 
there," was the reply ; "we were told it 
wasn't interesting, and so we have kept away 
from it." We were saddened to find that 
three English women, especially of the 
"advanced type," could know so little of the 
monuments of France as to accept the irre- 
sponsible opinion of some one-eyed tourist, 
who in his or her idle babble had said Mont 
St. Michel was not worth visiting. 

Not interesting, indeed ! There is not in 
the whole of Normandy, in all France, in 
historic England even, an example of so much 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

interest concentrated in so small a space. An 
enthusiastic Frenchman has described it as 
the eighth wonder of the world. Victor Hugo 
has said that Mont St. Michel is to France 
what the Pyramids are to Egypt. Large and 
deeply interesting volumes have been written 
about it. It will form a theme for writers for 
generations to come, and artists will employ 
their pencils here so long as a vestige of the 
wonderful buildings remains. 

There is a strong temptation in writing of 
Mont St. Michel to fall into the style of the 
junior reporter, who will blandly tell you that 
a thing is indescribable, and immediately 
proceed to describe it. One is persuaded that 
this marvellous monument of the Middle Ages 
cannot be adequately described in plain prose, 
however apt the pen, yet one is equally desirous 
of making the attempt. But I shall promise my 
readers on this occasion to make no effort at 
an elaborate description, which, indeed, the 
space of a single chapter renders impossible, 
and to attempt no more than a general sketch 
of the most noteworthy features of the Mount. 


To begin with, I take it for granted that the 
reader, if he or she has not already visited 
Mont St. Michel, is at least aware that it is 

The Palace of the Angels 

situated in the bay of the same name, near the 
point where the coasts of Normandy and 
Brittany merge, and thus some forty-three 
miles south-east of Jersey. The story of 
Mont St. Michel, even had the hand of man 
never reared upon the rock one of the most 
remarkable structures the human mind has 
conceived, could scarcely have failed to be 
interesting. During the Roman occupation of 
France, or Gaul as it was then called, the great 
stretch of sea that lies to-day between the 
Mount and Jersey was then a vast forest, 
through which some fourteen miles of Roman 
military road were constructed. But in the 
third century the invasion of the sea com- 
pelled the Romans to alter the course of 
their road, and in the next century both the 
Mount and the small island of Tombelaine, 
which lies scarcely two miles away, were 
isolated at high tide. So on from century 
to century the sea has gradually eaten away 
this part of Normandy, until now some hun- 
dred and ninety square miles of land are 
entirely submerged at high tide. This alone 
is sufficient to invest the Mount with a peculiar 
interest, for one can stand upon it to-day and, 
gazing far away to sea, contemplate the 
absolute mastery of Neptune, whose ravages 
have left of all the great forest of Scissy nothing 
more than a handful of trees growing sturdily 
among the rocks on the north side of the Mount. 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

But it is the human interest attaching to 
Mont St. Michel that outweighs everything 
else. The rock is steeped in religious lore, and 
in the annals of war there is no place in France 
more historic. Originally a monastery, it 
became in time an impregnable fortress as 
well ; the rough warrior lived side by side 
upon it with the studious monk, and there the 
clash of battle was as regular an occurrence 
for years on end as the mass and vespers. In 
its old age it became a prison, one of the most 
dreaded in a land of terrible prisons, and just 
as it had been absolutely impregnable to 
attack (the English without success besieging 
it for eleven years in the fifteenth century), so 
was it an inviolable prison, only one man ever 
having been able to effect his escape, and even 
in his case escape would have been impossible 
but for the facilities unconsciously placed in 
his hands by his gaolers. 


THE first thought that comes to the visitor 
as he views the Mount from the shore is, 
What could have induced anyone to choose 
so difficult a site for the foundation of a monas- 
tery ? But here legend conveniently steps 
in and explains all. In the eighth century 
Aubert, the Bishop of Avranches, one of the 


The Palace of the Angels 

most pious in an age of piety, was in the habit 
of retiring to the Mount for rest and meditation, 
and during one of his visits there the Arch- 
angel Saint Michael, the Prince of the Armies 
of the Lord, appeared to him and told him to 
build on the top of the Mount a sanctuary in 
his honour. From which it will be seen that 
even angels in those days were not above self- 
advertisement. But Aubert, though a bishop, 
was " even as you and I," and when he awoke 
in the morning he had some doubt as to 
whether he had been dreaming or had really 
entertained the Archangel ; so he prolonged 
his stay in the hope of receiving another visit ; 
nor was he disappointed. A few days later 
Saint Michael appeared to him once more, and 
rather sharply repeated his command. But 
even now Aubert was not convinced, and he 
determined to give Saint Michael a third 
chance, which the Saint was nothing loath to 
accept, repeating his instructions in a most 
peremptory manner. He also touched the 
bishop's head, leaving a hole in the skull " for 
a sign." We have heard of a surgical opera- 
tion to introduce a joke, but this is the only 
case on record where a saint has found it 
necessary to perform a surgical operation for 
the introduction of a command into the head 
of a bishop, and Aubert, like a sensible man, 
concluding that one hole in his skull was 
sufficient, immediately set about the building 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

of "the Palace of the Angels." Aubert's 
skull is still preserved in the Church of Saint 
Gervais at Avranches, and the startling effect 
of Saint Michael's touch may be seen to this 
day ! 

This is only one of the innumerable legends 
relating to the origin of the Abbey. 
Another is worthy of mention, illustrating, as 
it does, the advantages of co-operation with an 
angel when one is performing so difficult a 
task as Aubert took up. On the top of the 
Mount were two large rocks which interfered 
seriously with building, and could be moved 
by no human efforts. Saint Michael, therefore, 
appeared to a devout peasant who lived on 
the coast and bore the familiar name of Bain, 
telling him to take his sons to the Mount and 
move the rocks. Despite the Caledonian 
flavour of his name, Bain did not wait to have 
his skull perforated by the Archangel, but 
went forthwith together with eleven of his 
children and tried to move the rocks. They 
could not stir them one hair's-breadth, how- 
ever ; whereupon Aubert asked Bain if he 
had brought all his children, and the good man 
explained that they were all there except the 
baby, which was with its mother. The Bishop 
then instructed him to go at once and fetch 
the infant, " for God often chooses the weak 
to confound the strong." The child was 
brought, and at a touch of his little foot the 


The Palace of the Angels 

rocks went tumbling down the Mount, in proof 
of which one of them may be seen to this day 
with a little chapel to Saint Aubert built on 
the top of it. 

One more of the many miracles associated 
with the beginning of the great work should 
not be left unmentioned. Saint Aubert was 
naturally much exercised as to where he should 
rear his sanctuary, the pinnacle of a lonely 
rock being an unusual place to build on even 
in those unusual days, but here again the 
Archangel, who had manifested so much 
personal interest in the work, came to his 
rescue, and caused a heavy dew to fall on the 
Mount, leaving a dry space on the top. Upon 
this dry space was the church to be built. 

In 709 Saint Aubert had practically com- 
pleted the structure, and the church was 
dedicated to Saint Michael after two precious 
relics (namely, a piece of a scarlet veil, which 
the Archangel had left on the occasion of his 
famous appearance at Monte Gargano in 
Naples, together with a piece of the marble on 
which he had stood) had been placed in a casket 
on the altar. Not a vestige of the oratory built 
by Saint Aubert, nor of the church erected in 
963 by Richard, remains. The oldest part of 
the buildings now existing represents a church 
founded in 1020 by Richard, second Duke 
of Normandy, and constructed under the 
direction of the Abbot Hildebert II. The 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

transepts, the greater part of the nave, and 
the crypts date back to this period. 


THE whole scheme of the wonderful memorial 
that fascinates the eye of the latter-day tourist 
owed its conception to this eleventh-century 
abbot, and surely no heaven-born architect 
ever conceived a more audacious plan. His 
project was not merely to occupy the limited 
space on the summit of the Mount with his 
religious buildings, but to start far down the 
sides of the rock, and, by utilising the Mount 
just as the sculptor makes use of a skeleton 
frame whereon to plaster the clay in which he 
models his statue, so to rear upward gigantic 
walls and buttresses which at the top would 
carry a huge platform to hold the super- 
structures, creating thus a collection of vast 
buildings with the live rock thrust up in the 
centre for foundation. It is to the glory of 
Saint Michael that for no less than five cen- 
turies this colossal scheme of Hildebert's was 
carried out with absolute unity of purpose by 
his successors, an achievement only possible 
among religious workers. The result was that 
this lonely Mount gradually became clothed 
with a series of most beautiful buildings, 
which to the eye of the beholder seem to have 


The Palace of the Angels 

grown by some natural process out of the rock 
itself. . 

To the student of architecture it would be 
impossible to mention any monument more 
worthy of study than this. Not only do we 
find within its innumerable cloisters, crypts, 
and halls, specimens of the purest Gothic that 
exists, but at every turn we are presented 
with structures that conform to the very 
highest ideals of art, in being at once useful 
and beautiful. There is not a single buttress, 
not a window, not an arch, not a pillar, that 
does not discharge some duty, and the removal 
of which would not weaken in some degree 
a part of the scheme. 


THE best way to secure an intelligible notion 
of the work of these monkish builders is to 
walk around the Mount at low tide and study 
the buildings from the outside. The feature 
that will most impress one in following this 
course is the wonderful north side of the 
Mount, known as the Merveille, which rears 
its massive walls sheer from the rock face, 
supported along its entire length by enormous 
buttresses, that spring with a fine suggestion 
of strength and permanency from their rocky 
base. The principal buildings, apart from 

In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

the church, are contained within these massive 
walls. To the west we have, in three stories, 
the Cellar, the Salle des Chevaliers, and 
above the latter the open Cloister, the most 
perfect example of its kind in the world. 
The eastern part begins with the Almonry, 
above which is the Salle des Hotes, and on 
the top of that the Refectory. 

The whole effect of the Merveille is superb, 
et what is it more than a great wall, held up 
y mighty buttresses, pierced in different ways 
to light the chambers within and to make each 
suitable for its particular office ? The most 
perfect economy has been observed through- 
out, the buttresses are terminated the moment 
their services are not required, and the 
Refectory, which carries a light wooden roof, 
is lighted by means of long narrow lancets 
which give to the wall far more strength than 
would have been possible had it been pierced 
by wide windows ; still, the lighting within is 
perfect. In brief, the Merveille, apart from the 
numerous other buildings that went to form the 
monastic and military establishment, is enough 
to send an architect into raptures, and might, 
if he knew not the dangers of the incoming 
tide, which has to cover nine miles of land at 
the rate of a race-horse, induce him to tarry 
over long in feasting his eyes on this marvel- 
lous achievement. It is beautiful beyond 
description, and yet we may be certain that 


The Palace of the Angels 

its builders never thought of mere beauty in 
its construction, but built purely to meet the 
exigencies of the situation, and to provide the 
best possible accommodation for the inhabi- 
tants of the monastery and their dependants. 
As one writer has put it, " the beauty just 
happened." It is only when we find builders 
striving after effect that we are face to face 
with decadent art. 

Continuing our walk round the rock on 
those sands that have been the scene of many 
a bitter battle, we pass under the ramparts, 
beginning with the Tour du Nord at the eas- 
tern end of the Merveille. Here, again, the 
beautiful union of art and Nature is observed, 
this magnificent tower seeming to be but the 
natural growth of the shelving rocks at its base. 
It is no surprise to know that through the ages 
which knew not the Maxim or the loo-ton gun, 
the splendid fortifications successfully resisted 
every attack of the envious English, the 
Bretons, and the Huguenots. The modern 
town is huddled picturesquely between the 
ramparts and the Abbey to the east and 



HAVING completed the tour around the 
Mount, the visitor should proceed along the 
ramparts, and reach the entrance to the Abbey 
by the staircase known as the Grand Degre, 
which leads into the Barbican, and through 
the massive and beautiful Chatelet into the 
more ancient entrance of the Abbey, known 
as Belle-Chaise, where are situated the Guard 
Room and the Government Room. Here the 
guide will take us in hand, and march us from 
point to point of interest in the interior. 
But it is impossible, in the space of a short 
chapter, to attempt a description of this, that 
would follow in any detail the stipulated 
round of the apartments at present shown to 
the public. 

Suffice it to say that you will first be taken 
to the Church, which is now, and likely to be 
for many years, in the hands of the restorers. 
Only four bays of the seven that went to 
the making of the great Norman nave remain, 
and these have had to be much restored ; 
but here it is a pleasure to record that the 
restoration has been carried out with perfect 
taste, so that the latter-day visitor has an 
excellent idea of the appearance of the 
Abbey and its dependent buildings as these 


The Palace of the Angels 

were in the heyday of Mont St. Michel's 

From the Church we shall enter the 
Cloister, already mentioned as being the 
topmost of the three western stories of the 
Merveille. Here was the recreation ground 
of the monks, and nothing could be more 
exquisite than the elegant proportions of the 
slender pillars that support the vaulted roofs 
of the double arcade. From the Cloister 
we visit the Refectory, where many a strange 
gathering of monks has taken place in days 
of old, for it is one of the interesting things in 
the history of Mont St. Michel that, while in 
its earlier ages it was a centre of learning and 
genuine religion, it became corrupt and 
scandalous under the commendatory abbots, 
who were men neither of morals nor religion, 
and who allowed all sorts of abuses within 
these sacred walls. At one time, indeed, the 
Abbot of Mont St. Michel was the five-year- 
old son of Louis the Just. In the south-west 
corner of the Refectory is the pit that 
formerly contained a lift whereby provisions 
could be hauled up from the bottom story, 
and the leavings of the monks sent down to 
the Almonry for distribution among the poor. 

The Salle des Chevaliers, which will next 
be visited, is described by a learned writer as 
" perhaps the finest Gothic chamber in the 
world," and is believed to have been built as 


In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

a great workroom for the monks, but received 
its present name either from the fact that the 
first investitures of the Order of St. Michael 
were made herein, or that it was the lodging 
of the 190 knights who came to the Mount to 
defend it against the English. In this beau- 
tiful apartment, lighted and ventilated in a 
way that is a model to present-day builders, 
the monks wrote and illuminated the manu- 
scripts which earned for the abbey the title of 
"The City of Books/' Reached from this 
room is the Salle des Hotes, wherein the grand 
visitors were entertained by the abbot in a 
style befitting their rank, as under the rule 
of St. Benedict it was forbidden for laymen to 
enter the apartments reserved for the monks. 
Like all the other buildings, however, it has 
served many another purpose than that for 
which it was originally designed, and at one 
time was actually used as a Plomberie where 
the lead was worked for roofing and other 
purposes connected with the Abbey. 

The Cellar is, in its way, as beautiful as any 
of the other apartments, although nothing 
was attempted by its builders but to provide 
a capacious storeroom for the inhabitants of 
the Mount, and to secure, in its strong pillars, 
strength to support the buildings rising above 
it. The provisions were hauled up from the 
sands by means of a great wheel and a rope, 
the latter being carried out on a little draw- 


The Palace of the Angels 

bridge to enable it to drop clear of the rocks. 
This arrangement, by the way, is associated 
with one of the most audacious attempts to 
secure the Abbey during the wars of the 
Huguenots. A traitor within arranged with 
two Huguenot leaders that on the day of 
St. Michael, in September, at eight o'clock in 
the evening, in the year 1591, he would haul 
up their men by means of this rope, and intro- 
duce them to the Cellar, while the monks were 
engaged in devotions, so placing the Mount 
at their mercy. But he proved a double 
traitor, for after seventy-eight men had been 
so hauled up, and, with one exception, 
quietly killed by the soldiers of the garrison 
as they arrived, the leaders below became 
suspicious of a trap, and asked that a monk 
should be thrown down as evidence that the 
plot was successful. The Governor immedi- 
ately had one of the murdered Huguenots 
dressed in the gown of a monk and thrown 
down, but the Sieur Montgomery was not 
satisfied with this, and he called up that one 
of his men should come out on the drawbridge 
and assure them below that all was well. So 
the Governor sent the one man he had spared 
and instructed him to answer down that the 
Huguenots were masters of the Abbey. He 
was faithful to death, however, and called 
down that they were betrayed. Instead of 
being immediately killed, the Governor was 

In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

so impressed with his courage, that he spared 
him, and the Huguenots hastily rode away. 

The Almonry is the last of the great apart- 
ments which are contained in the Merveille, 
and it is from this that visitors make their 
exit into the courtyard of the Abbey ; but 
many other interesting chambers are shown, 
such as the Crypte de 1'Aquilon, the Charnier, 
the Promenoir or ancient cloister, and the 
famous Crypte des Gros-Piliers, which is also 
known as TEglise Basse, its pillars, of enormous 
girth, being designed to support the heavy 
masonry of the Abbey above. The Cachots, 
or prisons, are also an important feature of 
the sights described by the guide, and many 
harrowing tales are told of famous prisoners 
who went mad during their incarceration in 
these dread dungeons. But it is a pity that 
this part is shown at all, as the recollection of 
these hideous holes is likely to confuse many 
visitors' impressions of the place. 


HERE, then, is a very brief and a sadly- 
imperfect sketch of this rare legacy which the 
Middle Ages have left to lucky France. It 
need only be added that not one visit, nor 
two, is sufficient to an adequate appreciation 
of the beauties of Mont St. Michel ; several 


The Palace of the Angels 

days, instead of several hours, as is too often 
the custom of the breathless tourist, should 
be spent on the Mount. There is accommoda- 
tion in plenty, for the three hotels, all kept 
by members of the same family (and each at 
daggers drawn with the others), give splendid 
entertainment at moderate rates ; and practi- 
cally all the houses are annexes to one or 
other of these establishments, so that except 
during August and September accommoda- 
tion is never difficult to obtain. Nor are the 
buildings of the Abbey and the Merveille the 
only things of interest on the Mount to-day, 
for though it is a strangely-different scene from 
that in the olden days of pilgrimage, it is, 
perhaps, as interesting if we choose to regard 
as pilgrims the countless tourists who swarm 
here from all the ends of the earth, and we 
shall find among them even more material 
for study than was afforded to the monks in 
ages past. Then if rain should keep us 
prisoner for an hour or two at times, we need 
not weary sitting at our window, watching 
the carriages and bicycles arriving at the 
entrance to the Cour de 1'Avancee, where 
they are immediately besieged by representa- 
tives of each of the hotels, and probably a 
simple Briton, innocent of French or the ways 
of this curious community, will find himself 
divided into three, his luggage being captured 
by the representative of Poulard aine, his 

2 53 

In the Track of R. L. Stevenson 

bicycle being taken by the tout for Poulard 
jeune, and he himself led captive by the 
buxom female who canvasses for veuve 

We remember one occasion when, at a 
high tide, which necessitated the use of a boat 
for debarking visitors, a solitary English fe- 
male, of the type so properly satirised by 
French caricaturists, arrived by the diligence, 
and was rowed in lonely state through the 
entrance to the outer court. As the boat 
grounded she stood up, an angular vision in 
drab, with dark blue spectacles and a straw 
hat. In answer to the inquiring shouts of 
the hotel representatives, she innocently re- 
plied in the one word she knew, " Poulard/' 
and there was a rush for her, in which the 
elder Poulard, thanks to exceptional height 
and strength, was able to dispose of his rivals, 
and lift this representative of British woman- 
hood bodily into the kitchen of his hotel. 
She would probably be as much surprised as 
most of us are on visiting the place for the 
first time, to discover that after leaving this 
kitchen and ascending two stairs in the hope 
of arriving immediately at our bedroom, the 
maid calmly opens a door, and we find our- 
selves in another street, that rises step after step 
for one hundred yards or so, and brings us 
to one of the dependencies of the hotel, where 
probably we may have two or three stories 

2 54 

The Palace of the Angels 

to climb. You have a feeling all the time 
you are on the Mount that, somehow, you 
are living on the top of slates, as the houses 
look down upon each other, and in many 
cases you can walk from the top flat out on 
to a street at the back. 

In a word, Mont St. Michel is unique. A 
stay here is an experience unlike any to be 
had elsewhere in Europe. "Not worth visit- 
ing " forsooth! 






In the track of R.L. 
Stevenson: France. 




In the track: of R.L. 
Stevenson: France.