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Full text of "In the vine country"



KiSiiiiliiiiiiiSiiiit^^^ 










University of California • Berkeley 

GIFT OF 

The Friends of The Bancroft Library 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY 



IN THE 

VINE COUNTRY 



E. CE. SOMERVILLE and MARTIN ROSS 

authors of 
•through connemara in a governess cart, etc. 



Illustrations by F. U, Towns end 
From Sketches by E. CE. Somerville 



LONDON 

W. H. ALLEN & CO Limited 

13 Waterloo Place S.W 

1893 



The folloiving pages, with their accompanying 
Illustrations, originally appeared in the columns of 
* The Ladys Pictorial,' and are here reprinted by 
permission of the Proprietors. 




IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 



CHAPTER I. 

[T was our first day's cub-hunting, and 
things had been going against us from 
the outset. 
To begin with, we had started rather late, — it is 
noticeable that the minutes between five and six 
A.M. are fewer and closer together than they are at 
any other period of the day, — and, when half way to 
the meet we found that Betty had given way to her 
sporting proclivities, and had surreptitiously followed 
us. When it is explained that Betty is a St. Bernard 
puppy of cart-horse dimensions, whose expression of 
smiling imbecility only cloaks a will of iron, it will 
be understood that there was trouble before us. The 

7 



8 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

trouble began at once. Directly she saw she was dis- 
covered she ran away, and the next time we saw her 
she was three fields ahead of us, lumbering cheerfully 
into covert at the heels of the hounds, pursued by 
several cows and the curses of the master. 







lU.lTV. 

By the time that she had been caught and immured 
in the bedroom of the nearest cottage, we were 
covered with confusion and blazing with heat, and 
while we were precariously scrambling on to our 
horses' backs by the help of the pigstye door, we were 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 9 

told by an excited old man that the hounds had found, 
and were 'firing away like the divil' out of the far 
side of the wood. This happened to be one of those 
statements that are founded not so much on fact as 
on a desire to keep things stirring and pleasant, but 
none the less did it send us at inconvenient speed to 
the other side of the covert, there to find that the 
hounds had never left it, and were hunting slowly 
back towards the side from which we had just 
come. 

Not long after this my second cousin lost her 
temper, and said she hated cubbing, and wished she 
was back in Connemara, or anywhere out of the 
county Cork. This expression of opinion occurred 
when she was picking herself up out of a potato 
furrow, into which she and her horse had ingloriously 
rolled, and it was a good deal embittered by the fact 
that she had hurt her knee, torn her habit, and broken 
her hunting crop. 

The day ended with this incident, so far, at least, 
as we were concerned. Betty was released from the 



lo IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

captivity that she had not ceased to bewail in quiver- 
ing, infantine shrieks, and we turned our faces toward 
home. There is something very humbling in coming 
in at ten o'clock to a late edition of the family break- 
fast, with nothing to justify the routing up of the 
household at five A.M. except a torn habit and a 
bruised knee ; and we said to each other, as we went 
unostentatiously up the back stairs, that cubbing was 
not worth the candle by which one had to get up to 
be in time for it. 

We did not know that a few days afterwards we 
should be hanging out of the window of the train as, 
at a painfully early hour, it passed a covert in the 
vicinity, straining jaundiced eyes of jealousy at the 
distant specks that represented the field and the 
hounds — specks who were to remain in the county 
Cork and go out cubbing, instead of faring forth, 
as we were doing, to take our pleasure in foreign 
lands. 

The letter that we found on the dining-room table, 
when we came down-stairs on that day that had 




11 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 13 

been sacrificed to Betty, was responsible for this 
unexpected change of circumstances. It said ma- 
jestically, 'You are to go to the vineyards of the 
Medoc, and must start at once in order to be in 
time for the vintage ; ' and in spite of a grand and 
complete ignorance of Medoc, its vintages, and wines 
in general, we accepted the position with calm, even 
with satisfaction. 

The gibes of our friends were many and untiring, 
and were the harder to bear that we felt a secret 
scepticism as to our fitness for this large and yet 
delicate mission, — what did we know of Chateau 
Lafite or Mouton Rothschild, except that a glass and 
a half of the former had once compelled my second 
cousin to untimely slumber at dessert ? — and when on 
a iog^y morning we drove away from home, the dank 
air was heavy with the prognostications that we 
should return as bottle-nosed dipsomaniacs, and the 
last thing that caught our eye as we turned the final 
corner of the avenue was the flutter of a piece of blue 
ribbon. 



14 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

We had a singularly detestable journey to London, 
or perhaps it was that a summer spent in country 
remoteness made the train and its loathsome sister, 
the steamboat, more intolerable than usual. As far as 
Dublin we were comparatively confident, though the 
trees at the station were rustling a little in the wind, 
and the window-frames shook ominously in dismal 
accompaniment to the lamentations of the emigrants 
who crowded the platforms, waiting for the down 
train to Cork. There are happily few things in the 
world that are as bad as they are expected to be, but 
a bad crossing is worse than the combined efforts of 
imagination and remembrance can make it. This, at 
least, is the opinion of my second cousin, who ought 
by this time to have some knowledge of a subject to 
which, according to her own reckoning of the time 
occupied in each crossing, she has given some fifty of 
the best years of her life. The trees and the window- 
frames had not overstated the case, and we had the 
gloomy satisfaction of hearing the stewardess remark, 
as we neared Holyhead, that it had been a rough 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 15 

passage. We could have told her so ourselves, but 
still it was gratifying to have the thing placed on an 
official basis. 

In the pale morning, as we endured that last long 
hour before Euston is reached, we read in headachy 
snatches a pamphlet that we had been lent about the 
wines of the Medoc, and our souls sank at the prospect 
of expounding the laws of fermentation to readers 
who would be as oppressively bored by it as we 
ourselves. But our first day in London routed this 
hobgoblin: we were to enjoy ourselves; we were to 
taste claret if we wished, or talk bad French to the 
makers of it if it amused us ; but to improve other 
people's minds by figures and able disquisitions on 
viticulture and the treatment of the phylloxera was 
not, we heard with thanksgiving, to be our mission. 

The three days before our start were spent in the 
manner customary in such cases ; that is to say, we 
moved incessantly and at an ever-quickening pace 
between the Strand, the Army and Navy Stores, and 
High Street, Kensington, laden with small parcels. 



i6 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 



footsore from the unaccustomed flagstones, and care- 
worn from the effort to utilise the Underground return 
tickets that an ideally perfect programme had induced 




WE WERE LENT A KODAK. 



us to take in the morning. In addition to these usual 
cares, another more poignant anxiety fell to our lot. 
We were lent a Kodak, — for the benefit of the 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 17 

unlearned it may be mentioned that the Kodak is 
a photographic camera of the kind that is to the 
ordinary species as a compressed meat lozenge to a 
round of beef, — and as neither of us knew anything 
about it, it became necessary to learn its mechanism 
in a fevered ten minutes, or to leave it behind. 
Ambition fired us to the attempt, and having ad- 
journed with the Kodak and an instructor to the 
severely simple scenery of the gardens on the Thames 
Embankment, we received there our first and only 
lesson. What its results were will never be known 
to the public ; a group of intoxicated ghosts lolling 
on a bench in the depths of a spotted fog can be of 
little interest to any one except the artists, and even 
to their indulgent eyes its charm is of a somewhat 
morbid character. 

After these agitations, the corner seats of a railway 
carriage at Victoria had a restful luxury about them 
that was almost stagnation. The consciousness of 
two portmanteaus registered to Bordeaux almost 

made up for the cumbrous row of hand packages that 

2 



1 8 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

squatted in the netting ; and the half-hour of waiting 
for the train to start was a period of soothing inaction 
scarcely ruffled by the slow filling of the carriage to 
its limit of five on each side, and merely moved to a 
languid enjoyment by the inexorable determination 
of the latest comers, a bride and bridegroom, to sit 
next to each other irrespective of all previous arrange- 
ments of old ladies and their baskets. They had 
about them the well-known power of making their 
innocent and well-meaning fellow-creatures feel in the 
way and in the wrong, and the eyes of the carriage 
sought the windows or the ceiling as if by word of 
command when, after the settling down of glowingly 
new bags and rugs was completed, the latest comers 
leaned back and gazed into each other's faces with an 
unaffected ecstasy, the fact that both wore gold- 
rimmed spectacles imparting a sort of serious lustre 
to their mutual regard. The gaze seemed to us to 
last most of the way to Dover, except at those 
moments when a glance or two was given to their 
fellow-passengers, a glance of almost compassionate 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 19 

wonder that people so uninteresting and so superfluous 
should be alive. It gave us an instant of pleasure 
when some time afterwards on board the boat we saw 
that the bride's fringe was blown into dejected wisps, 
and that her groom's nose was blue and his face 
pinched. 

Before we reached Dover an example was vouch- 
safed to us in further proof, if such were needed, of the 
difficulty of saying good-bye agreeably at the window 
of a railway carriage. In this case the victims of the 
custom stood on the platform, smiling spasmodically 
at the other victim in the carriage, and saying at 
intervals, * Well, you'll write, won't you ? ' 'So good 
of you to come and see me off.' ' Well, mind you 
write ! ' ' Oh yes, dear, and be sure you give my 
love to Mary and Aunt Williams.' Then they all 
smiled brightly and nodded their heads, and the 
traveller, with her chin upon the window-sill, beamed 
galvanically down upon her friends, and in her turn 
adjured them not to forget to write. As the train 
moved off at last, the farewells thickened to a climax, 



20 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

and we were privileged to observe how, when the final 
deHcate flutter of the hand had been given, the smile 
disappeared from the face of the traveller, and she 
thankfully yielded herself to the deferred enjoyment 
of her newspaper. 

Of the further journey to Paris there is happily 
little to record. ''Das JwcJiste Gliick hat reine LiederJ 
and the most satisfactory travelling is that which 
lends itself least to description. The Calais boat 
made its journey in the most brilliant of sunshine 
and the most refreshing of breezes, trampling its way 
along the water at a pace that made the tall merchant- 
men look more old-world and stately than usual as 
they moved serenely down the Channel. The male 
part of the passengers walked the deck as if their lives 
depended on it, after the custom of men ; the ladies 
sat in sheltered places and tried to keep their hair 
tidy ; and all alike exhibited the hypnotic conscious- 
ness of the presence of a sketch-book, that makes the 
most cautious sketcher the object of instant remark 
and suspicion. 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 21 

We sat that night in the warm, airless courtyard of 
a Paris hotel ; tall dusty shrubs in pots hung their 
lank leaves limply over our heads ; waiters flitted like 
bats to and fro between the kitchen on one side and 
the salle-d-manger on the other. A French family, 
consisting of a papa, a mamma, a beautifully behaved 
daughter with her hair in a queue, a humorous old 
friend of a godfatherly type, and a little boy with 
tasselled boots, partook of various liquids at a table 
near enough to us to permit of our hearing their 
effortless, endless babble, and also to observe with 
ever-growing hatred the self-conscious gambols of 
the little boy. Later on, they adjourned to the salon, 
and the daughter performed a selection of music. 
She began with a confident rendering of ' La Friere 
d'une Vierge,' one of those pieces which once was the 
strength and glory of every budding pianiste, but now 
in its old age is only heard limping and faltering over 
the greasy keys of hotel pianos ; and she finished 
with an operatic gallop in which the treble fled about 
in lonely frenzy, and the bass retired on to the lowest 



22 IN THE VINE COUNTRY, 

octave of the piano and there had a fit of St. Vitus's 
dance. The little boy pirouetted about the room, the 
papa, mamma, and godfather clapped their hands and 
laughed indulgently, and a good many of the windows 
that gave on to the courtyard were suddenly and 
violently shut. 

We went to bed after that ; that is to say, we 
retired into a good-sized opera-box, with windows 
opening on to lamps and palms, and a general interior 
effect of red curtains and mirrors. It is one of the 
strangest features of French hotels that dressing- 
tables are not included in any suite of bedroom 
furniture ; there are looking-glasses by the score, 
there are handsome marble slabs bearing ornate 
clocks that do not go, there are gorgeous arinoires a 
glace, but never a good, commonplace, useful dressing- 
table. French people seem to do without them in 
the same simple, uncomplaining way that they do 
without baths. 

We cannot pretend to say we slept well in our 
opera-box. Everything in the hotel seemed to stay up 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY, 23 

all night, including a small but devoted party of fleas ; 
and the atmosphere, even when diluted with as much 



r^C^ 




HE BROKE INTO A DEFIANT POLKA. 



courtyard air as the windows would let in, was heavy 



24 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

and hot. We came down next morning feeling un- 
refreshed, and not at all disposed to bestow of our 
substance on the street musician who, since eight 
o'clock, had been playing national airs on an 
accordion in the courtyard. Having seen us pass by 
on our way to breakfast, he immediately played 
* God save the Queen,' gliding subsequently into the 
' Marseillaise ' as a kind of corrective, and then find- 
ing that we still drank our coffee unmoved, he broke 
into a defiant polka, which, did he but know it, has 
'sung in our sleeping ear and hummed in our waking 
head ' in elusive, half-remembered snatches, revenging 
a thousandfold the callousness of the two Anglaises. 

We had not much time to spare after breakfast, as 
the Bordeaux train by which we were going started 
at 11.20. A mosquito net was, however, one of the 
things we had forgotten, and one of the things which 
we were assured was indispensable, and it was not 
until we had entered a likely-looking shop that we 
realised that we did not know the French for 
mosquito. My second cousin and the shopwoman 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY, 



25 



regarded each other for a few seconds in poHte 
silence, and then the latter said interrogatively, — 
* Madame desire — f ' 




RESOLVED THAT DEATH ALONE SHOULD PART US FROM BELLOWS' 
DICTIONARY. 

My second cousin answered diffidently that she 
desired fine net as a — as a — in short, for a veil against 
the— the flies that bite. 



26 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

The shopwoman looked at her with compassion, 
and offered me a handsome long black lace veil, and 
with it the assurance that mademoiselle would find it 
very becoming. At this stage in the negotiation the 
two purchasers began to laugh with the agonising 
laughter that has too often overtaken them in shops, 
and the shopwoman, as is usual in such cases, was 
obviously convinced that she was being laughed at, 
and haughtily replaced the lace veil in its box. 
Having wept profusely and idiotically before her for 
some moments, we recovered sufficiently to ask for 
white muslin, and succeeded in buying a suitable 
piece, with which we slunk out of the shop, resolved 
that in future death alone should part us from 
Bellows' Dictionary. 



CHAPTER II. 

'Twenty minutes — half an 
hour — three-quarters — what 
mademoiselle pleases ! ' 

This was what the waiter 
said when we asked him how 
long it would take to drive to 
the Gare d'Orleans on the 
morning that we left Paris. 
We selected half an hour, 
and by so doing as nearly as 
possible missed our train — 
in fact, when we arrived at the 
Quai d'Austerlitz the station clock was already at 
the hour of departure. It was consoling to be told 
officially that it was five minutes fast, but five 
minutes does not go far in the maddening routine 

27 




28 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

of French stations, and we were wrecks, mentally 
and physically, by the time we had wedged ourselves 
into the crowded carriage, labelled * Bordeaux — 
Bastide,' that was to be our portion. French railway 
officials never weary of this little practical joke of 
keeping the outside clock of the station five minutes 
fast. If they did it always it would lose its piquancy, 
but they guard against this by occasional deviations 
into truth, so that the nerve of the public is 
effectively shattered, and the station officials never 
fail of amusement. 

Eleven hours in a train is an immeasurable time, 
especially when the train goes through a country 
that, after a first hour or so of picturesqueness, lacks 
absolutely any distinction of colour or outline. 
Greyish tilled plains stretched away on either side, 
without a fence, without a boundary, except for the 
occasional rows of housemaids' mops and birch-rods 
that enlivened the horizon. These detachments of 
poplars are inseparable from French travelling ; they 
haunt the ridges of the plains like the ghosts of 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 29 

worthier trees, with all the dejection befitting 
those who know that they are only worth a few 
francs, and can hope for no better transmigration 
than a kitchen table or a pig's trough. The country 
seemed silent and empty after the harvest ; we saw 
very few living things except flocks of sheep, and 
we meditated with an ever-growing wonder on what 
might be the moral suasion that kept each of these 
on its own undefended square of grass. Arguing 
from the more than demoniacal perverseness of Irish 
sheep in breaking bounds, it seemed to us that the 
French must have hit on the supreme expedient of 
offering no resistance whatever, and thereby destroyed 
at one blow the essential joy of trespass. 

The train progressed in an easy canter, giving us 
time to observe all wayside objects : we could have 
counted the big citrouilles that lay in magnificent 
obesity, with their sunset-hued cheeks glowing like 
fire on the colourless fields, suggestive of immeasur- 
able pumpkin squash, and we could see on the low 
bushes that we had at first taken for currant trees, 



30 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

the black clusters that told we had at last come into 
the wine country. It was not so pleasant to see in 
the waiting-room at Poitiers the black clusters of 
men, each enveloped in his own halo of garlic or bad 
tobacco smoke, that told us our chance of getting a 
cup of coffee was not worth the attendant horror of 
elbowing our way through them to the buffet. We 
had not got over the strangeness of knowing that at 
any or every small hotel or railway station we could 
have a really good cup of coffee, unflavoured by 
chicory, liquorice, blackbeetles, or whatever may be 
the master ingredient in the muddy draught that 
is invariable at such places in England, and we had 
looked forward to Poitiers with an enthusiasm quite 
unconnected with the Black Prince, or any other 
romantic memory of Mrs. Markham's History of 
England. 

By the time we reached Angouleme it was quite 
dark, and we had fallen into the sodden stupefaction 
of travel. The carriage was nearly empty, and the 
lamp cast a distorted light upon the puckered faces 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 31 

of the old lady and gentleman who were our only 
fellow-travellers, as their heads nodded and rolled 
in anxious, uneasy slumber. The small stations 
became more frequent, and we were drearily aware 
of the same routine at each : the half-dozen lights of 
a village across the fields, the nasal bellow of an 
unintelligible name, the thump of a box or two on 
the platform, and finally a sound that we took at 
first for the bleat of a tethered kid, but which we 
discovered to be the note of a small trumpet or horn, 
wound by the guard as the signal for departure. 
It was only towards the end of the journey that this 
implement had replaced the ordinary whistle, and 
for about eight or ten stations we laughed at it ; 
after that the lament of the kid added itself seriously 
to the general gloom. 

The last hour or two before Bordeaux would have 
been much harder to bear but for a display of sheet 
lightning, the like of which we had never seen 
before. The sudden beautiful flicker played hide- 
and-seek like a living creature among the curtains of 



32 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

cloud, flashing about all the points of the compass 
between south and east, or sometimes thrusting to 
and fro across an opening, like glimpses of the 
rapiers in a giants' fencing bout. It was under this 
mocking, elfish light that we first sighted Bordeaux 
and its river, and realised that the time had come 
for us to strap up our rugs, and say 'pardon' in our 
best French accent to the old gentleman on whose 
feet we trod as we did so, and to drag our stiff 
bodies forth into the electric glare of the station. 
We had reached such a stage of fatigue and 
demoralisation that we should rather have stayed in 
the carriage all night, and gone on with the old 
lady to a place she called ' Erin,' in a fine Hammer- 
smith twang. We should not have cared much 
whether it proved to be the land of our birth, or 
Irun, on the Spanish frontier, which we now believe 
to have been her destination. 

We had a long quarter of an hour to wait before 
the Douane could bring itself to give up its dead, 
and there was another quarter of an hour of driving 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 33 

through deserted and badly-lighted streets before we 
got to our hotel. We crossed a bridge that must 
have been half a mile long, we feigned to each other 
an interest in a half-seen gateway at the end of it, 
and our hearts were all the time groping in a 
certain hold-all, where lay a spirit-kettle, a teapot, 
and half a pound of English tea. The offensively 
urbane and wide-awake head waiter, with his clean- 
shaven face and foxy eyes, had some evident 
difficulty in repressing his scorn when he heard that 
he was to faire monter to our room a little milk and 
hot water, but it mounted to our third floor for all 
that. It was a blow to find a skin on the top of 
the milk that showed it had once been boiled : we 
did not know then that French hotels considered 
milk in its raw, uncooked state to be as baneful as 
if it were water. 

Our room was large, and of a somewhat gloomy 
magnificence, with towering bed canopies, and 
darkly-gleaming mahogany ; and as our one bougie 

— valued in the bill at a franc — contended with its 

3 



34 /^ THE VINE COUNTRY. 

surroundings, we felt like a chapter out of almost 
any of Scott's novels — the chapter where the hero 
spends a night in some one's private and luxurious 
dungeon, and having obtained writing materials, has 
heard the last retreating footsteps of an attendant 
who has unostentatiously locked and double-locked 
the door. What we heard principally, while we 
drank our surreptitious midnight cup of tea, was 
not the howling of the storm or the hoarse baying 
of a bloodhound in the courtyard, but the snoring 
of some one in the next room. It was hard to 
believe that the artist was not doing it on purpose ; 
each snore was so painstaking, so measured, and had 
such a careful crescendo in its vibrating fortissimo. 
He had certainly brought the accomplishment to 
a high degree of perfection, and if he does not die 
of concussion of the brain in the attempt, he ought, 
with a little more practice, to be able to empty any 
hotel in a single night. 

It was broad summer in Bordeaux, so we dis- 
covered next morning when we escaped from the 




OUR SURREPTITIOUS MIDNIGHT CUP OF TEA. 
35 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. yj 

half-light of the coffee-room and walked forth to see 
the town. We went down to the quays and crawled 
along them in the shade, looking at the immense 
river, and the long 'winter woodland' of masts of 
all countries, stretching away seemingly to the Bay 
of Biscay : it did not matter that the water was the 
colour of cafe an lait, churned to dirty froth by 
innumerable screws and paddles, or that the hoarse 
screams of steam whistles ascended through black 
smoke to the brilliant heavens ; all was new and 
delightful, and of a cheerfulness unknown to the 
British Isles. It was here that we began to realise 
what the wine country could do when it gave its 
mind to it. The great quays were packed close with 
barrels as far as the eye could follow — barrels on 
whose ends were hieroglyphs that told of aristocratic 
birth as plainly as the armorial bearings on a 
carriage; the streets were full of long narrow carts 
like ladders on wheels, laden also with barrels, one 
behind the other; and about every five minutes, as 
it seemed to us, some big ship moved out from the 



38 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

wharf, filled to the brim with claret, and slipped 
down the yellow current to other climes. As we sat 
under the chestnut trees and watched the tide of the 
traffic, we began to notice that there are more grey- 
horses in France than one would have imagined 
there could have been in the world. The streets of 
Paris are mottled by them ; the streets of Bordeaux 
are mottled in the opposite way — that is to say, the 
dark horses are like specks among the white, and in 
the Medoc the necessary difficulty of providing black 
horses for funerals can probably be only solved by 
blacklead. 

We carried a map of Bordeaux in our hands, and 
stopped many times to study it as we strolled along, 
causing thereby an ecstasy of interest among the 
sailors and the women sitting at their stalls of 
strange fruits and fungi. It was disappointing that 
French wit did not on these occasions elaborate any 
jest more sparkling than ^Ah! Les Aiiglaises T 
though the inhabitants seemed to find the humour of 
the situation satiatingly expressed in this simple 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 39 

formula. Once, in Paris, a butcher's boy screamed 
* Angleesh spock-en ' after us, and convulsed the 
whole street with the sally ; but we thought that we 
could have produced something better any day on 
Patrick's Bridge, Cork. We perseveringly ciphered 
out our route to the church of St. Michel, assisted a 
good deal, it must be admitted, by the fact that its 
steeple is the tallest thing in Bordeaux. We were 
getting very hot indeed as we toiled through the 
Tour de Cailhau — so hot that, as a Galway woman 
once remarked, 'it would have been a pleasure to 
any one to lie down and die,' and we longed to sit 
down and rest on the kerbstone in the shade of the 
Tour beside a man in a blue blouse who was 
sharpening a razor in his entirely filthy palm. 

This being out of the question, we struggled on 
towards St. Michel, promising ourselves a bath of 
coolness and darkness under its lofty roof, and more 
especially in its underground caverns, where inhabit 
the celebrated mummies that have been preserved by 
the soil of the graveyard from dissolution. We 



40 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

crossed the last and sunniest street, and passed 
through a swing door into a large church, consider- 
ably hotter than anything or anywhere outside, and 
with an atmosphere of an unknown and stifling kind. 
We walked round it in silence, and, looking at each 
other, as we fanned ourselves with guide-books, we 
felt that our last chance of averting heat-apoplexy 
was to go underground at once and see the mummies. 
We found that the mummies lived in a place apart 
from the church, under the docker, as the beautiful 
spire is called, by which we had steered our way, and 
we approached with feelings of unmitigated awe and 
creepiness the doorway to which we had been directed 
by two little boys who were playing cards in the 
shadow of a buttress. The door itself was round 
another buttress, in a low and crumbling stone arch- 
way, and we knocked timidly at it. It opened, and 
in a room of about the size and shape of a bonnet- 
box we beheld, instead of mummies, a cheerful family 
party at breakfast We were about to retire, but the 
mother, wiping the vin ordinaire from her jovial 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 41 

mouth, assured us that she was ready to show us the 
Cellar of the Mummies immediately. We squeezed 
past the rest of the family, and saw that at their 
very feet a precipitous stone staircase plunged into 
darkness. 

Our guide picked up a candlestick of a pattern 
that we were destined to see more of afterwards, — i.e. 
a long piece of wood with a tallow bougie erect at one 
end of it, — and after an anxious inquiry on our parts 
as to whether there was any scent la-bas in the cave 
had been answered in the negative, we followed her 
into the abyss. It proved to be a circular vault, 
made, like everything else in Bordeaux, of dusty 
yellow stone, and, after a minute of despondency on 
the part of the bougie^ we saw, lining its walls, a 
dismal array of little brown figures, propped on end 
behind a low wooden rail. 

The guide advanced with alacrity to her task. 

' Behold, mesdames, the celebrated mummies of St. 
Michel '— 

She paused, and flourished the candle in the awful 



42 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

faces of a group of objects who were just preserved 




'BEHOLD, MESDAMES, THE CELEBRATED MUMMIES OF ST. MICHEL.' 

from being skeletons by a ragged covering of dusty 
leather which had once been flesh. 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 43 

* Voi^i la famille empoisonnee I Observe the morsel 
still in the mouth of the little one ! Mosh-rhume ! 
HeinV She made a light-hearted attempt at the 
English word, but seeing we looked bewildered, 
passed easily back into French. 'Mushrooms, 
mesdames. All the family are found dead together!' 

We looked at them, but not too closely, and also 
at their companions — the porter, the fat woman (now 
a shrivelled and dreadful dwarf), the boy who had 
been buried alive, — at least, the guide hopefully said 
that she was almost sure that he had been buried 
alive, — and the General, evidently a special favourite, 
who had been frequently wounded in the battle, so 
she told us, as an apology for the fact that there was 
very little of him left. How she knew these grue- 
some histories we did not inquire, and with the best 
intentions in the world we could not altogether 
believe them. There was nothing human or appeal- 
ing in these grotesque survivals of three centuries 
ago ; they might have been little damaged terra-cotta 
figures, had it not been for the dusty grins that 



44 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

showed unmistakable teeth, and some indefinable 

sentiment of genuineness and absence of effort. 

As we climbed up the stone stairs into the sun and 
heat, we felt that the immortality thrust upon the ^ 
mummies of St. Michel was a cruel one; and nothing 
but the affectionate satisfaction of the able show- 
woman with her show reconciles us to its memory. 




CHAPTER III. 

HE steamer that plies between Bordeaux 
and Royan, calling en route at several 
dozen places on the Garonne and Gironde, 
is of an unfortunate popularity. From reasons here- 
after to be explained, we arrived early at the landing- 
stage, and we found the forepart of the vessel already 
crammed with blue-clad peasants, from whom, as 
they screamed, gesticulated, and even danced in the 
ardour of conversation, the well-known odour of 
garlic was slowly winnowed forth, and floated aft to 
where the first-class passengers sat on rows of cane 
chairs under an awning, looking daggers at all new- 
comers. We took two seats in the background, 
conscious that our English costume was the subject 
of a scarcely concealed surprise, and feeling that 



46 IN THE VINE COUNTRY, 

neither we nor it were able to bear up against 
criticism. 

We had been much weakened by our last half-hour 
at the hotel. It is not so much the bill, 'though 
that/ as Mrs. Browning remarks, * may be owed,' that 
whittles the traveller down ; it was not in our case 
even the bougie at a franc, — we had hidden away that 
bo'dgie in our portmanteau, and felt better for it, — it 
was the hall of the hotel with its feudal band of 
retainers that had slowly and agonisingly taken from 
us our presence of mind, our dignity, and lastly our 
truthfulness. We had tipped our own special waiter, 
the chambermaid, the boots, and the luggage porter, 
and seeing dizzily that there were still before us the 
lusciously smiling and relentless faces of an assistant 
chambermaid, a deputy-assistant porter, and the 
head waiter, we said we were going round for a 
moment to the Bureau of Change, and slid from the 
hotel with something of the modest self-consciousness 
of a dog leaving the kitchen with a leg of mutton in 
its mouth. 



JN THE VINE COUNTRY. 47 

It gave us a great deal of trouble to make our way 
down to the quays without passing the hotel again ; 
but we did it, and enjoyed the slums and the smells 
as we realised something of what might be the 




--v^J^^e^-. 



WE SAID WE WERE GOING ROUND FOR A MOMENT TO THE 
BUREAU OF CHANGE. 

expressions, facial and otherwise, of the waiter, the 
porter, and the chambermaid, whom we had left 
hopefully waiting at the door. Our luggage had 



48 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

been sent on to the boat some time before ; that was 
the fact that had added swiftness and perfectness to 
our escape, and when, in walking down the long 
gangway, we saw a boy in sabots cutting ungainly 
capers all the way in front of us, out of the gaiety of 
his heart, we were grateful to him ; he expressed our 
feelings in a manner denied to us by circumstance. 

There was something Irish and homelike about 
the conduct of our Pauillac steamer in the matter of 
starting. It was ten minutes after the appointed 
time when we moved out into the river amongst the 
big ships that were coming up on the tide, and the 
little black ferry-boats that flew to and fro like 
incensed water-spiders, but this was only what might 
have been expected. What did seem a little hard to 
bear was, that when we were well out into mid-stream 
we should put back again to the quay, and embark 
a fresh cargo of passengers, who had been there from 
the beginning, apparently trying to make up their 
minds about whether they would go or not. It was 
merely a coquettish ruse on the part of the captain 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 49 

to make a pretended start ; but it had the desired 

effect, and when we did get off, every man of the 

malingerers was safely stacked on the forward deck. 

The tide was running up hard, fighting every inch 

of the way with the strong current of the river, and 

getting the best of it. It was a singularly dirty strife, 

involving, like an Irish election, much stirring up of 

the mud : a conflict in cafe au iait, with a sprinkling 

of cinders strewed on the top, is not romantic either 

in colour or suggestion ; but by dint of sunshine and 

strong blue sky, and the seeing it for the first time, 

there was a kind of furious beauty in the great 

stretch of river ahead of us, with its yellow waves 

leaping and wrestling out to the horizon. Bordeaux 

began to lessen down to a photographic view of itself ; 

the immense bridge and its arches dwindled to a long 

caterpillar, crawling many-legged across the stream ; 

the thousand delicate details of masts and yards 

melted into a cobwebby mist, and, behind all, the 

docker oi St. Michel towered above the blur of houses, 

a monument altogether too magnificent for the 

4 



50 IN THE VINE COUNTRY, 

deplorable little tribe of mummies that we had that 

morning viewed in its foundations. 

The first-class passengers maintained their attitude 
of suspicion as far as we were concerned ; and when, 




fAkw-K^iH 



AN INTERMITTENT PROCESSION OF MEN. 

after a period of discreet inoffensiveness, a sketch- 
book was called into requisition, they began to be 
quite sure that we were as objectionable as our 
clothing, and discussed us in groups, with such 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 51 

lightning side-glances as only French eyes can give. 
For a little time an intermittent procession of 
men strolled in an elaborately casual manner round 
behind the sketch-book ; but, finding themselves 
rewarded only by Arcadian glimpses of cattle, trees, 
and churches, they gradually settled down on their 
chairs again, and smoked the mysterious compound 
known to the French middle-classes as tobacco, while 
the cattle and the churches retired into the desert 
places of the sketch-book, and the page with the fat 
cure, his still fatter friend, and the insatiably curious 
little boy, came to light again. 

For the first half of the journey the steamer made 
her way down the river on the principle of Billy 
Malowny's exit from the wake, when *it wasn't so 
much the length of the road come agin him as the 
breadth.' Every house on each bank seemed to have 
a landing-place of its own, and a passenger to be 
landed at it ; we crossed and recrossed, as if we were 
beating to windward, and the Bordeaux merchants 
and bank clerks returned by scores to the bosoms 



52 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

of their families, and were no doubt epigrammatic at 
dinner on the subject of the two absurdly emanci- 
pated Anglaises, with their sailor hats and brown 
shoes. At all events, we were getting our first 
impressions of the Medoc slowly and thoroughly. 
We were in the thick of the Vine Country by this 
time ; everywhere, as far as we could see, the low 
slopes were seamed and striped with vines till they 
looked like green corduroy, and every large house 
among them was a chdteau, with a name more or 
less familiar even to the ignorant and unlearned. 
We had a map of the Medoc with us — a map that 
gave all the chateaux in heavy capitals, and added 
the towns as trivial necessities in diamond type ; it 
sometimes even gave a little picture of a particularly 
pet chdteaUj so that there might be no mistake about 
it. From this we identified the Chateau Margaux, 
the home of one of the four kings of the classified 
Medoc wines, sharing its select first-class with Lafite, 
Latour, and Haut-Brion, behind whom trails the 
sacred list of the classified, down to the fifth estate^ 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 53 

and after that the deluge of the bourgeois wines, 
most of which are good enough for any one, but are 
not quite of the blood royal. 

It is difficult to realise in the Medoc that the best 
wine in the world is made in places where there is no 
tall chimney or hideous range of manufactories. All 
that one sees is a two-storey country-house, with 
pointed towers at each end, standing in green vine- 
yard slopes, with somewhere in the background a 
group of inoffensive and often picturesque houses, 
painted pink, or some other frivolous colour, and not 
taking up as much room as the stables and yards 
at big houses in England. It is the extraordinary 
independence of grapes that gives this simplicity in 
wine-making. They do the whole thing themselves, 
only demanding to be let alone ; and not all the 
tall chimneys in England could coerce them into 
fermenting a day faster than they choose, or could 
give them any better flavour than their own laws 
decree. 

We had only one specimen of what is commonly 



54 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

felt to be landscape, and is spoken of as scenery, as 
opposed to mere contour, on our way to Pauillac. It 
was at a place on the right bank of the river, where 
the shore suddenly reared itself into cliffs of a sunny 
fawn colour, and apparently of a texture that was 
eminently suited for house building ; so supremely, 
in fact, that the people of the place had not troubled 
themselves to cart it away, but had come, like 
Mohammed, to the mountain, and had blasted them- 
selves out houses in it, and apparently finished them 
off with their penknives, or teaspoons, or any other 
implement that was convenient. Some people decor- 
ated the front of their cliff very handsomely with 
carved balustrades and porches ; others merely tidied 
down the rock a little round the windows, and helped 
out the angles here and there, and put chimneys on 
handy protuberances. It must have its points as a 
system of living ; when, for instance, the house is 
crowded for a wedding or a dance, they can dig out 
a few more spare rooms towards the front, and throw 
the stuff out of the windows. The rock cuts as easily 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 55 

as wood, and becomes perfectly hard in the air ; it is 
absolutely ideal in all useful respects, and in colour 
is beautiful, so cheerful and so tempered. We saw 
these tawny cliffs behind us for a long time, while the 
boat made her way into the broader flood of the 
Gironde. The sun made much of them as it sank, 
and their warm, friendly faces looked still after us in 
the twilight, when the west was glowing darkly, and 
the cold wind was forcing us to tramp to and fro 
in the short span of the deck till we were giddy. 

It was past seven o'clock when the lights of 
Pauillac sparkled ahead of us on the river bank, 
and we thankfully gathered together our baggage, 
suborned our sailor, and desired him to lead us to the 
Grand Hotel, the one to which we had been recom- 
mended. It was a good deal of a shock when he told 
us that the Grand Hotel had been closed for a year 
on account of the death of the proprietor. It was 
not the kind of intelligence to encourage strangers, 
arriving in darkness, believing -there was but one 
hotel in the town, and having desired all letters to be 



S6 IN THE VINE COUNTRY, 

addressed to them there. However, the sailor rose 
to the occasion. He was a wizened little man, with 
the tentacles of a cuttle fish and the administrative 
powers of a Cook. 

'But there are many other hotels, mesdames,' he 
said, while he attached some ten or twelve articles de 
voyage to his person. ' Come, I will conduct you to 
the best of them.' 

My second cousin's portmanteau, ballasted by the 
Kodak and the medicine chest, was hanging round his 
neck, and gave deadly impetus to his charge through 
the dense throng of jabbering peasants that was 
slowly squeezing itself up the gangway. But in spite 
of the confidence inspired by the sailor, it was in 
some anxiety of spirit that we hurried along after 
him, in darkness that was only streaked here and 
there by the rays of indifferent oil-lamps across a 
high-backed wooden bridge, and out on to a long 
and pathless tract of grass. Everything had for the 
moment a painful resemblance to the landing of 
Martin Chuzzlewit and Mark Tapley on the swampy 




A PLUNGE INTO THE UNKNOWN— ARRIVAL AT PAUILLAC. 
57 



. IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 59 

bank of the Mississippi in search of the city of Eden. 
How did we know what sort of stifling den above a 
restaurant it would be that the sailor called a hotel ? 
How did we know what compotes of grease and garlic 
we might have to eat there? We breathed more 
freely when we were deposited in the narrow hall of 
a house that had something of the air of a real hotel, 
and were met by an obsequious garcoii and a highly- 
respectable smell of beefsteak. We were shown our 
room, a palatially large one, with a light paper that 
would be an excellent background for mosquito- 
hunting, and we were told that txble cT/iote was nearly 
over, but that we could have whatever we wished. 

We said, ' OSufs stir le platj as we always feebly do 
when in doubt, and descended to a very warm and 
dinnerish little salle-a-inanger, full of black-haired fat 
men, and black bottles of vin ordinaire^ and pervaded 
by the satisfaction of those who have dined largely 
and well. 

Much strange talk buzzed round us in the thick 
Bordelais accent, while we waited for our eggs on the 



6o IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

plate : excited harangues about vintages and grapes, 
that bristled with facts so esoteric and so solid that 
my cousin said she would fetch the note-book at once, 




THE DOG APPROACHED WITH A SLOW POLITENESS. 

and slipped away with the graceful bow to the 
company that we had observed society at Pauillac 
demanded. I had embarked on the eggs before she 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 6i 

came back, and was thinking how I could best 
express the curious flavour of the grease in v\hich 
they were cooked, when I heard a sh'ght scuffle at 
the door, and saw my cousin dart in with inflated 
eyes of terror, followed by a black boar-hound of 
about four feet high, on whose back was clinging a 
monkey of more than usually human and terrifying 
aspect. The dog approached with a slow politeness, 
and, as he came, the monkey leaped to and fro from 
his back to the tables, the chairs, the handle of the 
door, anything in fact within reach of his chain that 
presented a surface of a quarter of an inch, with the 
swinging bound and rebound of a toy on a piece of 
indiarubber. We cowered behind our table, and the 
danger was for the time averted by the intervention 
of some personal friend of the monkey, who, to 
our unspeakable thankfulness, took him out of the 
room. 

But that night, when we had forgotten the incident 
and were going up the dark staircase to our room, my 
cousin, who was in the rear, uttered suddenly the 



62 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

most vulgar, kitchenmaid's shriek I have ever heard, 

and fled past me in a state bordering on convulsions, 

with a dark object swinging from the skirt of her 

dress. 

It was the monkey. 




CHAPTER IV. 

HUTTERS in the Medoc are serious affairs, 
impregnable barriers that are fastened 
irrevocably outside the windows, and 
admit neither air nor h'ght. Neither do they admit 
mosquitoes ; but we had so far seen none such, and 
we resolved to risk them, and sleep with the windows 
open. The mosquitoes forbore — perhaps we were 
caviare to their countrified tastes, or perhaps they 
missed the usual seasoning of garlic ; but the sun- 
shine that flamed in our windows at some six of the 
Waterbury (I have not mentioned before that my 
cousin is attached to a Waterbury watch by a leather 
strap) had no scruples in the matter. To slumber 
with the Medoc sun full on one's face is an art that 
takes some learning, and the first angry rift in the 
delicious sleep that French wool mattresses and 

63 



64 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

spring beds induce was broadened to a wide-awake 
torture by a series of rasping, whistling screeches 
from the street below, that made us grind our teeth, 
and remember every slate pencil that had ever 
squeaked on a slate. It was a matter that required 
instant investigation, and it was not a little startling 
to find a party of stonemasons perched like birds 
upon a scaffolding exactly opposite our windows, 
manipulating monster blocks of the creamy stone 
out of which they build everything in these parts. 
They were sawing and shaping these symmetrical 
blocks down in the street as easily as if they were 
cheese, and in time we became able to bear that iron 
screech of the saws tearing their way through the 
gritty stone ; indeed, it now lingers in our ears as a 
memory inseparable from sunshine, blue linen coats, 
and Pauillac. But the workmen on the scaffolding 
remained always a difficulty ; when we went out on 
to our private balcony to hang up our sponges, or to 
throw the tea-leaves into the gutter of an adjacent 
roof, it was embarrassing to have to lay bare these 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 65 

domestic arrangements to an audience seated, seem- 
ingly, in the sky, not fifteen feet away. But they 
were companionable people, and, if they had not had 
a habit of walking over chasms on single planks, with 
blocks of stone two feet square balanced on their 
heads, we should have got quite fond of them. 

When we had finished, with the help of a battalion 
of flies, our petit dejeuner of excellent caf^aulait^ 
admirable butter, and sour bread, we were conducted, 
at our own request, to the kitchen to interview 
Madame, having while at breakfast made up from 
Bellows' Dictionary all the words under the headings 
of ' vine ' and * grape ' with a view to the conversation. 
Madame was a solid lady, built much on the lines of 
a cottage loaf, full of years, of good and greasy living, 
and possessed of an almost excessive repose of 
manner. She sat immutably in the kitchen window, 
and kept a frugal eye on the cook and her handful of 
wood embers, while she directed her houshold and 
read the feuilleton in her five-centimes Bordeaux 
paper. 



66 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

All the country was ' en plein vendange^ she told 
us; wherever we went we could see the vintagers, and 




MADAME. 

if we wished to make a 'jolie petite course a pied' we 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY, 67 

could not do better than walk to the little village of 
St. Lambert. En effei, she herself was proprietaire^ 
and it would give her son great pleasure to show us 
his cuvier and all else that we might care to see. 

' And peasants ? ' we said vaguely ; * we want to 
talk to the peasants.' 

Madame looked slightly bewildered. 

^ II y en avait bien assez de ces gens-la I ' she said, 
with a contempt that we afterwards understood, when 
we heard she had been a peasant herself. ' I have 
a peasant of my own ; ces dames can go and talk to 
her as much as they wish/ 

The broad esplanade was full of sun, and dogs, 
and sailors, as we debouched upon it with our 
note - books, sketch - books, and the Kodak, at 
some nine o'clock of the morning. A steamer 
was hooting at the wooden pier over which we 
had crawled in gloomy fatigue the night before ; 
a boat with a big lug-sail was performing wonder- 
ful and strange manoeuvres of going about with 
the help of the current ; and a full-rigged ship, with 



68 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

a dazzling green hull, was being towed up to 
Bordeaux by a black and misshapen tug-boat called 
Ercule, the family name of all Bordeaux tug-boats. 
It seemed to be a market or fete day of a minor 
sort in Pauillac ; something connected with a saint, 
probably, which in Ireland would have meant that 
every one would have gone to Mass and done no 
work for the rest of the day ; but here every one 
worked, just as they did on Sunday, and the 
people who had no work to do went about and 
enjoyed themselves. We remember once asking 
a man at home why the people were going to Mass 
and what holy day it was. He said he didn't 
rightly know, but he thought the 'Blessed Vargin' 
was implicated. We did not find out who or 
what it was that was implicated in the Pauillac 
fete, but we take this opportunity of thanking 
them for celebrating themselves on our first day 
in the Mddoc. All manner of unexpected things 
and people went by on their way to the town that 
straggled on the hill behind the Boulevard de la 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 69 

Marine. Donkey - carts, waggons, and charettes, 
driven by brown - faced, white - capped women, or 
boys in flat felt caps of scarlet or blue, — the berets 
that are found up the west of France from Biar- 
ritz to Brittany, — a man on stilts, stalking by with 






-^»s? 




T% 



A mI;doc dog-cart. 



the grave composure of a heron ; and, creeping 
through the midst of all these, came now and again 
a long cart drawn by fawn - coloured oxen, who 
paced with that swinging saunter that became 
afterwards so familiar to us, their faces and sleek 
bodies covered absurdly with a thick netted 



70 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

material to keep the flies off, and their neatly-shod 
hoofs keeping time like clockwork. 

We had been told by Madame the way we 
should go, and we walked in it with alacrity, 
especially when it involved leaving the white, sandy 
high - road, and crossing a vineyard, the property 
of our amiable hostess. It was the first time that 
we had been let loose on grapes in this fashion, 
and we fell upon them with an incredulous delight, 
that was scarcely checked by the hideous discovery 
made at this period, that the dog and the monkey 
had followed us. The monkey was chained to the 
dog's collar, — that was always something, — but it 
was none the less disturbing to see suddenly, while 
stooping to cut one of the long blue bunches, the 
little black face with its blinking eyes looking 
greedily and cunningly through the leaves, and 
the nimble clammy claw extended imperiously 
for the grapes that we were afraid to refuse. 
They were delicious grapes — small and sweet 
and * inconvayniently crowded ' with juice, as a 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 71 

certain Irish wood was reputed to be with 
woodcock, and so tightly packed on their stalks 
that it was difficult to pick the first one of the 
bunch. We, however, overcame this difficulty 
nobly. 

Our arrival at the village of St. Lambert was 
attended with considerable pomp. The procession 
was headed by the proprietor, who had overtaken 
us on his tricycle, and now rode very slowly and 
majestically before us, eating grapes ; next came 
Cesar, the dog, bestridden by the monkey (also 
eating grapes), and thereby inspiring the most 
agonising panic in all other dogs along the road ; 
then we came, carrying the Kodak, and bending 
under bunches of grapes ; and after us an enthusi- 
astic body, composed of the infant population of 
St. Lambert, announcing in clear tones, to all 
whom it might concern, that 'These' — meaning us 
— were ' des etrangeres' 

The procession was halted about half way through 
the straggling village ; the tricycle turned up a 



72 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

side street, and the next moment we had our first 
sight of wine-making. 

There was an archway in one of the long white 
houses, an archway of a shape that we knew very 
well before we left the Medoc. It was a kind of 
large window in the wall, about four feet from the 
ground, with a heap of brown and bare grape stalks 
outside it, and, looking in, we saw in full swing the 
working of one of the oldest trades in the world. 
It must be admitted that we found it startling. 
In the mouth of the archway was a broad and 
shallow wooden receptacle, called the pressoir ; 
heaped up in it were mounds of grapes, all black 
and shining, with their splendid indigo bloom gone 
for ever, and, splashing about amongst them, bare- 
footed, and ankle-deep in the thick magenta juice, 
were the treaders of the winepress. It was those 
bare feet, crimsoned with juice, that took our 
whole attention for the first few minutes. We had 
been given uncertain warnings as to what we might 
or might not see, but we had always hoped against 




A TREADER OF THE WINEPRESS. 

73 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 75 

hope for sabots. I think the proprietor felt for 
us — not sympathetically, of course, but compas- 
sionately. He hastened to explain that the ferment- 
ing process purified everything; the old plan had 
been for the men to join hands and dance round 
and round \hQ pressoir, trampling the juice out of 
the grapes, and singing a little sacrificial vintage 
sone, but now nothing; like that obtained. All 
this was very consoling and nice, but it did not in 
the least mitigate the horror that fate had in store 
for us. 

We had watched the carts unloading the big 
douilles packed with grapes at the mouth of the 
archway, and had heard, and straightway forgotten, 
how many douilles were yielded by an acre. We 
had seen with considerable repugnance the wiry 
and handsome little blue-clad workmen scrub the 
berries from the stems on the grillage, a raised 
grating that let the bruised grapes fall through, 
while the stalks remained on the top. We had 
watched them shovel the grapes in dripping shovel- 



76 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

fuls into a small double-handled barrel, which was 
then snatched up by two of them, who, with it on 
their shoulders, would trot across the dusty floor of 
the cuvier, up two ladders that leaned side by 
side against a tall vat, and, having emptied their 
load into this immense maw, would trot back, and 
jump into the pressoir again. Through all these 
things we clung to the beautiful, purifying thought 
of the fermentation, and said to each other that 
when we ordered our bottle of Grand St. Lambert 
at our English hotel we should see that we got it, 
and would think fondly as we drank it of that 
good, comforting process. At this juncture one 
of the barefooted and blue-clad workmen ap- 
proached with a small tumbler in his singularly 
dirty hand. 

* These ladies would like to taste the mot'it! he 
observed, dipping the tumbler in a tub half full of 
the muddy juice that was trickling out of the 
pressoir. He proffered us the tumbler with a bow, 
and we looked at each other in speechless horror. 




TASTING THE MOOt. 



78 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 79 

We were quite certain we should not like to taste 
it ; but there in front of us was held the tumbler, 
with behind it a pair of politely observant black 
eyes, and an unbroken flow of commendation in 
sing - song Bordelais French. We were assured 
that the nioilt was delicious, mild, and sweet, that 
the vintagers drank it every day by the gallon, 
and, lastly, that it was very wholesome ; and we 
replied with a ghastly smile that we were not 
concerned about its wholesomeness, we did not 
contemplate a surfeit just at first ; while all the 
time we heard the splashing of the feet in the 
pressoir, and the quiet trickle ot the juice into the 
tub. The inevitable moment came, in spite of 
temporising, and the glass was put into my hand. 
The stuff was a sort of turgid magenta, thick and 
greyish, with little bubbles in it, and the quarter 
of a teaspoonful that I permitted to ooze between 
my lips was deadly, deadly sweet, and had a faint 
and dreadful warmth. That I swallowed it shows 
partly my good breeding and partly my extreme 



8o IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

desire that my second cousin should not be dis- 
couraged. 

' Cest bon ? Hein ? ' said the vignero7i. ' (^a voits 
fera du bien ! ' 

He said bong and biang in the friendly British 
way that they pronounce such words in the Medoc. 
(We had already found that if we could relax the 
strain, and, obeying our native instincts, talk about 
vang, and say combiang, we should do well with 
the Bordelais) I turned to watch the effect on 
the other victim, but found that she had retreated 
with extraordinary stealth and swiftness to the 
far end of the aivier, and, having mounted one of 
the ladders that leaned against a giant cuve^ was 
looking down into its pitchy depths. It is one of 
the most unamiable traits in my cousin's character 
that she has neither enterprise nor good fellowship 
about tasting nasty things, and I immediately led 
the vigneron to the foot of the cuve with a fresh 
and brimming tumbler of mojit. 

The wood of the great barrel was quite warm, 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 8i 

and from within came a low humming, like a swarm 
of bees high up in a chimney. I went up the 
second ladder, and looked down into a darkness 
that had black gleams in it like a coal-cellar, show- 
ing where was the surface of the sweltering mass 
of grapes. My cousin hurried into conversation 
about it, regardless of the sour, heady smell of 
the fermentation, until we heard a voice below 
warning us not to stoop so long over the fumes ; 
and then I felt that it was quite worth the disgust- 
ing flavour of moi^t that still haunted my palate to 
see her come down the ladder and find the man 
with the tumbler waiting for her at the foot of it. 
I could never have believed that she would have 
been so lost to all sense of politeness and policy 
as to dodge past his extended hand and bolt 
through an unknown doorway into a dark room 
that had apparently nothing in it except a great 
deal of straw and a musty draught. 

It was a very long room, so I saw as I fol- 
lowed, lighted principally by an open door at the 

G 



82 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

far end of it, and over half the floor was strewn a 
thick litter of straw. The open door framed an 
oblong of glaring white road, and tendrils of vine 
with the sun shining through their leaves, and 
the light struck up on the boarded ceiling, and 
dealt mercifully with the details of a long table 
with black bottles on it that was disposed beyond 
the region of the straw. 

* It is here that the vintagers eat and sleep,' said 
the vignerotty taking a loving sip from the tumbler 
for fear it should overflow. ' Mais voild I ' — with 
ecstasy — * mademoiselle is about to walk upon one 
of them ! He has drunk too much of the mollt ! ' 

My cousin was plunging her way through the 
straw with uncertain strides and without her 
eyeglasses, so that it must have been a consider- 
able shock to her when a crimson face with a white 
beard reared itself from the straw at her feet, and 
stared with a petrified terror at this episode in the 
dreams induced by moitt. It was not only at her, 
however, that the old man thus gazed transfixed. 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 83 

The monkey had escaped, and was advancing, 
evidently much exhilarated by the straw, with de- 
moniac leaps and cries, and doubtless the vintager 
was reahsing that he must have got * them ' very 
badly this time. Whatever he may have thought, 
the monkey settled the question for my cousin. 
She fled back to us, and when in safety took her 
gulp of 7nout with a heroism that I well knew to 
be a refinement of spite. 



CHAPTER V. 




The sitting-room in our hotel at 
Pauillac was discovered and an- 
nexed by us on the afternoon of 
our first day in the Medoc. It 
|{ was a large room and a pleasant, 
and, so far as we were aware, 
had never before been trodden 
by the foot ()( man ; certainly none trod it once 
we had taken possession. The sandy bootmarks 
that we distributed about its polished red floor 
remained there during the whole of our stay at 
Pauillac undisturbed by a brush, and unmingled 
with the footprint of the ncgociant en vins. The two 
big plaited maize-straw arm-chairs stood at atten- 
tion by the table just as they were left; and, most 
wonderful of all, we could open the windows and know 

84 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 85 

they would not be shut the moment our backs were 
turned. Apparently the other people in the hotel had 
no time to spend in the sitting-room. The wine 
merchants went forth in loud companies every morn- 
ing, but — like the Irish lady who was said to be 'the 
most thronging woman ever you seen ; sure, she'd 
go out o' the house twenty times for the once she'd 
come in ' — they never seemed to return, and, whatever 
may have happened to them, the salon remained 
undisturbedly ours. 

It was while sitting at tea at the large admirable 
table belonging to this room, on the afternoon of our 
first experience in the cuviers, that we became con- 
scious of the eye of the Kodak regarding us from 
behind our eighteenpenny teapot with a cold reproach. 
As yet the gardens on the Thames Embankment 
reigned in lonely beauty in the recesses of the 
machinery ; nothing French had been given to the 
mysterious custody of the black box, though we had 
carried it, at considerable inconvenience, to the ciivier 
of St. Lambert in the morning. The right moment 



86 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

never seemed to come ; the sun was where it ought 
not to be, or we were afraid that the suitable peasant 
might be offended, and we had besides a latent dis- 
belief in the Kodak's willingness to deal with southern 
sunshine and a foreign sky tingling with light. 

* It has the surly English turn in it somewhere,' my 
cousin had said, with Galway arrogance. But it was 
now saying * Ici on park Fram^ais ' with all the power 
of its sunken eye ; and as soon as we had thrown the 
tea-leaves out of the window, and hidden the jug of 
cold boiled milk behind the stuffed fox on the side- 
table, we went down and ordered a wagonette for 
the next morning from a livery stable, and felt that 
we were going to do our duty seriously by the Kodak. 

The weather certainly did its part of the business 
to perfection. The sun blazed upon our departure, as 
we emerged from the hotel in the morning, and the 
heat came through the cool wind in streaks, as the 
vanille biscuit intersects the aching monotony of the 
lemon ice. Under the awning outside the coffee-room 
windows sat Madame, filling out her straw chair in 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 87 

magnificent meditation. Ours had been the last of 
the petits dejeuners, so that there was no longer any 
need for her to watch over the expenditure of red 
embers and cafe att lait in the kitchen, and she could 
now exhibit her elegant leisure and her blue cloth 
slippers to the loungers of Pauillac for an hour or so. 
We wished, for her sake, that the wagonette was larger 
and had two horses, and that the Kodak's resemblance 
to a box of ' samples ' had not given us so much the 
effect of commercial travellers ; but she gave us a 
' bonne promenade', and a wave of the hand, that showed 
she had a heart that did not despise the humble. 

Before we had got clear of the town, our cocker had 
begun to betray symptoms of intelligence. Our 
directions as to where we wished to go had been but 
vague, and, twisting himiself round on his seat, he 
cross-questioned us until he had grasped the situation. 
* These demoiselles wished to see vineyards and 
vintagers at work in them, voyons I ' — he twisted up 
the ends of his little black moustache, and grinned at 
us with unutterable comprehension, till his fat cheeks 



88 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

must have impeded his vision. ' And they wish to 
make t\\Q photographie ? Eh, bien ! It is I who know 
where to conduct them. Allons, I will make them 
to see Chateau Latour ! ' His black eyes beamed 
delightedly upon us, and his horse crawled unmolested 
down the hill, while a series of apparently agreeable 
ideas displayed themselves on its driver's face. He 
resumed his usual position on the box, cracked his 
whip, and frightened the horse into a canter by saying 
^ Hue r in a soprano voice. 

It was very satisfactory. We told each other that 
we had indeed lighted upon a treasure — a man who 
understood what photography was, and who seemed 
to know the sort of things we wanted to photograph. 
We did not know that his mind was occupied in 
mapping out conveniently those, of his friends whom 
he wished to visit, to photograph, to impress generally 
with his position of Cicero' (as a county Cork paper 
has classically expressed this office) ; but we realised 
all these things afterwards. 

We drove for a while through the broad stretches 






' N 







•r '-^ 






90 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 91 

of the vineyards, where the myriad low vines stood 
with their octopus arms drooping untidily over the 
supporting wire, and the grapes hung heavy and ripe, 
taking their last look of the sun before their plunge 
into the seething night of the ciives. No one but the 
ardent negociant en vins could, we think, call the Medoc 
a beautiful land. Even at its gayest and greenest 
time these long slopes require all the romance and 
richness and mystery of the grapes to give them 
an interest, and the much-vaunted fact that the land 
was annually worth anything from ^^250 to ;^8oo per 
acre cannot give it the sympathy that lies in an Irish 
hillside of furze and rock, whose price is adjusted in 
shillings and pence by Sub-Commissioners of the Land 
Court. 

The vintage had hardly begun. We had to drive 
for some distance before we saw the first group of 
vendangeurs, standing waist-deep in the vines, snipping 
off the bunches and putting them into square wooden 
baskets, eating grapes by handfuls, and talking in a 
penetrating, incessant gabble that was as strident on 



92 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

the quiet vineyard slope as were the dazzHng white 
sun-bonnets and kerchiefs and blue blouses in the 
toneless expanse of green. The Treasure pulled up, 
informing us that here was a suitable subject for 
photography, and we docilely got the Kodak into 
position. The vintagers turned as one man to stare 
at us, and we tried to isolate some half-dozen in the 
little focussing mirror, while the Treasure leaped 
from his box, and, circulating among the crowd, 
explained to them his position of proprietor of the 
entertainment with a sense of its humour that was 
only kept within bounds by the still stronger sense 
of self-importance. My cousin balanced the Kodak 
on her arm with all care, and said, ' Mainteiiant 
tres tranquille, s'il voits plait!' to the mirrored 
half-dozen, who with one accord shrieked with 
delight, put their arms round each other, did their 
hair, and otherwise prepared themselves for the 
ordeal. 

' How fortunate it is that they don't object to being 
photographed ! ' said my cousin. ' Now, you pull the 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 93 

bobbin — I mean the button — and I will press the 
other thing.' 

There followed a disintegrating click from the 
heart of the Kodak. 

* The photograph is taken,' said my cousin, not as 
confidently as could have been wished. ' What did 
the book say we were to do next .-* ' 

' Put a penny in the slot,' I suggested. 

' Idiot ! ' replied my cousin, searching in my sketch- 
ing wallet on the earthquake principle — that is, to 
go at once to the lowest depths, and then to burst 
upwards and outwards through all resisting elements. 
'Here is the book ! It says we are now to turn this 
handle and replace the cap.' 

The handle was turned, and it was then discovered 
that the cap was irretrievably lost. It was not on the 
floor of the wagonette, it was not in our pockets, it 
was not in the hood of my cousin's cloak, or in her 
hand, or anywhere that it might reasonably have been. 
We said that we would hold a hat over the thing 
instead, and on going to the front for this purpose I 



94 /^ THE VINE COUNTRY. 

became aware that the black cap was nestHng in its 
usual place in front of the lens. It was one of the 
bitterest points of the incident that at this moment 
the group at whom the Kodak's sightless eye had been 
directed, advanced upon us to see results, doubtless 
expecting that each of its six members would receive 
on the spot a picture on glass with a brass frame. 

It was so surpassingly difficult to explain the acci- 
dent and the general peculiarities of the Kodak, and 
the disappointment and scorn were so unconcealed 
when the faltering photographers finally made them- 
selves understood, that as a possible, though doubtful 
method of consolation, I plunged among the vines 
and began a pencil sketch of the disappointed ones. 
In an instant the cocker was at my shoulder, summon- 
ing all the others with a wave of his hand to come 
and see the show. It is scarcely necessary to add 
that they came, and for the next five minutes I and 
my models were the centre of a hollow square, which 
was, so to speak, lined and canopied with billowy 
vapours of garlic. 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 95 

The sketch was finished with unexampled speed, 
and in the teeth of the most scathing criticism, the 
critics showing an artistic intelHgence that was almost 
unearthly, and for which an experience of the Irish 
peasant was no sort of preparation. I broke my way 
forth from the square, amidst shrill bursts of laughter 
and shrieks of ' del ! Que je sins vilaine I ' * Mais 
regarde mot tin peu le chai)eaii de Jeanne ! ' ' Eh I 
Dieu! Cest pas nioi qal Ouf ! C est vilaine!^ and, 
having collected my cousin from red-handed gluttony 
in the background, we succeeded in driving away in 
time to prevent the sketch-book being torn bodily out 
of my hand. 

We ventured after a few minutes to ask the Treasure 
where he was now taking us, and after a long and 
meditative grin at each of us in turn, he condescended 
to tell us that we were going to see the vintagers at 
their dinner. Almost as he spoke we whirled in at 
the gate of a big yard, and saw, under a penthouse 
at the end of it, a kind of school feast going on : rows 
of tables covered with platters and jugs, and rows of 



96 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

vintagers devouring untold quantities of vintage soup. 
Our cocker drove straight up to these, and, having 
whirled showily round, drew up with the air of 
Napoleon confronting his army, and addressed the 
meeting. As he progressed with his explanation of 
our mission we gloomily produced the Kodak, and 
waited for the outward rush of those who wished to 
be immortalised : we were becoming alive to the fact 
that the Medoc peasant had not that shrinking from 
publicity that we had believed. But providentially 
the succulent soup, with the meat and cabbage and 
bread floating in it, was too good to be left in a hurry, 
and at the end of our driver's address one candidate 
only came forward, an extremely plump young lady, 
with an expression of placid self-contentment, and an 
apron of an infuriated Scotch plaid. The Treasure 
leaped from his box like an antelope, and, leading her 
forth to a convenient spot, proceeded to pose her 
according to his own ideas. After a few experimental 
positions the inspiration came, and we had the 
privilege of focussing the fair vendangeiisc^ standing 




THK TKEASUKE WAS POSED BESIDE HEK, WITH lilS EAT ARM ROUND HEK NECK. 

98 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 99 

placidly heedless of the fact that the Treasure, with 
his moustache twisted up to his eyes, from the very 
extremity of gallantry, was posed beside her, with his 
fat arm round her neck. Thus they were photo- 
graphed, and as the words ^ C est fait' were uttered, 
the Treasure's hat was raised with a flourish, and a 
ponderous kiss was deposited upon the cheek of beauty. 
There was a roar of delight from the luncheon party 
under the penthouse ; even the photographers so far 
forgot themselves as to titter sympathetically, and 
as our cocker whipped up his horse, and swung out of 
the yard on two wheels, he turned to us and winked 
with an intimacy that made my cousin take out 
her most unbecoming pair of spectacles and put 
them on, in order to sustain the character of the 
expedition. 

After this the events of the day became blended 
into a monotony of hot green vineyards, with pink 
and white houses on the hazy horizon ; narrow roads, 
without a fence between their warm yellow gravel and 
the yellow gravel in which the vines grow ; gangs of 



100 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

vintagers stooping among the plants ; fawn-coloured 
oxen pacing at ease with their loads ; the clack and 
twang of Bordelais tongues ; and, most prominent of 




FAWN-COLOURED OXEN. 



all ingredients, the heat and the Kodak. Every friend 
of the cocker was found and photographed, the sketch- 
book was utilised for those who insisted on an im- 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. loi 

mediate result, and, as the afternoon sun began to 
drop towards the western uplands, we hoped that we 
might, in the fulness of time, be permitted to go home. 
But the Treasure had yet another friend, one who 
lived still farther away from Pauillac, and it was not 
till we had driven for half an hour that we saw in 
front of us the now familiar chai, with its arched open- 
ing into the acvier, and its magenta-legged proprietor 
standing inside in the juice, shovel in hand. It was 
becoming too late in the day for the Kodak, and the 
cocker desired that a sketch should be made of this 
most particular friend, and also of the friend's wife, 
whom, in the twinkling of an eye, he had fetched from 
her house and placed on the edge of the pressoir in 
utter absurdity and incongruity. But the artist was 
too completely subjugated to remonstrate ; even when 
the sketch-book was snatched from her by the cocher 
and deposited in the vinous fingers of the grape treader 
with long and loud explanation of every page, she 
merely sank back in voiceless despair. 

We heard without interest or emotion that we were 



102 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

to be driven home by a different and longer way. 
Our only articulate longing was for tea, but that 
being a mere vision, as impossible as beautiful, we 
gradually took refuge in fatalism, telling ourselves 
that if we got home that night, well and good ; if 
not, we could sleep in the wagonette, waking up 
obediently at intervals to make moonlight sketches 
of such of the cocker's friends as he chose to summon 
from their beds for the purpose. We were in the act 
of dividing our last gingerbread, while the cool breath 
of the Medoc evening gave us its first nip, and the 
vines became fragrant in the dew, and the chorus 
of cigales in the roadside grass sounded like the 
rhythmic reeling of line off innumerable trout-rods, 
when I was thrown violently against my cousin by 
the collapse of the wagonette on one side, and after 
an instant of extreme anxiety and discomfort, we 
found ourselves rolled out in a heap into the vines, 
with the cigales^ note at our very ears, and the hind 
wheel of the wagonette finding a bed for itself in the 
shallow .ditch beside us. 




104 




CHAPTER VI. 

E stood side by side, my cousin and I, and 
viewed the disaster with the gloomy, help- 
less ignorance of jurymen at a coroner's 
inquest, and the mirage of tea that had risen before 
our thirsty eyes a few moments before, sank into the 
yellow sand in which wallowed our broken-winged 
wagonette. 

The cocker made light of it. There was a black- 
smith quite close — en effet, a cousin of his own, and 
a man of great intelligence, and all would be arranged 
in a little quarter of an hour. My cousin with some 
trouble disinterred the Waterbury — she was in the 
habit of saying that she had no wish to display it as 
jewellery, but it seemed to me she might have struck 
a mean between a chatelaine or a wristlet, and a lair 
so profoundly situated that I hesitated to ask her the 

105 



io6 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

hour unless I knew she was going to bed. It was 
half-past six o'clock ; the blacksmith, however in- 
telligent, could not come without being fetched, the 
re-fixing of the wheel would take some time, getting 
back to Pauillac would take some more, and the 
evening was becoming chilly, as October evenings even 
in the Medoc have a knack of doing. Our driver 
had by this time untackled the tired white horse, and 
we were all pacing along toward nothing more 
definite than the setting sun, while hunger and ill- 
temper ran neck and neck in our bosoms. The road 
stretched implacably on to the horizon, its yellow 
reaches turning grey as the warmth slowly went out 
of the sky ; the vintagers had all gone home to their 
dinners, and there was nothing moving except the 
topsails of a ship that glided spectrally along behind 
the shoulder of a low hill on our left, and told us of 
the nearness of the great river highway where the 
steamers and sailing vessels were going on their way, 
sublimely independent of such things as linch-pins or 
table d'hote at Pauillac. 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY, 107 

Two stone pillars, a small clump of trees, and a 
railed-in track connecting these, broke at length the 
blue-green monotony of the vines ; and a low gate, 
with a little black-pinafored girl sitting on it, seemed 
to suggest a house somewhere near. It also suggested 
a possibility of repose till such time as the carriage 
should be repaired, and we stopped the cocker and 
his flow of conversation to ask if there was a house 
la-bas. Perfectly, there was a house. Did he think 
its proprietor would permit us to rest there till, etc. 
etc.? Perfectly, again; in fact, the lady to whom it 
belonged was yet another of his cousins, a person 
altogether charming, Madame Suzanne Marcault, and 
behold one of her children. The little girl was here 
imported into the conversation, and after some inter- 
change of patois, we found ourselves following the 
black pinafore up the narrow lane, to demand hospi- 
tality from Madame Marcault in the name of M. 
Joseph Blossier. 

It had become almost dark, and presently the last 
of the light was lost under a thick trellis of vines; 



io8 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

then our noses were smitten by a smell of almost 
painful deliciousness, and our small guide, who had 
demurely stepped along in front of us, suddenly ran 
round the corner of a wall that half closed the end of 
the lane, and we heard ourselves announced — 

* Maman ! V^la deux A nglaiscs ! ' 

We followed upon the heels of this introduction, 
and found ourselves at the wide-open door of a 
cottage kitchen, wherein a broad-backed peasant 
woman was stacking logs on a blazing wood fire, and 
was thereby stimulating a couple of cauldrons to 
a state of bubbling perfumed ecstasy. This was 
Madame Suzanne Marcault. 

We decided afterwards that we had never met 
any one with quite such good manners as Madame 
Suzanne. Hers was one of the many cuisines de 
vendanges, and we had stumbled in upon her at the 
critical moment known to the Irish cook as 'dishing- 
in the dinner,' but not for a second did she let us 
realise how intensely inconvenient our visit must 
have been. Her politeness was as sincere as the 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 109 

smell of her potage^ and the fulness of her sympathy 
as we recounted our adventure was not in the least 




fr%% 



daunted by the fact that my cousin alternately referred 



no IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

to the wheel as the bone or the i^ue. Her heart was 
so kind that she felt what we meant. 

While we were still labouring with our story, 
wheels were heard on the road, and a whip 
exploded into a coruscation of crackings at the 
door. 

'Ah, Dieii ! Les vHld pour le diner I Depeche- 
toi, voyons ! ' A long row of quaint brown and 
yellow earthen vessels was set out on a table along 
one wall of the kitchen ; there must have been two or 
three dozen of them, but in a few whirling minutes 
our hostess and the little girl had not only filled them 
with the savoury contents of the cauldrons, but had 
somehow or other stacked them all in the gig that 
had just driven up to the door. 

* Nous liavons pas du monde ce soir, explained 
Madame Suzanne, when she had ladled out the last 
potful of soup, and had settled down into a sort of 
steaming tranquillity. * lis sont tons la-bas, pres St. 
Estiphe' ' They ' meant the vintagers to whom she 
was temporary cook, and while the wheels, or rather 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. in 

the wheel, of our chariot still tarried, we fell into 
discourse with her about them. 

' Le patron feeds them well, pardil she said. 
* Tiens^ would ces dames like to taste the soupe de 
vendange ? ' 

We tasted it, and it was perhaps the noble flavour 
of that vintage soup that inspired the scheme that 
simultaneously occurred to us both. Should we ask 
this nice woman, with her Irish friendliness, and her 
sympathetic comprehension of bad French, and her 
excellent cookery, to put us up for the night ? We 
discussed it hurriedly between scalding, inelegant 
mouthfuls of soup, sopped bread, and tresses of 
cabbage, interspersed with flatteries on its quality. 
We wanted to see the Medoc an fond, — what more 
than this could show us its nethermost profundities ? 
If we had lived out a night in a Connemara cottage, 
could we not stand one in a French fer me f So clean, 
so convenient, so glowing with local colour. Was it 
not almost a duty to accept such an opportunity ? 

It is a useful thing to be pronounced eccentricities. 



112 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

As we dififidently unfolded the suggestion to Suzanne, 
she put her hands on her hips and smiled at us with 
that smile of lenient amusement with which our 
sojourn in the Medoc was making us familiar. It 
was (^xo\\ pardi ! She had never before hdid pensio7i- 
naheSy but she had once been servant in a hotel, and 
if we feared the long drive in the cold — this was how 
we had put it — she would know how to make us 
comfortable. Voyons ! 

Delightful creature ! so practical, so unconventional, 
so Irish in fact, we said to each other, as we listened 
to her explaining our scheme, with bursts of laughter, 
to M. Joseph Blossier, who had come to tell us that 
the carriage would be ready toiit-a-rjieure. We had 
left her to deal with him ; he required a more 
masterful treatment than our French would rise to, 
and it was with sincere thankfulness that we finally 
saw him depart, with promises to return for us in the 
morning with sundry essentials enumerated in a note 
to L^onie, owx femme de chambre. 

We sat hungrily in a corner of the kitchen while 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 113 

the little girl spread a surprisingly clean cloth on the 
table, and Madame Suzanne stirred the ragoiU, and 
delicately added to it some further finishings which 
we trusted were not garlic. The yellowish walls and 
the smoke-stained wooden ceiling took the firelight 
with warm good fellowship ; the blue china-tiled stove, 
hard-working aide-de-camp to the big open fireplace, 
sent an upward glow from its red charcoal upon the 
glittering array of pots and pans and glazed earthen 
vessels upon the wall above it ; and round the open 
door the vine leaves and bunches of grapes were 
emphasised theatrically by the firelight, and the last 
light of the evening and the whirring of the cigales 
came strangely through them from without. The 
master of the house was late, and feeling, no doubt, 
like other hostesses, that the interval before dinner 
required alleviation, Madame Suzanne offered to 
show us over the rest of her house. 

She began paradoxically by leading us out of it, 
and then took her way round the corner of the house 
under the grape trellis. She stopped at what was 



114 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

apparently a coach-house door, and after some differ- 
ence of opinion between a large key and its keyhole, 
pushed it open. A blast of cold air nearly extin- 
guished the flame of the little chimneyless lamp that 
she carried, as we followed her into a lofty barn, with 
giant barrels looming round its walls, and permeated 
with the sour, unforgetable, indescribable smell of a 
M^doc aivier. This place was about forty feet long, 
and at the end of it we dimly descried a ladder, with 
a hand-rail, mounting to a door high up in the wall. 
Towards this we incredulously followed our hostess, 
and having stumbled up it after her, found ourselves 
in a musty loft ; and then, saying something, whose 
import we did not quite catch, about her eldest 
daughter, Suzanne unlocked another door, and told 
us that this was where we were to sleep. Our 
courage receded to the toes of our boots ; were we to 
share the room with that eldest daughter, or could it 
be that we were to join in an even more general 
family party? It was a long bare room, with nothing 
in it except a very large bed, swathed and canopied 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 115 

all over with heavy brown draperies, a chair, and a 
small table in the middle of the room, on which was 
a toy piano, a manual of devotion, and a little mirror 
made of something resembling tinfoil. 

* It seems we need not have sent for our washing- 
gear,' observed my cousin. ' I wish we were well out 
of this.' 

' It is a pretty bed, /^^m .^' said the amiable Suzanne, 
thumping the awful brown swaddlings of our couch. 
* And you need fear nothing ; my husband and I 
and la petite sleep in there.' She pointed to another 
door. ' If you are ill, anything, you have but to 
knock ' — 

' And mademoiselle, votre fille atne'e ? ' we fal- 
tered. 

Oitf! We need not trouble ourselves about her. 
It was but last week that she had had a fever in that 
very bed — a fever scarcely worth mentioning ; but 
she was now in Bordeaux for change of air : ' et 
maintenant, mes demoiselles^ descendons I ' 

We did not dare to inquire further as to 



ii6 IN THE VINE COUNTRY, 

Mademoiselle Marcault's fever, but we felt that it gave 
the finishing touch of horror to those dusky draperies. 
It was too late now, however, to' draw back, and, ex- 
pressing a lying satisfaction in all that we had seen, we 
followed our hostess's devious course to the kitchen. 
M. Marcault was there with another man, who, it was 
explained, was a friend who had come to dine. Both 
were dressed in blue linen blouses, and were of the 
sharp-nosed, long-moustached type common in Medoc 
and both rose and bowed solemnly as Madame 
Suzanne introduced us. 

^ Deux demoiselles Irlandaisesl she explained, with 
an up-and-down flourish of the lamp, in order that no 
details of the appearance of the maniacs might be 
lost, * who are anxious to become acquainted with an 
interieiir paysan' At this juncture we were far more 
anxious that la nourritiire paysanne should become 
acquainted with our interior, but we made reply in 
fitting terms, and beguiled the remaining interval 
before dinner with political conversation. We always 
found it advisable in France to announce our true 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 117 

nationality as soon as convenient. We found our- 
selves at once on a different and more friendly 
footing, and talk had a pleasant tendency to drift 
into confidential calumny of our mutual neighbour, 
perfidious Albion, and all things ran smoother and 
more gaily. Dinner was ready at last, and we all 
sat down very close to each other round the narrow 
table. Suzanne fetched the soup and the ragotit off 
the stove, and helped us all out of the pot. Our 
glasses were filled with excellent ordinaire^ and we 
began to think it was a charming party. The two 
men were most agreeable and instructive, talking with 
astonishing ease and well - bred self- possession on 
any subject that was started, and giving us much 
useful information on the subject of vines and vine- 
growing. 

We were most careful to copy our hosts in all things. 
We put salt in our soup with the blades of our knives ; 
we absorbed the rich sauce of our delicious ragoitt with 
pieces of bread, being indeed pressed to do so by M. 
Marcault ; we cleaned our knives on rinds of leathery 



ii8 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

crust ; in fact, we conformed, as we thought, admir- 
ably. Everything was going on velvet, when, after 
the rago/lt, the smell of fried oil became apparent, 
and from a covered-in pan Suzanne helped us each 
to a large piece of something that resembled sweet- 
bread, and cut rather like a tough custard pudding. 
It was fried bright brown, but the inside was yellowish 
white, and the whole thing was swimming in hot oil. 
We asked nervously what it was. 

* Mais, mangez le done' responded Suzanne, as she 
reversed the frying-pan to let the last drops of oil 
run on to our plates. * Cest biang bong ! Cest dn 
cepe — dn chanipignong, vons savezl seeing that we 
did not seem much enlightened. Here was local 
colour with a vengeance ! There rose before us in a 
moment the brown, contorted visages oi La Famille 
Empoisonnee among the mummies of St. Michel, 
and the dusty bits of fungus that they still retained 
in their jaws. The situation, however, did not admit 
of retreat. And we attempted none. The mushroom, 
or fungus, whatever it was, had a dreadful taste, as 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 119 

though rotten leaves and a rusty knife had been fried 
together in fat. Moreover, it was patent to the 
meanest intelligence that, whatever its taste might be, 
no digestion save that of a native or an ostrich could 
hope to compete with it. We each swallowed two 
lumps of it whole, and then my cousin looked wanly 
at me and said, ' One more, and I shall be sick.' 

It was hard and humiliating to explain that we 
both disliked and feared this crowning treat of a 
Medoc repast, but we did it ; and though we sank 
in Suzanne's estimation, it was more in pity than in 
anger that she removed the horror from before us, 
and replaced it with a delicious compote of pears of 
her own making. We spent an agreeable evening, 
in conversation so instructive that we fear to repro- 
duce it here, mingled with confidences as to Suzanne's 
winter clothes, and criticisms of the sketch I was 
making oi la petite. Ten o'clock struck, and Madame 
Suzanne gave a final tidying-up to her kitchen, and 
then, opening the great chestnut wood wardrobe that 
stood near the door, she selected from its layers of 



120 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

coarse brownish linen a pair of sheets, clammy with 
damp and cleanliness, and led the way once more to 
our barn. 

It was a curious feeling when, after we had helped 
our hostess to make our bed, and said our good-nights, 
we found ourselves alone in the depths of peasant 
France without so much as a toothbrush to remind 
us of our connection with British effeteness, while the 
huge empty cuvcs in the barn beneath us roared and 
sang like organ-pipes in the rising wind. Under 
ordinary circumstances I do not think we should 
have survived the dampness of those sheets, but they 
were not given a fair chance. That night in the 
Widow Joyce's cabin in Connemara was recalled to 
us by many things, — things that, though small in 
themselves, recurred with a persistence quite dispro- 
portioned to their bulk, — and often, while the mosquitoes 
piped their drinking-songs beneath the canopy, and 
the fleas came steeplechasing from the boards to the 
bed, and the candle burnt lower and lower, and the 
slaughter waxed grimmer and greater, we said to each 




121 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 123 

other that the exercise would at least save us from 
pleurisy or rheumatic fever. 

It was somewhere during an interval of exhausted 
sleep that we were aware of Suzanne standing at our 
bedside and asking us in her strong voice if we would 
like some coffee or some wine. We sleepily said No, 
but perhaps, plus tard, when our things had come 
from the hotel, some water. It seemed a very short 
time before those things made their appearance, but 
it is obviously impossible to wash one's self in a toy 
piano— a fact which we explained as gently as possible 
to la petite. She retired, and presently we heard a 
heavy step on the cuvier ladder ; something was set 
down outside, and, rising, we found a very large 
garden watering-pot full of ice-cold water, and a very 
small white basin, sitting side by side on our door- 
step. They were tedious, and the toy piano was 
nearly washed away in the flood ; but they sufficed. 




CHAPTER VII. 

AIS ! vous etes fraiches comme des roses, 

mesdemoiselles ! ' shouted Suzanne, as 

her two guests seated themselves at 

her kitchen table with faces of a pale lavender 

colour. 

' Blue roses,' said my cousin ungraciously, as she 
rubbed her cheeks to free them from the frozen stiff- 
ness produced by the contents of the watering-pot, 
'and the coffee is cold,' putting her hand round the 
thick cup that had just been filled for her. The dis- 
contented British croak was happily overwhelmed in 
Suzanne's loud and abundant conversation on thinofs 
in general ; the sourness of the bread was more or 
less baffled by plastered layers of pear jam ; and when 
we remembered that the coffee had been waiting for 
us since seven o'clock and that it was now a quarter 

124 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 125 

to eight, we felt that we were not in a position to 
complain of its tepidity. Strange that a week in 
France should have so altered our point of view as to 
make us feel guilty at not having finished our break- 
fast at eight o'clock. 

As we wound up the meal with several bunches of 
green and purple grapes, grey with dewy bloom, M. 
Blossier, with his cigarette and his patronising smile, 
appeared at the doorway, and as he leaned there, with 
his hands in his pockets, and his straw hat set crooked 
on his Astrakhan curls, he informed us that a gentle- 
man had called upon us at the hotel the preceding 
afternoon, and had left word that he would return 
this morning, so perhaps it would be well if we gave 
ourselves the trouble to hasten. We looked at each 
other, conscious of an effect of failure in the morn- 
ing's toilet ; the tinfoil looking-glass had slurred over 
defects that we now saw with a quickened perception. 
This must be the first-fruit of those letters of intro- 
duction that had been written about us, and what 
untold discredit were we now about to heap on our 



126 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

trusting friends ! We flung down the unfinished 
bunches of grapes, and in less than five minutes we 
had got through the delicate matter of paying our 
reckoning, and were saying good-bye to Suzanne. It 
was unexpected under the circumstances that she 
should have kissed us, but nevertheless she did so. 
' Tiens ! ' she cried, as I held out a hand for her to 
shake, ' // me faut voiis donner tine bise ! Let I et la ! ' 
She gave us each two resounding kisses that, as far 
as garlic was concerned, were not lacking in that 
local flavour of which we were amateurs, and for 
fervour and sincerity equalled those that the Irish 
nurse bestows upon the objects of her affections. 

We drove away from Suzanne's household with 
real regret. We had found in it an excellent euisine 
and a perfect hostess — so I remarked to my cousin 
with the dogmatic solemnity of a tombstone. ' Yes,' 
she said, ' and we found a perfect host too, but he 
was a noun of multitude, and we provided the 
cuisine' She fingered her mosquito bites as she spoke, 
and we fell to reminiscences of our feeble efforts to 




M. BLOSSIER, WITH HIS CIGARETTE, APPEARED AT THE DOORWAY. 

127 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 129 

repulse the linked battalions of fleas and mosquitoes 
the night before. 

Very soon, however, we could think of nothing but 
the extraordinary heat of the wind that was blowing 
clouds of red dust over us, setting the white sun- 
bonnets of the vendangeiises flapping, as we drove 
past them at the best speed to which we could incite 
M. Blossier, and after an hour of combat with it, we 
arrived at the hotel with our eyes full of sand, and our 
hair standing aureole-wise round our faces. 

Madame herself came forth to meet us, with a note 
in her fat hand, and a manner in which some slight 
admixture of interest, almost of respect, was discern- 
ible. We read the note. It was even worse than we 
had expected ; it was a request couched in admirable 
English that we would be ready to meet the writer 
at eleven, and he would then give himself the pleasure 
of conducting us round the vineyards of the neigh- 
bourhood, and would finally have the honour of 
escorting us to his own chateau^ where, he hoped, we 
would dine. The large commercial face of the hall 



I30 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

clock showed that we had just one quarter of an hour 
before this flight into French society in which to 
eliminate the traces of an experience that would 
probably have horrified our host beyond recovery, 
to cast out the accent that we had acquired with such 
fatal facility from Suzanne and M. Blossier, and to 
scour through the all-sufficing pages of Bellows' 
Dictionary for phrases that should lubricate our 
efforts at high-class conversation. 

It was not pleasant, either in prospect or accom- 
plishment, but we did it. We were even sitting in 
the salon as ladies should, putting on tight gloves, 
when a landau and pair drove to the door, and we 
were told by the sympathetically excited Louis that 
a gentleman wished to see us. In another five 
minutes we were bowling through Pauillac, with 
parasols up, conversing in free, untrammelled English 
with the excessively kind and unselfish person who 
had given a large slice of valuable time to the toil of 
taking two ignoramuses to see the innermost secrets 
and perfections of wine-making. Our host told us. 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 131 

in his well-chosen English, that had here and there 
the pressure and the staccato that an Anglo-Saxon 
tongue may weary itself in striving to imitate, that 
we were to partake of dejeuner at a rival Pauillac 
hotel before going any farther. We did partake. 




^^X'^- 



ONLOOKERS OF THE TRIUMPHAL DEPARTURE FROM PAUILLAC. 

From oysters, served with hot sausages, to black 
coffee and fruit, we went hand in hand with the 
menu^ and when we rose to go we felt serene and 
equal to the occasion. 



132 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

Again we bowled smoothly along the Promenade 
de la Marine — a spectacle much enjoyed by the 
Pauillac monde^ and, let us hope, imposing in the 
eyes of Madame and of her salle-d-manger, now 
crowded for dejeuner. We were driven into the 
country, in a direction opposite, we were thankful to 
observe, to that taken the day before by M. Blossier. 
Heavens ! what would be the consternation of our 
present host if we were to chance upon one of the 
ciroiers or vintage kitchens of yesterday, and a troop 
of acquaintances was to burst therefrom, demanding 
copies of their photographs with a terrible intimacy 
— they might even slap us on the back ! — the contin- 
gency did not bear thinking of 

But a fate very different from wayside cuviers 
and ragged peasant proprietors was in store for us. 
A couple of undulating miles brought us in sight 
of a comfortable-looking white stone villa, flanked 
by long outhouses, and surrounded by a small and 
phenomenally brilliant flower garden. The vineyards 
ran like a smoothly swelling sea round the borders 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 133 

of this island that had been preserved from their 
inroads ; the blinds of the villa were drawn down, 
and it seemed to look with 'a stony British stare' 
upon the vintage operations going forward all day 
under its eyes. Monsieur Z. told us that it had been 
built in imitation of an English villa by the Baroness 
de Rothschild, but we did not dare to ask why she 
should have chosen the square modern type, dear to 
the heart of the retired solicitor. We asked instead 
why it should be called Mouton Rothschild, and found 
that once in the dark ages the whole of this part of 
the wine country had been given over to sheep, and 
that consequently the word mouton had survived 
here and there ; but why it should be tacked on to 
the name of a family could not be explained. It 
would be neither kind or clever to call a newly- 
built house in the neighbourhood of Limerick, Pig 
Robinson or Pork Murphy ; but in France, Sheep 
Rothschild is a very different affair, and a name held 
in uninquiring reverence by the n^gociant en vins. 
We left the carriage, and proceeded with all dignity 



134 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

to the cuviers at the rear of the villa, while the hot 
and tawny vent d'Afrique blew suffocatingly in our 
faces, and covered our white veils with yellow grit, 
and turned the most inviting shade to mockery. It 
was doubtless of such heat as this that the lady's- 
maid remarked to her mistress that it quite ' reminded 
'er of 'ell ! ' But, for all that, we had a kind of glory 
in it ; it made us feel that we were really abroad, and 
that we should be able to bore our friends about the 
vent dAfrique, when we got home, in a manner that 
would surprise them. At this juncture we were 
halted in front of a palatial building of two storeys, 
and following our guide into it, we found ourselves 
in the twilight aisles of one of the great fermenting 
houses of the Medoc. Right and left stood the huge 
barrels on their white stone pedestals, belted monsters, 
spick and span in their varnished oak and shining 
black hoops, with a snowy background of white- 
washed wall to define their generous contour, and a 
neat little numbered plate on each to heighten their 
resemblance to police constables. This was an edition 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 135 

de luxe of wine-making — at least, so it seemed to us 
after what we had seen of dingy sheds, wine-stained 
barrels, and promiscuous rubbish, with magenta legs 
splashing about in juice, and spilt dregs as a fore- 
ground. 

We were taken up a corner staircase to the upper 
floor, and were there received by the superhumanly 
well-bred and intelligent official who is invariably 
found in such places ; we were also received and 
closely examined by the swarm of fat wasps that, in 
the cuvierSy is fully as invariable, and rather more 
intelligent. No one seems to object to these wasps 
and their pertinacity ; Monsieur Z. and the manager 
merely gave a pitying glance in the direction of my 
cousin, when, in the middle of a most creditable 
question about the phylloxera, her voice broke into 
a shriek, and after a few seconds of dervish-like 
insanity, she brought up from the back of her neck 
the fragments of a wasp, and hurled them to the 
floor with a dramatic force that was quite unstudied. 
The wasps congregated most thickly about an arched 



136 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

opening in the wall, through which a crane poked its 
long lean arm into the open air, and dangled its 
chain for the tubs full of grapes that were brought 



\ 




HER VOICE BROKE INTO A SHRIEK. 



underneath it by the oxen. Up came each purple 
load, already battered and robbed of its bloom by 
the crushing and packing, with the bloated yellow 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 137 

wasps hanging on to it, and the long arm of the 
crane swung it round to the pressoir, which here was 
a broad truck on wheels. The method then became 
of the usual repulsive kind. The grapes were 
churned from their stalks in a machine, the juice ran 
in a turgid river round the pressoir, and, paddling in 
this, the bare-legged workmen shovelled the grapes 
into the cuves, whose open maws gaped through 
trap-doors in the floor. Other men packed the stalks 
into a machine like a pair of stays ; when it was full, 
the tight-lacing began by means of a handle and 
cogged wheels, and when it was over, the stalks were 
taken out dry and attenuated, and flung from a 
window, with the cheerless prospect of being utilised 
at some future time as top-dressing for their yet 
unborn brethren. 

When we got into the carriage again we were 
crammed with information, and a silence as of in- 
digestion settled upon us as we whirled along the 
hog-backed vineyard road to Chateau Lafite. It is 
not only in wine that Mouton Rothschild is beaten 



138 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

by its nearest neighbour. In the matter of a chateau, 
Lafite scores still more decidedly ; of that no one 
could have any doubt who saw this old country- 
house, with its pointed towers, its terraced gardens 
with their ambushed perfumes that took the hot wind 
by surprise, its view over the soft country to other 
chateaux, and its delightful wood, where grassy walks 
wound away into the shadows. After these things, 
going to see the cicviers and the wine- making was 
like beginning again on roast beef after dessert ; but 
the appetite came in eating. It was Mouton Roths- 
child over again, only more so ; it could not be more 
dazzlingly smart than its kinsman, but it was larger ; 
more outhouses and more imposing, a greater number 
of cuves, a more ambitious manner of regulating the 
temperature. We were truly and genuinely in- 
terested, but none the less were we penetrated by a 
sense of the gross absurdity of our pose as students 
of viticulture, while Monsieur Z. and the manager of 
Chateau Lafite imparted fact upon fact antiphon- 
ally and seriously, without a shadow of distrust 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY, 139 

of our capabilities. Indeed, in all our vintage 
experiences we met with this heartfelt devotion 
to the subject, and this touching belief in our 
intelligence, and it was both a glory and a humilia- 
tion to us. 

Enfiladed thus by a cross-fire of what might be 
called grape-shot, we progressed in fullest import- 
ance round the quiet nurseries of the claret for 
which such an incredible future of dessert -tables 
is in store, and entered at last the doorway of a 
long low building. A few steps led downwards 
to another doorway, where a grave and courteous 
attendant presented us each with a candle placed in 
a socket at the end of a long handle, and unlocked a 
door into profound and pitchy blackness. It was 
like going to see the mummies at Bordeaux, it was 
even more like going into the cellar at home to look 
for rats, and my cousin's skirts were instinctively 
gathered up and her candle lowered to the ground as 
the darkness closed its mouth upon us. It was cool 
and damp, it smelt of must and wine-barrels, and in 



I40 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

some way one could feel that it was immense. Our 
guides turned to the right without hesitation, into a 
gallery whose walls, from the sandy floor to the 
vaulted ceiling, were made of bottles of wine. We 
walked on, and still on, trying to take it in, while on 
either side the tiers of bottles looked at us out of 
their partitions with cold uncountable eyes, eye- 
browed sometimes, or bearded, with a fungus as 
snowy and delicate as crepe lisse, on which the 
specks of dew glittered as the candle-light procession 
passed by. 

* There are here a hundred and fifty thousand 
bottles of claret,' said the manager, with prosaic calm. 
* Some of them are a century old. This is the private 
cellar of Baron de Rothschild.' 

*He will not drink it all,' said Monsieur Z.; 
and we laughed a feeble giggle, whose fatuity told 
that we had become exhausted receivers. 

More and yet more aisles followed, catacombs 
of silence and black heavy air, but full of the 
strange life of the wine that lay, biding its time 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 141 

according to its tribe and family, in a ' monotony of 




ON EITHER SIDE THE TIERS OF BOTTLES LOOKED AT US OUT OF THEIR 
PARTITIONS WITH COLD UNCOUNTABLE EYES. 

enchanted pride,' as Ruskin has said about pine trees. 



142 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

We saw very little more of wine-making, when we 
got out again into the blustry heat, and crawled back 
to the carriage, feeling cheaper and more modern 
than we had done for some time. A new phase of 
sight-seeing was in store for us, and one with which 
we were even less fitted to compete. The inner life 
of a French country-house does not come within the 
scope of the ordinary tourist ; and when, later in the 
afternoon, we were led up the curving and creeper- 
wreathed steps of a chateau, and ushered into an 
atmosphere of polished floors, still more polished 
manners, afternoon tea, and a billiard-table, there 
was only one drawback to perfect enjoyment of 
the situation. The ladies of the household — there 
were several of them — did not speak English, 
and at once that delusive glibness that had 
been nurtured by talking to Suzanne began to 
wither in the shadeless glare of drawing-room con- 
versation. 

We shall never know what absurdities we said, or 
what betises we committed ; we can only feel satisfied 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 143 

that in a general way we said and did the wrong 
thing, and we can but ' faintly trust the larger hope ' 
that our kind hosts made due allowance for insular 
imbecility. Whatever they may have thought of the 
strangers so unexpectedly brought within their gates, 
they kept alike their countenances and their counsel ; 
and when the guests had faltered and smirked 
through their difficult farewells, and hidden their 
hot faces in the shelter of the landau, they were 
aware, as they drove away in the clear southern 
starlight, of two great fragrant bouquets of roses 
and heliotrope on the seat opposite, the last 
charming expression of the hospitality of the 
Medoc. 



I 




CHAPTER VIII. 

^^"' ■" jT is a truism, venerable to the verge of 
dotage, to say that the way not to enjoy 
travelling is to do it at a rush, spending 
the days in sight-seeing, and the nights in the train ; 
but this disposition of things has one merit, it keeps 
the anguish out of farewells. The heart-tendrils have 
not time to weave themselves round the concierge^ 
the chambermaid is still your bitterest foe, the waiter 
has not yet risen to the position of an unnaturally 
obliging brother ; you are too hurried to discover the 
full charms of the armoire a glace in the bedroom, or 
the verandah outside the salo7i windows, and you 
scurry from one hotel to another, unregretful and 
heart-whole. 

But a week — and we were the best part of a week 
at Pauillac — gives ample time for the forming of those 

144 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 145 

ill-fated foreign friendships which are destined never, 
as Rossetti says, ' to find an earthly close.' I do not 
know from how many hotels in various parts of 
France we have gone forth sorrowing, and asseverat- 
ing our intention of returning there directly our 
affairs in Ireland could be wound up so as to permit 
of our leaving that country for life. To their melan- 
choly number must now be added the Grand Hotel 
du Commerce, Pauillac. On the last sad day we had 
to start early, — a proceeding that is a strain upon the 
constitution of any hotel, — but never, on our laziest 
mornings, had we such lavish cans of eaii boiiillante^ 
nor such hot coffee, nor such a foaming jug of freshly 
boiled milk. Leonie the chambermaid, Louis the 
garqon, Jeanne the cook, all vied with each other in 
fond efforts to enhance the poignancy of parting ; 
even the bill, usually a styptic to the tender pain of 
farewell, was affectingly moderate. 

* Black,' the big dog, paced beside us to the curious 
little vehicle, not unlike a county Cork inside car, 

that was to take us to the station ; he was bestridden 

10 



146 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

as usual by the monkey, and in her softened mood 
my cousin endured the clammy clutch of ' Bamboo ' 
upon her finger with scarcely a shudder. Jeanne's 



:i; / 



^iil W^ \J,, 



/ 




MY COUSIN ENDURED THE CLAMMY TOUCH OF ' BAMBOO ' UPON HER 
FINGER WITH SCARCELY A SHUDDER. 

little girl had given us a flaming bouquet of scarlet 
geraniums and heliotrope ; two bunches of grapes 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 147 

had been pressed upon us by Madame, to sustain us 
on our journey ; and, at the last moment, our friend 
who had been the first to introduce us to the secrets 
of wine-making darted forward with a card addressed 
to the proprietor of a restaurant in Bordeaux, on 
which that gentleman was prayed to serve to ^ ces 
demoiselles^ a bottle of Grand St. Lambert, '85, at the 
expense of its original producer. Of course we left 
vowing to return for the vendange next year, and 
trying to believe that we should be as good as our 
word. It seemed the only way given to us of 
marking our sense of their kindness. 

We had to wait at the station, seated on our 
luggage in default of benches, before the train — the 
tallest we had ever seen — came in, towering over 
the platformless station after the arrogant fashion of 
French trains ; and having scaled its precipitous 
sides, and struggled up into what we expected to be 
its lofty saloons, our hats were knocked over our 
eyes by the ceiling. We then found that the unusual 
height of the train was caused by the third-classes 



148 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

being mounted on top, above our more honourable 
heads, and that, in moving about the carriage, it was 
safer to go on all-fours. 

It was a long hot drive across Bordeaux to the 
Gare de la Bastide, and it gave a fine sense of 
freedom to leave all luggage there, and set forth 
again on foot, unhampered by anything except a 
small cherished hand-basket. We took the ferry- 
boat across to the other side of the river — a little 
strenuous black steamer that fretted and panted 
across the wide stream like a broken-winded pony 
trying to bolt. We did not know our way, and 
asked advice on the subject from as many people as 
possible, only taking care to wait till our most recent 
informant was round a corner. I once omitted this 
precaution in Cork, and while I was blandly putting 
further inquiries to a postman, an awful voice cried 
after me — 

* I suppose you think I'm a liar ! ' 

A thing that has made me circumspect in such 
matters ever since. 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 149 

Our way led through the market — a great iron tent, 
filled with the most variegated colours, voices, and * 
smells. We roamed through damp, brilliant aisles, 
v/ith vivid splendours of fruit and flowers mounting 
high over our heads on either hand ; we explored the 
remarkable collections of birds, beasts, and herbs that ' 
were being confidently purchased by the housewives 
of Bordeaux for family consumption ; and, with a bow 
of recognition to a poisonous barrowload of fungi, we 
pursued our way into the sunny street wherein was 
the restaurant which had been indicated to us by our 
late host. We presented the card entitling us to the 
bottle of Grand St. Lambert without delay, and it 
was presently borne in in state by the proprietor 
himself — a civility obviously owing to the curiosity 
that was displayed on his red and round-eyed 
countenance. It was a large bottle, with a beautiful 
white-and-gold label, and after we had scientifically 
smelt its bouquet, and slowly absorbed as much as 
we thought becoming, morally and physically, there 
was still two-thirds of the bottle left, far too much 



ISO IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

either to squander upon the waiter or to finish our- 
selves. The waiter had left a mound of grapes in 
front of us, and had decorously retired ; on a buffet 
behind us were a number of old newspapers ; the 
hand-basket was on the floor at our feet ; all was as 
perfect as if it had occurred in a romance of detective 
life. My second cousin stealthily abstracted an 
lutransigcant of a responsible age from the buffet, 
wrapped up the bottle in its woolly folds, and forced 
it diagonally into the basket, while the various 
matters it dispossessed were forced, diagonally or 
otherwise, into our pockets, so that when I came to 
pay the bill, the expeditionary purse lay as deep as 
the coins at the base of a public building. 

Libourne is only half an hour by train from 
Bordeaux, — a chequered half-hour of bursts in and 
out of tunnels, and of consequently intermittent 
amenities on the part of a resplendently- dressed 
newly-married pair, who faced us all the way there, 
— and the bridge that spans a placid curve of the 
Dordogne, under the town of Libourne, came into 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 151 

view so unexpectedly that we had hardly time to 
gather our things together before the train stopped 
in the station. We had been fortunate enough to 
have been given an introduction to a gentleman and 
his wife who spend each vintage season in their 
charming little old-fashioned country-house near 
Libourne, and we found that their kindness had even 
gone to the length of waiting for us outside the 
barrier that in France so relentlessly separates the 
travelling public from the rest of mankind. It was 
humiliating to discover that Monsieur and Madame 
A. (I suppose the time-honoured formula must 
again be employed) both spoke English so many 
thousand times better than we could speak French, 
that our acquaintance with that language became 
wholly superfluous ; but it was also refreshing. It 
was a wonderful thing to feel that we need no more 
take thought to our luggage, or to the reproving or 
instruction of porters in a foreign tongue. Monsieur 
A. had a wholesome belief in female incapacity, and 
in an instant we found that we were no longer mere 



152 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

literary tramps, but had been raised to the serene 
and almost forgotten position of ladies of quality. 

In a very short time we found ourselves being 
whirled off in a carriage to Quinault, the country- 
house aforesaid, and were being told all manner of 
strange things. We had not looked at a newspaper 
since we left Paris, and it was hard to believe that 
the most notable figure in Irish politics should have 
left them for ever, and no echo of such a thing come 
to us, even in the quiet, far-away vineyards of the 
Medoc. We were now in the St. Emilion district, 
and without wishing to insult the Medoc, it must be 
said that it cannot compare in beauty with the 
opposite side of the Gironde. There was an air of 
generous luxuriance about the vines themselves that 
began to realise for us the vineyards of our more 
poetical visions. The stunted little shrubs on which 
we had been forming our eye were no more to be 
seen. Tall bushes, trained to spread like fans on 
espaliers, had taken their place, and pictorially, at 
any rate, there can be no comparison between the 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY, 153 

two systems. There was a sunset that evening that 
made the first sight of the St. Emilion vines a thing 
greatly to be remembered. Quinault is a scientific 
vineyard, and the charm of colour conferred by the 
blue-green sulphate of copper that stains all the 
leaves, is a fine confirmation of the theory that the 
useful is necessarily the beautiful. These blue-green 
leaves had turned to a mysterious metallic grey in 
the evening light ; up the middle aisle came a cart 
drawn by a big white horse, a scarlet-capped man 
was standing up in it between the barrels of grapes, 
his figure showing * dark against day's golden death ; ' 
after it followed a procession of vintagers, women and 
boys mostly, the yellow light behind them giving to 
the long row of figures the effect of being a company 
of saints on an early Italian background ; and, last of 
all, came a little, incredibly bowed woman, who had 
been vintaging here at Quinault for the last eighty 
years — La M^re Meme, the oldest and the most 
conscientious vendangeuse of the district. 

* She is always the first at the end of the row,' we 



154 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

were told, ' and she never leaves a bunch behind her, 
and she has eighty-seven years ; iiest-ce pas, ma MereV 




'^^l^^. 



LA m£kE MEMIi— always FIRST AT THE END OF HER ROW. 



Mere Meme admitted the eighty-seven years with 
an almost bored acquiescence. She had been very old 
for so long that she was less proud of it than she had 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 155 

probably been when she was eighty. She sat down 
on a barrel, and a sketch of her was made as speedily 
as might be, while the sky faded from gold to red, 




A SKETCH WAS MADE OF HER AS SPEEDILY AS MIGHT BE. 

and the rest of the vintagers slowly tore themselves 
from the charms of looking over the sketcher's 
shoulder to go to the excellent dinner that was 



IS6 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

waiting for them in a long vine-covered barn. Once 
more we tasted the vintage soup, and smacked our 
lips, and said, with facetious under-statement of the 
case, that it was/^j mal, and once more we prodded at 
the cauldron of ragout, and felt the hunger of gluttony 
rise within us as we smelt its rich and composite 
fragrance. We were connoisseurs in vintage cookery 
by this time, and had been shown the mysteries of 
many vintage kitchens, but as the exhibition always 
took place a long time after tea and a short time 
before dinner, it never failed to make us regret that 
we also were not vintagers. 

We wandered back to the house through the rose- 
garden, and though we pretend to no horticultural 
knowledge, by dint of recognising * La France's ' timid 
flush, and the orange glow of that poetically-named 
flower, * William Allan Richardson,' we took a higher 
place in the estimation of their proprietor, and were 
encouraged to adventurous remarks on their culture 
as practised in Ireland, which, we fear, must have 
hopelessly degraded the gardeners of that country 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 157 

in the eyes of Monsieur A. It was hard to talk of 
anything else but roses and fruit at dinner, when 
the centre of the table was a masterpiece of both one 
and the other; but we were beginning to feel less 
restricted now in our choice of subjects. During our 
last flight into polite society our ideas were to us 
much as the creatures in the Ark must have been to 
Noah. Our brains were full of interesting things 
which we wished to plant out on the world, but when 
we thrust them forth, they could find no rest for the 
soles of their feet in the strange sea of French con- 
versation, and they returned to sit lamentably upon 
the shelf, with all the other agreeable but untrans- 
latable notions. 

Now, however, we had not only enlarged our 
vocabulary, but we had also lost a good deal of the 
decent diffidence that had at first prompted us to 
hold our tongues, and we found ourselves conversing 
gaily, with a hideous disregard of the trammels of 
verbs and the pitfalls of gender. I had nearly 
finished my dinner before I realised that in asking 



158 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

my neighbour to pass la selle, I was unreasonably 
demanding a saddle, and it was almost dreadful that 
that neighbour gave no sign of what he felt, and 
merely told me that to eat du sel in such quantities 
as is my wont was an habitude Anglaise. It would 
have been consolatory to have been laughed at openly 
on such occasions, but I suppose such altruistic 
politeness would be beyond the power of most 
people ; certainly no one we ever met soared to such 
heights, and I am sure we are not capable of it 
ourselves. 

We had an expedition before us the next day, and 
the evening had to be short. However, after dinner 
we strolled out into the darkness, mellowed by the 
scent of many roses, and went to have a look at the 
vendangeuses. The ladies had a dining-room apart 
from the gentlemen, and when we looked in at them, 
were still sitting over their wine with a fine indiffer- 
ence to the charms of general society in the barn. 
Mere Meme, at the end of the long table, with the 
lamplight deepening her wrinkles into trenches, and 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 159 

sinking her eyes into wells of ink, might have been 
an over-printed engraving of Rembrandt's mother. 
Gathered round her were three or four hardly less 
ancient ladies, equally suggestive of Rembrandt's 
relations, and a long array of dark-haired, white- 
coifed women and girls were to be seen, more or less 
dimly in the indifferent light, finishing their jugs of 
vifi ordinaire, all talking at the tops of their voices, 
and all, after the first stare, comporting themselves as 
if no curious foreign eyes were observing them from 
the doorway. 

The evening closed with one dramatic episode. A 
long low dark room ; at one end a bare table ; on 
one side of it an excited group of women ; on the 
wall behind, a smoky lamp, throwing a lurid light on 
two resolute-looking men, who stood behind the table 
on which a swarthy victim lay trembling, held tightly 
by one, while the other hurriedly divested him of all 
clothing save a fur boa and two pair of boots. 

Madame A. was having her black poodle clipped. 



CHAPTER IX. 



\. ^ T was market day at Li- 
bourne. We were aware 
of that from a very- 
early hour of the 
morning, as the 
complaining utter- 
3^ ances of every class 
of rickety waggon 
and ungreased 
wheel were 
wafted in at the 
windows of our 
hotel, blended 
with the solid, carpet-like whacking of donkeys' backs, 
and the screams of their drivers, all ladies of advanced 
age and leathern lung power. Monsieur and Madame 




IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 



i6i 



A. called for us at nine, and before setting forth on 
the legitimate expedition allotted to the day, we 
drove round the market square. 

A helpless depression comes over us at the thought 
of attempting to describe a foreign market-place. It 




rV'«T>»-:'V-^J==>^5r!!'S"*: •=>!■ 



:^^^^ 



MARKET PLACE, LIBOURNE. 

has been so often done, and from such an exhaustive 

number of points of view, that there seems nothing in 

the least original left to be said. I do not suppose 

that any account of journeyings in France is really 

perfect without a semi-humorous description of an 

11 



1 62 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

old woman under a great blue or a great red umbrella. 
It should be dashed with a pathetic brilliancy, and 
there should, as a rule, be something smouldering 
and suggestive of ancient coquetry about the eyes of 
the old woman. We both felt this, and my cousin 
ran about feverishly, snapping off Kodak plates in 
the most extravagant way, but failing to find quite 
the old lady we wanted. 

Another disappointment was the peasant straw hat 
upon which she had set her heart, such a hat as 
I had bought in Brittany — conical, broad-brimmed, 
many-coloured. We shouldered round the sunny, 
noisy square, finding everything imaginable for sale 
except straw hats ; finally we left the open-air 
merchants, and in a bonnet shop, whose only claim 
to romance was its position in the arcades that — like 
the * Rows ' at Chester — surrounded the square, she 
bought for twenty sous a hat that might easily have 
been worn in Bond Street. 

We were to be shown St. Emilion this delicious 
mid-June day, — by the calendar it was about the 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 163 

8th or 9th of October, but it was evident that there 




MY COUSIN RAN ABOUT FEVERISHLY, SNAPPING OFF KODAK PLATES IN 
THE MOST EXTRAVAGANT WAY. 



was a mistake somewhere, — and the drive to that 



i64 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

small but remarkable town was one of most brilliant 
and fragrant pleasantness. We were mounting up 
out of the levels about Libourne, rising higher and 
higher into the bright morning, till we could see some 
of the silver coils of the Dordogne beginning to 
reveal themselves, and red-roofed villages broke 
through the vines on the slopes below us, giving 
unexpected suggestions of Arcadia. 

Presently above the coachman's hat a yellow 
crocketed spire thrust itself into the blue of the sky ; 
there came crowding after it towers and roofs, and 
finally a tall crumbling wall, standing quite alone 
outside old fortifications, wnth nothing but the Gothic 
window-openings left to show that it had once been 
part of a great church. We drove in through a 
towered gateway, and over the cobble-stones dear 
to the writers of mediaeval romance and the makers 
of carriage springs, and, squeezing our way along a 
street narrow enough to allow us to shake hands 
simultaneously with the occupants of the houses on 
both sides, we pulled up at the opening of a street 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 165 

too steep for a carriage. Down this we went on foot, 
reminded a good deal of Clovelly, and yet glad that 
it was not Clovelly, but a walled town in the heart of 
the vineyard country, with a saint and a shrine, and 
a history as gorgeous as an illuminated missal. Level 
ground was granted at last to our aching knees, a 
little plateau where was a shading chestnut tree, a 
railing, and behind these the unassuming front of an 
inn, — the Hotel Dussaut, if our memories are correct, 
— wilh its doors opening straight in upon a room 
where a cleanly-laid table glimmered in the cool 
obscurity. 

As we stood under the chestnut tree a sound as of 
the beating of eggs rose to us presently from a flagged 
yard about fifteen feet below our plateau, and, look- 
ing over the edge, we had an excellent bird's-eye view 
of two young ladies engaged respectively in beating 
a yellow compound with a fork, and in shaking 
some other yellow compound in a frying-pan over a 
charcoal fire. One of them wore pince-nez^ both had 
early Florentine shocks of hair, and a general appear- 



1 66 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

ance of such aesthetic culture that we refused at first 
to believe that they were preparing our dejeuner ; 
and when later we seated ourselves at the table 
within the French window, and received from the 
hands of the wearer of the pince-nez the delicious 
omelette that had been cooked in the open air, we 




THE /ESTHETIC DAUGHTER OF THE HOTEL. 

felt embarrassed by a sense of the favour conferred. 
Our hostesses must, we fear, have been taken at a 
slight disadvantage by us ; we felt rather than saw 
some want of completeness in their attire during the 
first stages of dejeuner^ — a bareness as to neck, a 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY, 167 

skimpiness as to skirt ; but as the meal progressed, so 
did the toilettes. By the time that we had finished 
our dish of smelts, with their wonderful wood-sorrel 
sauce, the wearer of the pince-nez was glowing in a 
scarlet smocked silk jersey; and when the roast chicken 
was placed on the table, her sister had endued a 
flowing skirt, and wreathed her throat with some ten 
or twelve yards of amber beads. We could not swear 
that the pinee-7iez themselves had been changed, 
but certainly it was only when dessert was arrived at 
that we noticed for the first time that they were gold- 
rimmed, and were attached by a slim gold chain to a 
brooch of barbaric splendour. 

It was a dessert greatly to be remembered that we 
had at the Hotel Dussaut : the monster pears and 
grapes, the rich velvety wine of the district, and 
finally, the specialite of the town, ordered expressly 
for us by Monsieur A., the macaroons made at the 
convent according to an ancient recipe known to 
the nuns. Certainly the ecclesiastical macaroon tran- 
scends the secular variety ; these come in warm and 



1 68 IN THE VINE COUNTRY, 

palpitating, still cleaving to the white square of paper 
on which they had been baked, looking like lumps of 
yellow foam at the foot of a waterfall, melting in the 
mouth as foam itself might melt, and suggesting the 
idea that the conventual life has its alleviations. 

A small salon opened out of the little verandah 
room in which our lunch was served, a sitting-room 
replete with photograph frames, crochet antimacassars, 
• oil paintings, and green velvet furniture, and blocked 
in one corner by the altogether astonishing circum- 
stances of a bed, whose sumptuous draperies suggested 
the proscenium of a puppet show. The window 
looked down into a precipitous street at the back of 
the hotel, and, craning out, the pointed arch of an old 
gateway was visible at the top of the hill between the 
crooked lines of houses, the Porte de la Cadcne, so a 
little old-fashioned guide-book to St. Emilion informed 
us. There was a long explanation of the name, from 
which we gathered that it had something to say to 
the bar that once fastened the gate, but what exactly 
it was not given to our poor intelligence to discover. 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 169 

Whenever the guide-book felt that it was becoming 
unbefittingly lucid, it threw in a few words of patois, 
or early French in inverted commas, and went full 
speed ahead again, secure from pursuit. The photo- 
graphs that thronged the room, like Ruskin's pine 
trees elsewhere referred to, 'on barren heights and 
inaccessible ledges, in quiet multitudes,' proved a 
more attractive study than the guide-book, and we 
travelled slowly round the collection till we came 
upon a cabinet- sized head of a young lady with 
disordered hair, pmce-7iez, a swan-like length of 
throat, and an evening dress of which only a single 
row of Valenciennes trimming showed above the 
lower edge of the photograph. We sat down before 
it with a gasp, as we recognised in this ethereal 
being one of our late cooks, and at the same instant 
Madame A. made the discovery of a dwarf easel on 
the floor at the foot of the bed, on which a still larger 
portrait of a lady, in the dress of a Russian princess, 
with an inscription to the effect that she was Madame 
Dussaut herself, owner of the hotel, and mother of 



I70 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

the two peeresses who had served for us our admir- 
able dejeuner. We retired after this, and said that it 
would be better to go away and see the town before 
we found out that these people were closely related 
to the Bourbons, which seemed the next thing to 
expect. 

The streets had the noonday heat and silence about 
them when we emerged from beneath the chestnut 
tree, and went downhill to where a lofty yellow cliff 
towered sheer in the hollow of the town, carrying on 
its crest the crocketed spire that we had seen lifting 
its long throat above its retainers like a serene high- 
ness, as we drove through the vineyards to St. Emilion. 
Low down on the cliff, below the reach of the swing- 
ing arms of a huge old fig tree that had rooted itself 
on the verge of the yellow rock, were carvings like 
the fagade of a church, and finally a door disclosed 
itself, through which we plunged after our guides, 
much as we had plunged into the private cellar of 
the Rothschilds. We were in the famous monolith 
church, hewn and dug in the living cliff by monks, 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 171 

headed by the industrious St. Emilion, in the eighth 
century, and going down a few steps to the level of 
the floor, we looked about us in the extremely 
moderate light that came through sloping shafts in 
the thickness of the cliffs sixty feet above. The fig 
tree roots had burrowed through the cliff, and hung 
in loops and knots from the roof, intersecting the 
cold and dusty streaks of light, and the flicker of 
a sun-lit green spray at the mouth of one of the 
shafts gave the solitary touch of colour to the sombre 
vault. It was a bare, immense place, with two rows 
of square pillars of solid rock supporting the arched 
roof, black with age, empty of everything save a stone 
altar or two, and a few tombs, dead silent, and 
abounding in dark hiding-places for rats and bats. 
* All this makes you experience I know not what 
sentiment of religious terror,' exclaims the guide- 
book at this juncture, in discreet rhapsody, having 
cantered through a page of architectural French, 
that had almost resulted in a case of ' Bellows to 
mend ' for the owner of that admirable dictionary. 



172 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

Our sentiments were far from religious after a tour 
of that church, during which we had seen some 
hundreds of names, addresses, ages, birthdays, en- 
gagements, and other data inscribed in the soft stone 
by tourists. Only those who have seen the corona- 
tion chair in Westminster Abbey gashed with vile 
initials, could believe the ravages of vulgarity at St. 
Emilion. The pillars and tombs were fully garnished 
with these hall marks of the barbarian. That was 
only to be expected, as even the bones in the tombs 
had been carried away bit by bit as agreeable souvenirs, 
but one would have imagined that the altar might 
have been spared. It was here, however, and on the 
old bas-relief above the altar, that a gentleman 
called Merritt had achieved his deadliest triumphs ; 
we tracked him subsequently through the grotto of 
St. Emilion and the monastery cloisters, but this was 
his highest effort, and probably the one that he 
recounts with most pride to his envious acquaintances. 
May the milkman and butcher's boy scribble his 
name upon the imitation granite of his suburban 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 173 

door-posts, and may it be wiped out from the will of 
his father-in-law ! 

We went on into a sort of annexe of the church, 
into which they used to shoot people through 
onbliittes when they became superfluous, and thence 
we scrambled out into the street again, and across 
to the grotto of St. Emilion. Apparently the saint 
had not been able to find anything above ground 
that combined privacy with excruciating discomfort, 
and accordingly scratched out this rabbit hole a 
dozen feet below the rest of the community, and 
lived there in damp and darkness for twenty or 
thirty years. His furniture was limited. The light 
of a match showed a bed cut in the wall, with a 
bolster of the same sympathetic description, a stone 
block for a table, another for a chair, and a holy 
well in an alcove. The old woman who had charge 
of the grotto struck another match, and held it low 
in the alcove of the sacred well for us to see the 
dark gleam of the water. It was more like a 
shallow pool than a well, and the water lay still 



174 J^ THE VINE COUNTRY. 

and perfectly transparent upon its yellow bed. Its 
ancient nymph scooped up a tumblerful with the 
assurance that it was the best in the world, and 
when we had satisfactorily tasted it, she lowered 
her match and said archly, ' Et Ics epingles. Re- 
gardcz les epingles, mesdemoiselles' 

We regarded as desired, and saw lying at the 
bottom of the pool a small collection of pins, some 
old and rusty enough to have fastened up St. 
Emilion's gown on wet days, others new and 
glittering. These, it was explained by the old lady 
wiih many knowing side-glances at our companions, 
were a means of fortune - telling peculiar to the 
sacred well. Gentlemen and ladies who visited it 
were accustomed to drop two pins into it, and if 
these fell so as to form a cross, then the thrower 
would be married before the year was out ; this 
was asseverated with chapter and verse, and the 
testimony of brides and bridegrooms who had re- 
turned there on their honeymoons. I searched 
silently and secretly in my inner economy for a 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 175 

pin ; so, I perceived, did my cousin, but apparently 




'ET LES fiPINGLES, MESDEMOISELLES.' 

without better success than I. The chief props of 
a declining costume could not be sacrificed to super- 



176 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

stition, and our fortunes remain undivined to this 
day. 

There was more, much more, to be seen in St. 
Emilion, and we saw some of it. We trust it may 
yet be given to us to stay for a clear three days at 
the hotel of the Russian princess, and to dawdle in 
a trance of idleness up and down the little streets, 
unharassed by time, or letter-writing, or newspapers. 
As it was, we went slowly and gradually round the 
beautiful ruins of a monastery in the upper part of 
the town, where the beeches and ashes grew freely 
in the nave and side aisles, and spread what shelter 
they could over the defenceless shafts and columns. 
The remembrance of those still cloisters, with their 
leafy sunlight flickering year after year on the worn 
flags and the gentle invasions of the grass, is 
pleasant in the mind — a possession chief among 
many gains of that very white day at St. Emilion. 
The bell-foundry working leisurely in the blackened 
shell of what had been another monastery was an 
episode in perfect keeping with the ge-neral religious 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 177 

calm of the town ; so was the Pilgrim's-Progress 
kind of landscape that we viewed from a corner of 
the fortifications — a delectable land, lying wide and 
rich in the hot afternoon haze. Indeed, had it not 
been that in a quiet back street we came upon a 
group of old women who sat knitting at their vine- 
hung doors, and discussed with shrill and personal 
directness the intentions of one of the party with 
regard to her will, we might have thought it was 
* within in in heaven we were,' as an Irishman said, 
with an intensifying wealth of prepositions, in de- 
scribing a whisky tent. 



12 



CHAPTER X. 




^\^ 7 T happened to one of 
us — no matter which 
— in early youth to 
have a governess who 
hailed from the parts 
about Bordeaux. She 
was a small rigid lady, 
with a cast-iron black 
silk skirt, and an en- 
vironing squint that 
extended her jurisdic- 
tion round illimitable 
corners, and up and 
down stairs at the 



same time. So, at least, her pupils felt, as they 

178 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 179 

trembled in the glare of that erratic green-brown eye, 
and quavered the regulation early French to one 
another, even in the fastnesses of their own rooms. 
Mademoiselle still holds sway among certain outly- 
ing members of our family, and on the eve of our 
departure for France there came a note in the 
well-known hand, suggestive of nothing so much as 
a paper of pins, in which she begged us, if our 
travels took us near St. B., to present the enclosed 
introduction at the country-house of Monsieur de 
Q., whose little daughters had been among ^ les plus 
gentilles de ses eVeves! 

We were not near St. B., unless an hour by train 
can be called near, and our last afternoon in varied 
French society had not persuaded us that we were 
likely to shine in that sphere, but the habit of early 
years of subjection was too strong for us. We 
posted the letter of introduction, and when the 
answer came that Madame de Q. would hope to 
meet us at the station of St. B. at three o'clock on 
the day following our visit to St. Emilion, we said 



l8o IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

* Kismet/ and tried to shake the Chateau Lafite 
dust from our Sunday hats. The journey to St. B. 
was hot and uneventful, and we spent the time it 
occupied mainly in the futile amusement of finding 
out in Bellows' Dictionary words that fate was 
never destined to bring us into contact with. 

Outside the St. B. station we were accosted by one 
of those nondescript, smug, red-faced servants who 
are met with only in France, and were conducted by 
him towards a green alley of plane trees, in whose 
shade was standing a landau with one somnolent 
black horse in the shafts. A tall lady advanced to 
meet us, hook-nosed and handsome, dressed with 
awe-inspiring smartness, and with a chill perfection 
of manner that awoke in us a simultaneous longing 
to run away. She neither spoke nor understood 
English, so she gave us to understand at once ; and 
another point about which she did not long leave 
us in doubt was that she would have * scorned the 
haction.' Moreover, the monstrous hearse-horse had 
not shambled more than a mile or so, at a trot that 




THE COCHER. 
181 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY, 183 

was with difficulty maintained by adjurations and 
whip-crackings from the coachman, before we began 
to make the further discovery that we had already 
bored our hostess almost to tears. We cannot be 
surprised at it ; the penetrating regret that we had 
ever started on the expedition would have paralysed 
our powers even of English conversation, and Ollen- 
dorff's earliest exercise is a thrilling romance when 
compared with the remarks that we churned ardu- 
ously forth for Madame de Q.'s benefit. 

It is true that she gave us no assistance. She 
leaned back and answered our questions without an 
effort either to appear less ennuyce than she was, or 
to amplify her replies, while her eyes strayed from 
time to time to the novel that lay on the scat beside 
her — ' Les Confessions de some one or other. Par 
la Comtesse Dash,' or some very similar title. She 
would not even discuss Mademoiselle, whom we 
played as our trump-card early in the game ; in 
fact, she had never even seen her. Mademoiselle 
had been the governess of her stepdaughters, and 



i84 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

had left before Madame's marriage with Monsieur 
de Q. The old landau rumbled slowly on, up and 
down hill, with the interminable vineyards on either 
hand, and occasional hamlets with houses crowded 
close to the white dusty road. At one of these, 
brightly-coloured electioneering posters of some local 
hero seemed to offer something to talk about. 

^ Nous avons a Londres' said my cousin very 
slowly and distinctly, breaking what had been a 
long and nerve - trying silence, ' tant de ces — a — 
postiches! 

* Pardon ? ' said Madame, with a certain languid 
interest ; *je ne vous ai pas compris^ mademoiselle' 

' Oh, siir des murs, vous savez,' said my cousin, 
wavering a little ; * des postiches, comme celal — she 
indicated another orange-coloured placard. 

^ Ah f Madame smiled very faintly. * Des affiches, 
peut-etre ? ' 

Then it occurred to us that a postiche was a name 
for a small pad for the hair, and humiliation almost 
overbore our usual feeble necessity of laughter. 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 187 

After this reverse we relinquished the unequal 
contest, and fell into a silence, dappled only by 
occasional topographical inquiries, until, as we 
turned in at a gateway, Madame de O. roused her- 
self sufficiently to tell us that we had arrived at her 
husband's house. We drove through the wide old- 
fashioned yard, surrounded by ivy - covered brick 
buildings, and round a gravel sweep to the front 
of an imposing white stone house. The coach- 
man ceased from his admonishments at a flight 
of stone steps, the black horse discontinued his 
advance, and we dismounted with the feeling 
that whatever might be before us, it could not be 
worse than what we had just gone through. The 
steps led up to a long stone-paved verandah, with 
handsome white columns supporting it, giving it a 
certain air of classic distinction ; pots of bright 
scarlet geraniums were ranged along the balustrade, 
and there was a group of chairs and a small table 
at one end of the verandah. From these, as we 
ascended the steps, two gentlemen rose and came 



i88 . IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

forward to meet us. One, a short stout man, un- 
expectedly attired in a Norfolk jacket and leather 
gaiters, with a blind eye, and a strong resemblance 
to the late John Bright, was introduced to us by 
Madame de Q. as ^ Mon inari ;^ and the other, a 
spotty young man in a high-crowned straw hat, 
clicked his heels together, and made a low bow, 
while we were informed that he was Madame's 
cousin, M. le Vicomte de R. John Bright apologised 
for the temporary absence of his daughters, and then 
we sat down and began to talk seriously with him 
about vines and their culture, while Madame and 
her cousin discussed in rapid undertones, and with 
suppressed amusement, some topic that our self- 
consciousness told us was not unconnected with 
ourselves. 

A little apart, and turned away from the table, 
there stood a thing that looked like a cross between 
a sentry-box and a sedan-chair ; it was made of 
basket-work, and as we prosed sapiently with Monsieur 
de Q. of the rival merits of the Malbec, Merlot, and 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 189 

Cabernet - Sauvignan grapes, we were aware of a 
curious agitation on its part. It was a little behind 
us, and the creaking of the wicker-work made us 
look round quickly — just in time to see, to our 
amazement, a small round female spring out of the 
chair and run nimbly through a long glass door 
into the drawing - room, followed by a waddling, 
wheezing ball of yellow fur which had been lurking 
with her in the recesses of the sentry-box. 

Monsieur de Q. betrayed no surprise. ' My sister,' 
he said explanatorily, and then he added in English, 
' She is vair shy.' 

Madame and her Vicomte took no notice of the 
episode, and we were addressing ourselves again to 
our discourse on grapes — the only subject on which 
Monsieur de Q. seemed to care to talk — when a jing- 
ling of glasses was heard, and the red-faced servant 
appeared, bearing a large tray, which he put down 
on the table. At the same moment a sort of dog- 
cart drove up, and two young ladies jumped out of 
it, without waiting for the servant, who hurried down 



igo IN THE VINE COUNTRY, 

to proffer his help. Madame's brow had contracted 
beneath her admirably curled and netted fringe, and 
we at once knew that we were about to meet les plus 
gentilles of the pupils of Mademoiselle. 

It is superfluous to give our preconceived ideas of 
these young ladies, unless, indeed, for the sake of 
saying that they reversed them all. They were 
dressed in shirts and short skirts and jackets, and 
wore thick boots and sailor hats, and their manner 
had a cheerful unconcern and want of stiffness that 
was as reassuring to us as it was evidently detestable 
to their stepmother. One of them addressed herself 
promptly to the table, whereon was the tray with 
tumblers, two carafes of cold water, a sugar-basin, 
and a tall bottle of what we afterwards found to be 
rum. The other sat down in the chair vacated by 
her father, and began to talk to us in broken English, 
that was so immeasurably bad that my cousin, partly 
from politeness, partly from some theory of making 
herself understood, began to answer her in as near 
an imitation of the same lingo as she could arrive at, 



IN THE VINE COUNTY. 191 

speaking loudly and very slowly, and using, as far 
as possible, words of no more than three letters. In 
the meantime I watched the movements of the other 
sister with a fascinated horror. She first put two 
lumps of sugar in each glass, then about two tea- 
spoonfuls of rum, and then the tumblers were filled 
with water, and were handed round, along with 
biscuits, to the company. Through the glass doors 
into the drawing-room I could see the aunt, waiting, 
apparently, in hopes that her share would be brought 
to her ; but as this did not occur, she presently crept 
back, and, with a flying bow to the party, immured 
herself again in her sedan-chair, with a heavily- 
sugared tumbler of the same dreadful eau snare an 
rhuni with which my cousin and I were toying. The 
sugar rose through the pale liquid in oily curls ; the 
sickly smell of the rum ' curdled under our noses,' as 
a Cork carman said, in affected reprobation of a glass 
of whisky. It was as disagreeable a drink as I have 
ever had to undertake for convivial purposes, not 
even excepting inout or 'fresh' poteen; and as we 



192 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

slowly sipped our way towards the two half-melted 
lumps in the bottom of the tumbler, not even the 
vanille biscuits could reconcile us to this too-con- 
centrated nectar. But release from the necessity of 
drinking came unexpectedly. The yellow dog had 
returned with his mistress, and, finding the seclusion 
of the sentry-box unremunerative, he went round 
from chair to chair, staring at the biscuits of the 
revellers with filmy, greedy eyes, and when he came 
to me, rearing up on his hind legs and clawing 
importunately at my dress. I fed him, being weak- 
minded in such matters, and then I tried to pat 
his head. He immediately gave a shrill yelp and 
snapped at my hand, and, in the uncontrollable jump 
with which I saved my fingers, the remainder of the 
rum and water was spilled over my last clean skirt. 

A chorus of horror arose. The pallid face and 
weak saucer eyes of the timid aunt appeared furtively 
round the straw rim of the chair, and she murmured, 
* Mees ! Mees ! ' in tones of faint reproof. (I had 
forgotten to say that as the dog was supposed to be 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 193 

an English terrier, he was called * Miss/ a generic 
term in France for the British dog, irrespective of 
size or sex.) Madame de Q. and the spotty cousin 
offered polite condolences; Monsieur de Q. aimed 
some opprobrious epithets at the offender instead 
of the kick that he so richly deserved ; and Mdlle. 
Hortense in an instant whirled me out of my chair, 
through the drawing-room, and into a bedroom, there 
to take off my own skirt and endue one of hers, while 
mine was sent to the kitchen to be washed and dried. 
It took a fair amount of philosophic calm to walk 
back to the verandah in a full white calico skirt some 
four inches too short for me, and it was a relief to 
find that a number of fresh visitors had arrived, and 
that my entrance was consequently unobserved. 
Almost immediately afterwards, it was suggested 
that we should be taken to see the park, and I 
crouched down the verandah behind the crowd, 
trying to decrease my height by those uncom- 
promising* four inches, and painfully conscious that 

all the gentlemen of the party had remained behind, 

13 



194 I^ THE VINE COUNTRY. 

and were watching our exit with some interest. 
' Now ces messieurs are content,' said Mdlle. Rosalie, 
dropping behind to talk to me. * They will be able 
to talk of nothing but the vintage till we return — 
qa magace I ' 

We crossed the yard, and went on past the in- 
evitable aivier, through a garden full of all-coloured 
dahlias and wall-fruit, and under the arch of a gate- 
way into a wide shrubbery with elm and chestnut 
trees shading close-shorn expanses of grass, and a 
serpentine piece of water, on the farther side of 
which the largest meadow that we had seen in the 
much-cultivated Medoc stretched away to a pine 
wood. 

*In winter they chase the woodcock there,' re- 
marked Mdlle. Rosalie. 

*We chase him also in Ireland,' we said, 'but he is 
a difficult bird to catch.' 

It then transpired that our hostesses were sports- 
women, and had shot almost every bird that there 
was to be shot in their district, from sparrows to 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 195 

quails. * Nous chassons de race! they said ; * our 
grandmother was a noted shot in her day/ 

We felt an incongruity about a French grandmother 
being bon tireur that was probably derived from a con- 
fused belief that the period of grandmothers in France 
was coincident with the costumes on a Watteau fan ; 
but the descendants of this sporting lady assured us 
that it had been, and was, quite comme ilfaut in the 
Medoc for ladies to shoot, and they further imparted 
to us in confidence that their stepmother disapproved 
deeply of their sporting' proclivities — a fact that did 
not take us by surprise. They were altogether 
a revelation, these Mdlles. de Q., with English 
manners and tastes, and even clothes, while Great 
Britain's language and literature were a sealed book 
to them, except for a few absurd phrases they had 
picked up at their convent school at Lyons from a 
*■ demoiselle dcossaise^ je crois, qui s'appelait Haut- 
Brion^ We wondered why a Scotch young lady 
should have been named after one of the classified 
clarets, and it was only in subsequent conversa- 



196 IN THE VINE COUNTRY, 

tion that it transpired that the demoiselle lived in 
Dublin and was called O'Brien. 

As we wandered back through the beautifully 
laid-out grounds, with such tropical plants as are 
usually associated with Kew Gardens meeting us on 
every hand, we heard how our hostesses loved riding, 
and hoped to get an amazone made by an English tailor, 
and inquiry elucidated the fact that the amazones in 
which they rode at present were made with long full 
skirts, and were generally as absurd as their name. 

The party of men whom we had left in the ver- 
andah were still seated there when we returned, 
Monsieur de Q. looking more than ever like John 
Bright as he held forth in eloquent periods on the 
treatment of influenza, which, it appeared, was rag- 
ing among his vintagers. Madame de Q. had not 
accompanied the walking expedition, and had retired, 
so her husband informed us, with a bad headache, 
the result of driving in the sun. We guiltily 
murmured condolences, but as a few minutes later 
we all sat down round the polished oak table in the 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 197 

dining-room, it appeared to us that the party seemed 
in no way to suffer from the absence of its hostess. 
Tea was served in a rather pecuHar manner. Empty 
teacups were placed in front of the guests ; one sister 
went round with the teapot, and the other followed 
with liqueurs and cold boiled milk, while a variety of 
little cakes and piled-up dishes of fruit circulated in 
her wake. The tea was hot and bitter with strength ; 
the certain prospect of indigestion depressed us, and 
unfitted us to cope with the not unreasonable curiosity 
of the other visitors as to us and our, to them, 
astonishing mission in the Medoc. We felt that our 
vocabulary was being tried rather too high, and on 
the whole we were glad that we had to catch a train 
back to Libourne at six, and had to decline the 
hospitable invitation of the daughters of the house 
to stay to dinner. 

While the carriage was coming round, I made 
haste to change into my own skirt. I have no bump 
of locality for the interior of strange houses, and when 
I had left the room in which the change was effected, 



198 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

I found myself confronted by three doors all equally 
likely to lead into the hall. I selected the most 
likely one, and rashly advanced. It was the boudoir 
of Madame, — Madame who had retired with a 
bad headache, and was now seated over a bright 
wood fire, with her yellow-covered book of * Con- 
fessions ' in her hand, and a cigarette between her 
lips. Sympathy for her, thus cornered in her last 
stronghold, was my first emotion as I fled, but 
sympathy for myself has been a more lasting feeling 
as I think how I have established myself in the mind 
of Madame de Q. as a crowning example of the 
gaiicherie and stupidity oi Les Anglais pour rire. 




CHAPTER XI. 

AMILIAR ground, but with what a differ- 
ence ! While the early train from Libourne 
neared the Bastide Station at Bordeaux, we 
sat serene and languid in our carriage, reading Lon- 
don papers, and talking English politics to Monsieur 
A. with an assurance which, we hope, concealed our 
ignorance ; luggage, cabmen, and porters were remote 
appendages of travel, interesting only to Monsieur 
A's. servant, a few carriages off. The dog from 
whose tail the tin kettle has been newly removed 
could hardly feel a more pleasing sense of undress 
than did we when we drove out of the yard of the 
station and saw our portmanteaus squatting sullenly 
side by side on the pavement, and knew that we 
should see their detested faces no more till our 
journey's end. 

199 



200 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

Bordeaux itself became a different town under this 
chaperonage. In the restaurant at which we lunched 
we were treated as old and distinguished friends, not 
merely of Monsieur A., but of the proprietor, and 
shops where we should have been ignored became 
gushing in their attentions. In the full glow of this 
borrowed radiance we travelled that afternoon along 
the sluggish railway line that traverses the Medoc, 
and saw at intervals, with a sense of old acquaintance, 
the sails of the ships and the smoke of the steamers 
on the Gironde appear above the vineyards on our 
right. We passed Pauillac with almost a pang of 
recognition. There was the church where we had 
seen acolytes with short cassocks and long boots with 
tassels ; there was the road along which the inexor- 
able Blossier had driven us, — Blossier, who now would 
lick the dust before us could our cortege but meet 
him ; there — most painful thought of all — was my 
largest sponge, that had been blown out of my 
bedroom window by the vent d' Afrique and never 
reappeared. 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 201 

It was half-past three before, at the station of St. 
Yzans, we clambered down the steep side of the 
carnage, and up the still steeper side of a smart 
English omnibus that was waiting for us. Two 
strong horses took us fast along the level roads, and 
the soft breeze cooled us as we sat on high and 
admired the perfect propriety with which Madame 
A.'s poodle sat erect beside the coachman and looked 
down with a sovereign severity upon the cur-dogs at 
the cottage doors. We had driven for seven miles, 
and the Gironde, from which the railway had strayed 
to meet the village of St. Yzans, was in sight again, 
when the horses were pulled up at a neat new gate- 
lodge ; we drove in over a bridge, and bowled up an 
avenue with vines spreading far on each side, then 
through a wood, and finally under a high arched 
gateway up to the door of a long pink chateau with 
pointed towers at either end. We were shown into 
a large drawing-room, with windows opening on to 
an old stone terrace, beyond which were brilliant 
flower-beds, and, in the distance, a blue strip of 



202 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

river ; afternoon tea of the English kind stood ready, 
with a pile of letters and papers waiting beside it ; a 
billiard-room opened on one side, a library on the 
other, all empty, and luxuriously expectant of our 
occupation. It was our good fortune to be the 
guests of Mr. Gilbey at Chateau Loudenne, and 
though by a fortune less kind we had been deprived 
of the presence of our host, he had provided for us 
the pleasantest of deputies to dispense his hospi- 
talities. 

The few days that we spent there with Monsieur and 
Madame A. were like no other part of our lives, and 
retained to the last the ease and enjoyment and the 
pervading sense of welcome that came so soothingly 
to us that first afternoon. English management 
and comforts were not made incongruous by the 
aromatic flavour of French surroundings and the 
vivid pageant of the vintage ; each accented the 
other, and retired into the background with unfailing 
fitness. It was near the end of the vintage when we 
arrived. The handsome red and white buildings 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 203 

which held the ciivier, the long line of stables and 
farm-buildings, the immense storehouses full of wine 
and wine barrels, were at their busiest, and on the 
slopes below the chateau the vintagers were working 
at top speed to finish by the end of the week. As we 
walked through the long vineyards by the river, the 
grapeless rows of vines looked forlorn and elderly, 
like mothers who have married off their daughters 
and have no occupation left. It was far more in- 
spiriting to move farther on, and watch the sight that 
was now so familiar and yet always so fresh, the 
women's figures moving waist-high in the green, — the 
men carrying the heavy hottes of fruit on their 
necks, the overseer with his eight-foot pole pointing 
fatefully to the bunch of grapes left behind by the 
careless vendangetises, the hurry and bustle of every- 
thing, and the creamy oxen stepping slowly and 
imperturbably through it all, with their seventeen 
hands of height shrouded in grey draperies to pre- 
serve them from the flies, sentient apparently of 
nothing except the driver's voice and the guiding 



204 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

touch of his stick. There is a stable full of great 
English cart-horses at Loudenne, such as had not 
been seen in France since the days of Agincourt, 
but these descendants of the mediaeval warhorse are 




FIN DE VENDANGE. 



used only for the rougher farm-work ; it is said 
that the oxen, from their clockwork slowness and 
placidity, do not break and injure the vines as a 
horse might, and though this is contradicted, and the 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 205 

days of oxen are said to be numbered in the Medoc, 
they still pace in couples from vineyard to ciivier^ 
setting their hoofs down together with the grave 
accuracy of a minuet, neither slackening nor strain- 
ing, whether the two tall tubs on the cart behind 
them are full or empty. 

The clack of conversation died down a little while 
we stood with Monsieur A. and looked on at the 
work, but one could feel that it was a seething 
repression, as of soda-water behind its cork. We felt 
bound, however, to combat the justice of giving the 
women less wages than the men on the grounds 
that they talked more ; it seemed to us that no 
created being could talk in such volumes as the male 
Medoc peasant, unless it be a Galway beggar, or a 
Skibbereen fishwoman before the Bench. The next 
piece of information seemed, from previous observa- 
tion, more likely. It is calculated that the vintagers 
on this estate eat during the vintage an amount of 
grapes equal to a hogshead of claret — a creditable 
performance for people who are forbidden to eat any, 



2o6 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

and are under constant strict surveillance. * We 
cannot enforce the rule,' said Monsieur A., beckoning 
to us two girls from the end of a row ; * we can only 
prove when it is broken. Put out your tongues ! ' 

This direction was to the two grinning ven- 
dangeuses ; and, in response, two large tongues, as 
purple-black as a parrot's, were presented to us, 
while the eyes of their owners goggled above them 
with guilty deprecation and an inextinguishable sense 
of the absurdity of the situation. They had the full 
sympathy of the jury, and the judge only held up 
his hands and laughed too. 

It was already late in the day, and sunset and its 
signal to leave off work came soon. The crowd 
flocked out of the vines — men, women, and children, 
talking and laughing with unexhausted zest, and 
grouping themselves in the sandy cart-track in un- 
erring harmonies of blue and white and grey, flecked 
here and there with the flash of a red kerchief or 
cap. The movement towards home gradually assumed 
the aspect of a religious procession. Headed by the 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 207 

Sacrificial oxen and their load of grapes, it passed 
slowly through the vineyards in the dewy spell of 
the evening, till, as it moved distantly up the slopes 
and breasted the afterglow, it seemed that a Samian 
glade and a temple to Ceres must be its destination. 
It was the last of the vintage, and the first feeling of 
coming farewell touched us while we came back 
among the stripped vines ; the metallic whirr of the 
cigales and the loud interjections of the bullfrogs 
were the only voices left to replace the shrill babble 
that had penetrated every square yard of the green 
landscape. A suspicion of frost was in the air, 
touching the tender evening like a spur, to remind 
it of the tyranny that was to come, when the vines 
would shrink to brown skeletons, and the winter day 
would darken above them to its setting, in the chilly 
silence of the snow. 

Dinner was scarcely over that evening when the 
scraping of a fiddle and the husky note of a flute 
were audible in the hall, and as we came into the 
drawing-room there entered by the other door a 



2o8 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

group of people who might have come straight out 
of Arcadia or an Italian opera. In front were the 
two musicians, playing a gay little tune, while be- 
hind them two peasant girls advanced, carrying each 
an enormous bouquet of flowers, with a party of the 
vintagers bringing up the rear. The music finished 
with a flourish, and one of the bearers of the bou- 
quets brought her oflering forward and presented 
it to Monsieur A. with a few eulogistic sentences, 
followed by the second bearer, who performed the 
like office for Madame A. How in this position 
would an English country gentleman have stiffened, 
stammered, and assumed a galvanic gratification ; 
how his wife would have murmured inane thanks 
with uneasy condescension ; and how totally different 
in all particulars was the demeanour of Monsieur and 
Madame A. ! Each in turn made a speech of a few 
sentences, with perfect graciousness, point, and fluency ; 
they even looked as if they thoroughly enjoyed doing 
it, and we gaped from the background with respect- 
ful admiration. The fiddle and flute struck up again, 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 209 

and to their music the deputation withdrew, leaving 
just enough flavour of garHc behind to blend quaintly 
with the heliotrope and rose perfumes of the two 
bouquets. 

This ceremonial was the prelude of the dance that 
celebrated thej^;^ de vendange, and a little later we 
wrapped ourselves in shawls and went out to join in 
the revels. The room in which the vintagers dine 
at the Chateau Loudenne is an extremely large one, 
with a musicians' gallery running across one end of 
it — an accessory that showed that dancing was as 
recognised a part of the programme as dinner. The 
dance had hardly begun when we came in ; a few of 
the smaller kind were plodding round in a kind of 
polka with only three steps to the bar, but the men 
were for the most part grouped near the door, and 
the ladies lined the benches, calm in the certainty 
that they were in the minority. We took our seats 
at the top of the room under the musicians' gallery, 
prepared to observe with the intelligent interest of 
the tourist this splash of local colour that good luck 

14 



210 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

had thrown in our way. The music ceased, and 
there was a pause, during which the men filed into 
the room and partners were chosen, while an in- 
credible clang of talk filled the air. Presently a hoot 
from the long horn announced the beginning of the 
dance, and each man grasped his partner by the 
waist and led her forth. It was called a contre- 
danse, and by the time that a tune of the most 
furious friskiness had been played through once, ten 
or twelve couples were standing, not only ready, but 
prancing in their impatience to start. The men were 
mostly small, agile creatures of comparatively tender 
years ; the women, on the contrary, were tall and 
stout, seemingly of a different race, and not by any 
means distressingly young. In fact, the pretty girls 
whom w^e had picked out as the probable belles of 
the entertainment were sitting neglected round the 
room, talking apparently to their fathers and 
mothers. 

. As soon, however, as the signal to go had been 
given, we realised that, in the practical Mddoc, 'handr 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 211 

some is that handsome does.' The tall person whom 
we had lightly compared to a bolster, went away 
down the room as if there were a spiral spring inside 
the bolster-case, and her matronly vis-a-vis advanced 
to meet her in a manner only comparable to 'the 
way the divil went through Athlone, in standing 
leps,' to quote Sergeant Mulvaney. We watched 
these gambols in undisturbed enjoyment for about a 
minute, and. then suddenly my cousin was aware of 
a man standing in front of her, bowing, and silently 
holding out both hands. 

' He wants you to dance with him, and you will 
have to do it,' whispered Madame A. to her, with 
unsympathetic ecstasy; 'it is the custom of the 
vintage.' 

In another moment my cousin was swept into the 
line of the top couples, and her partner, a pallid, oily 
youth of Jewish aspect, was whirling her down the 
room with such a coruscation of capers as would 
have done credit to a Catherine - wheel. What 
exactly she looked like as, hopelessly conspicuous in 



212 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

her white dress, she floundered, hopped, and jigged 
through the melee^ time was not given to me to 
determine. A blue-clad figure was already bowing 




HE WANTS YOU TO DANCE WITH HIM, AND YOU WILL HAVE TO DO IT 
IT IS THE CUSTOM OF THE VINTAGE.' 

in front of me, and, as two warm, ungloved hands 
took mine, the only balm left in Gilead was the 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 213 

sight of Madame A. cleaving the flood of dancers 
in the arms of a little creature whom I took for a 
stout child of ten years old, till I subsequently saw 
his moustache. 

The contre-danse in which we were thus embroiled 
stormed on with conversational intervals between the 
figures for about twenty minutes. It was an inflamed 
variety of kitchen Lancers, danced with a rhythmic 
fury, and larded with impromptu flourishes on the 
part of the gentlemen. We envied the bolster as 
she bobbed serenely past us, riding the waves of the 
contre-danse like a bottle in a chopping sea, while we 
were struggling in its depths and trying with slides 
and springs to overtake its impossible rhythm. A 
reel at a tenants' dance in Galway, the ' D'Alberts ' 
at a sergeants' ball at the Curragh, the ' barn-dance ' 
on a carpet after dinner on New Year's night, — 
in all these violent amusements we have competed 
with a measure of success, but candour compels 
us to state that our debut in the contre-danse at 
Chateau Loudenne was somewhat of a failure. Sorry 



214 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

spectacles as we were by the time its five or six figures 
were over, we should have been still more dilapidated 
had it not been for those intervals wherein we were 
talked to by our respective vinedressers as agreeably, 
as politely, and with as easy a selection of topics as 
if they were daily in the habit of discoursing to English 
ladies. In this connection we may say that not one 
of these peasants of the most wine-making district 
in the world owed any of their hilarity to the claret 
in which they lived, moved, and had their being ; in 
fact, not once during our fortnight in the Medoc did 
we see any man who had taken more than was good 
for him. 

More and more dances followed, till our legs ached, 
and the cement floor wore holes in our shoes, and 
then, as we were preparing to go back to the house, 
it was said that ces dames ought absolutely to see the 
'Bignou.' The ' Bignou ' sounded like the name of 
some monster of the middle ages, and might have 
been the local name for a werewolf for all we knew ; 
but we stayed, nevertheless, and presently saw enter- 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 215 

ing by another door nothing naore alarming than 
four little old women. It was explained to us that 
the '■ Bignou ' was an ancient dance, almost obsolete 
in that part of the country, and that these four were 
the only worthy exponents of it, and had been actually 
awakened out of their first sleep to dance it for us. 
A rough-looking boy was hoisted on to a barrel at 
the end of the room — a boy who had come all the 
way from Brittany for the vintage (if, as is highly 
probable, I did not misunderstand my partner), 
bringing with him the little wooden instrument upon 
which he now set up a shrill piping that sounded 
like a penny whistle with a bluebottle in it. This 
archaic flute was itself the ' Bignou ' from which the 
dance took its name, and the extraordinary tune 
which it buzzed forth might have been composed by 
Tubal Cain. The four old danseuses, in their white 
caps and full black skirts, took their positions in the 
middle of the room with a prim consciousness of 
their own importance, and all that we had yet seen 
was child's play compared with the intricate measure 



2l6 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 



that followed. The little figures flew in darting 
circles, like flies on a pool, to the mad squeals of the 
* Bignou,' their list-shod feet slapping the floor in 





.^^' ^ 


''>lfll 


i .. W ^ k 







THE LITTLE FIGURES FLEW IN DARTING CIRCLES, LIKE FLIES IN A POOL. 

absolute accord, and their full skirts and white cap- 
strings leaping out behind them in time to each 
angular twist of the tune. As we watched them we 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 217 

no longer wondered at their age. Steps such as 
those could not be learned in less than seventy years. 
The onlookers stamped and clapped, the * Bignou ' 
player blew with a possessed frenzy, and the little 
old women circled tirelessly, like witches on the 
Brocken. I do not know how long the dance lasted, 
but as we went back in the darkness to the chateau 
we felt as if the music had gone to our heads ; and 
when I lay down under my mosquito curtains, the 
dark figures whirled and swung giddily before me, as 
if the spirit of the Medoc had been expressed in 
them as intoxicatingly as in its wine. 



CHAPTER XII. 




•^ 



HE lamps were all lighted on the long 



bridge over the Garonne ; the lights quivered and 

218 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 219 

lengthened in the sleek broad ripples ; other lights 
twinkled on the masts and in the rigging of the 
half-seen shipping, and but for the trams and the 
traffic all things were as they had been at our 
midnight arrival in Bordeaux. It was only 6.30 
o'clock, but autumn was catching up to us even 
in the Medoc, robbing us daily of more and more 
light, and blunting our regret for a portmanteauful 
of soiled white skirts by impressing the melancholy 
fact that this year we should have no further need 
of them. We had said good-bye to the Medoc and 
its kind people, and our faces were turned for the 
bleak North. 

There were four large dark hours to be disposed of 
before the departure of the Paris train, and, as we 
stood in the blue electric glare of the station, the 
question of what we were going to do with ourselves 
rose solemnly and awfully before us. Shopping in 
the dark was intolerable, even if we had known one 
shop from another, and there had been anything we 
wanted to buy ; the conventional resource of going 



220 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

to see a church was obviously out of the question ; 
the rather unconventional one of going to see '' La 
Femme a Papa' at the big colonnaded theatre was 
tempting, but would either impose in the future an 
exhausting burden of secrecy upon us, or would 
finally overthrow whatever confidence our relations 
might still retain in our discretion. There remained 
dinner as an occupation, and, leaving the arid bril- 
liance of the station, we prowled forth along the 
quays in search of a suitable restaurant. We were 
ready to endure much for the sake of interest or pic- 
turesqueness, but there is neither one nor the other 
to be found in a room with a sawdusted floor, a block 
tin bar, and a contiguous billiard-table ; and these 
features discounted successively the charms of the 
restaurants of ' The Antilles,' ' The Brazil,' ' The Spain 
and Portugal,' the ' Hotel a la Renommee de I'Ome- 
lette,' and the ' Cafe au Bon Diable,' outside all of 
whose flaring windows we paused and surveyed with 
exceeding disfavour the company within. 

We reached again the long bridge, with the trams 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 221 

going to and fro upon it like fireflies, and with the 
power of fulfilling it came the desire for respectable 
comfort at the Hotel de Bayonne, where we had 
lunched with the A.'s on our way to Loudenne. We 
stopped a tram and confided our wishes to the con- 
ductor. His tram did not go there, but we could 
'correspond;' it would be quite simple — The end 
of the explanation was lost in the jerk with which 
we were hoisted on to the step, and in the blatant 
braying of the driver's signal-horn as the tram 
plunged forward again. We began our journey by 
standing in a throng on the platform of the tram, 
and though a light rain had begun, the samples of 
the atmosphere of the interior that from time to time 
were wafted to us prevented us from being specially 
grateful when two gorgeous red-and-blue soldiers 
politely gave us their seats. After ten or fifteen 
minutes, however, there was no lack of room ; the 
tram, having taken its way through promising 
thoroughfares, shook itself free of all passengers 
saving ourselves, and headed for the open country at 



222 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

a round pace. Before the conductor permitted us 
to part from him it seemed to us that we might have 
corresponded not only with every other Hne in 
Bordeaux, but with our relatives in Gahvay as well ; 
and when, somewhere in a dark and silent suburb, 
we changed to the rival tram, there was a further 
half-hour before we sank exhausted on our chairs in 
the Hotel de Bayonne. 

The advantages of an introduction were shown in 
the effusion of the proprietor's greeting, and under 
the ministrations of Alphonse, the head waiter, we 
revived. We were late for the ordinary dinner, and 
for some time the clean, electric-lighted dining-room 
had us for its only occupants, as we sat in a trance 
of repose and quietness, while Alphonse, with his 
decorous hooked nose and clerical black whiskers, 
gave us his serious and undivided attention. It was 
not until after the delicious omelette an rhum had 
come in, in its winding-sheet of spectral blue flame, 
that a party entered and took possession of a table 
near us. From the unhurried way in which they 




ALPHONSE. 



223 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 225 

came in and seated themselves it was easy to guess 
that to dine was the only amusement they proposed 
to themselves for the evening, and as we drank our 
coffee and watched their dinner through its stately 
and solid progress, we began to think that there are 
few greater fallacies than the general belief that the 
French middle-classes are small eaters as compared 
with the English. That the shopkeeper-like man 
and the fuzzy-headed woman were the givers of the 
feast, and the parents of the frightful and gluttonous 
child, was apparent from their disparaging criticisms 
of the soup and their indulgence of their offspring, 
but it was necessary for the guest to endure from 
the child a kiss that, as some one says, was also a 
baptism, for us to feel that she was no relation to it, 
unless one of the very poorest kind. The whole 
party, as it went steadily through their menu of ten 
courses, without omitting the nethermost leek in the 
salad, opened our eyes, as we have said, to the 
staying qualities of the French appetite, and it was 
privileged to demonstrate for us that the mysterious 

15 



226 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

little tumblers of water and peppermint that had been 
brought in with our finger-glasses were for the fell 
purpose of rinsing out the mouth before proceeding to 
coffee and liqueurs. It was a solace to us during our 
long wait at the hotel ; and monsieur's dexterity with 
the macaroni cheese and his knife, and madame's 
gesticulations with a bitten peach, were each in their 
way agreeable and instructive. 

The dame settle is an unusual feature in French 
travelling, especially at night, and it seemed to us, 
while we wandered down the long platform of the 
Bastide, with twenty minutes to spare, that we could 
not do better than get into the carriage reserved for 
ladies only. But one glance into that fastness was 
enough. A mamma, a white-capped ' 7iou-noiil an 
underling, an infant, and three children (two of them 
in tears) were already in possession, and beginning 
the first of the meals that experience had taught us 
would continue through the night. The next carriage 
was empty ; better the maniac or the inebriate, 
better even the Government cigar — these things were 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 227 

among the possibilities, but we chanced them. They 
none of them happened. We adopted the tried 
stratagem of pulling down the blinds and holding 
the handle from inside, and had the satisfaction of 
hearing the possible maniacs, drunkards, and smokers 
of French tobacco remark to each other, after they 
had tried the handle, that it was either a mail-van 
or a reserved carriage. 

We had hired two pillows at a franc each, accord- 
ing to the convenient custom on the Paris-Orleans 
railway, and thanks to them, the worst part of the 
eleven hours was spent in sleep that was just 
pleasantly conscious of the stops at the stations, and 
was lulled into blander repose by an occasional 
muffled squall from the pandemonium next door. 
At Blois the daylight began, and it was then, in 
the cold dawn, while the train shuffled uneasily to 
and fro on meaningless slidings, and the green-grey 
mass of a great castle deepened each time we looked 
from behind the blinds, that we drew forth the half 
bottle of Grand St. Lambert that had for the last few 



228 IN THE VINE COUNTRY, 

days been carried perilously about in a bonnet-box, 
and with grapes and croissants began a repast that 
continued through stages of bovril, tea, and ginger- 
bread biscuits till we neared Paris. The water for 
the tea was near proving a difficulty. To get it, it 
was necessary to shuffle in * night's disarray' to the 
buffet, and a fair amount of nerve was required to 
advance through the crowd of sleepily devouring men 
and fill a disreputable tin kettle from a carafe of 
water under the very eyes of an indignant waiter. 
We flatter ourselves that the most courageous man of 
our acquaintance would have been afraid to do it. 

There is on the south side of the Seine, not far 
from the Gare Montparnasse, a hotel beloved of art 
students. It is clean and cheap, and is bounded on 
all sides by the tram lines that cleave Paris through 
and through, and put the whole town in the hollow 
of one's hand for six sous {avec correspondance). The 
Quartier Latin looked as fresh and clean and respect- 
able on this October morning as if it had not a 
world-wide reputation for opposite qualities, and as 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY, 229 

mademoiselle of the hotel rushed out and greeted us 
in such strange English as is learnt from American 
art students, and with the effusion that is reserved by 
her for old friends, a serene assurance settled down 
upon us that here, at least, our appearance, manners, 
and accents would excite no surprise. We had our 
luncheon at a crenierie^ a place known of yore, where 
a beefsteak (saignmit, according to French custom, 
unless specially forbidden), confiture, a saucerful of 
curd known as fromage a la crime, and a cup of 
black coffee could be obtained in sufficient cleanli- 
ness for a franc or less. It was rather too early in 
the season for the art student to be in full bloom ; 
the two hot little rooms that were so like the cabins 
of an inferior steamer were almost empty, instead of 
being stuffed to their utmost capacity and resounding 
with as many languages as the Tower of Babel, and 
when we went on to the studio, and, with pleasurable 
anticipation, climbed the long staircase and knocked 
at the door, no voice responded. There was no one 
there. The easels were heaped up in one corner, the 



230 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

stools in another, the clock had stopped, the model 
stand was covered with dust, and desponding sketches 
of undressed deformities dangled from the walls, each 
by a single drawing-pin. Angelo, the hoary and 
picturesque attendant, followed us into this desola- 
tion, and said that such monde as there was, with a 
contemptuous shrug, was la-bas. A glance into the 
lower studio, where half-a-dozen unknown English- 
women were fighting over the position of a sulky 
model in the dress of a cardinal, was enough for us. 
We felt that 'superfluous lags the veteran on the 
stage.' 

• We wandered on by familiar ways to the Luxem- 
bourg galleries — there, at least, we should find old 
friends ; and we looked at Rosa Bonheur's oxen with 
the eye of knowledge, and found them by no means 
up to the standard of Chateau Loudenne. When we 
got out into the gardens again, with their linked 
battalions of perambulators, and their thousand 
children courting sea - sickness on the zoological 
merry-go-rounds, thfe afternoon was still young. The 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 231 

tops of the tall horse-chestnuts were yellow in the 
sunshine, and above them, in the blue sky, the Eiffel 
Tower looked down on us, suggesting absurdly the 
elongated neck of Alice in Wonderland, when the 
pigeon accuses her of being a serpent. Its insistent 
challenge could no longer be resisted ; in spite of the 
needle-cases, yard-measures, and paper-weights that 
had horridly familiarised us with its outlines, it was 
decidedly a thing to be done. People who would go 
to sleep if we talked to them about the vineyards, 
would wake to active contempt if they heard we had 
not been to the Eiffel Tower. 

We were deluded into getting off our tram too 
soon, and consequently had a long crawl through the 
empty Exhibition buildings and grounds before we 
reached our destination. To this, however, we owed 
the sight of the strange row of variety entertainments 
which we passed en route. A cup of coffee at forty-five 
centimes, or even a glass of beer at thirty centimes, 
would have entitled us to a chair or a marble table 
at any of these spectacles ; but having taken a cursory 



232 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

view, from outside the crowd at the barriers, of the 
man in evening clothes mournfully bellowing some- 
thing that sounded like a funeral ode to his mother, 
of the young lady with long yellow hair and short 
yellow petticoats giving a comic recitation flavoured 
with dancing, and of the infant phenomenon, whose 
performance on the piano was unfortunately reduced 
to dumb show by the success of the funny man next 
door, we were disposed to think that the coffee would 
be dear at the price. 

We found ourselves at last under the four arching 
dachshund legs from which the Tower tapers im- 
probably into space, and strayed round on the gravel 
underneath it, lavishing upon each other truisms 
appropriate to the occasion, and expressing artificial 
regrets that we had apparently come too late in the 
afternoon for the lift. While we spoke, a clicking 
sound dropped to us from the sky; we looked up, 
and saw amidst the cobwebs of iron a large square 
fly descending. I hardly know how we came to find 
ourselves at the entrance of the ascenseiir. We both 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 233 

dislike lifts ; and my cousin can repeat many rousing 
tales of lift-accidents, in which the point is usually 
the apparent identity of the attendant with the 
leading character in a thrice-repeated nightmare ; 
but some form of false shame impelled us to the 
first stage. We held our breaths as we slid upwards 
through the girders that looked like all the pro- 
positions in Euclid run mad, and it was not till the 
horrible hiccough came, that told us we had stopped 
at the first platform, that we ventured to glance at 
the lift-man. 

We walked round the long galleries, my cousin 
making herself both conspicuous and absurd by her 
determination to find out how many dragoon-like 
strides went to each side. It will doubtless be a 
blow to the designer to hear that the four faces of the 
Tower vary in length, two of them measuring ninety- 
seven yards, another a hundred, and the fourth 
ninety-nine and a hop. We had thought of going 
to the top — thought of it vaguely and valiantly for 
some little time after the lift had shaken us out on 



234 IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 

the first etage^ and before we had looked over the 
edge. One glance, however, down at the black 
specks crawling on the strips of tape that represented 
the gravel paths of the Exhibition grounds satisfied 
us that we were as high as we wished to go. Even 
here the height was making my fingers tingle, and 
my cousin had retired unsteadily from the verge 
under the pretext of buying a photograph at a neigh- 
bouring stall ; while as to the view, all Paris was 
already far below us, a marvellous gray and green 
toy, with the afternoon sun striking flame out of the 
tiny gilded domes and spires, and the pale thread 
of a river winding from one microscopic bridge to 
another, all showing clear in the smokeless air with 
a magical precision of detail. 

There is a staircase that circles dizzily down the 
Tower, a Jacob's ladder that would make an angel 
giddy, and rather than enter again the lift that was 
even now sliding down to us on its steel cable through 
the iron network, my cousin said she would walk 
down. It was the final dispute of the expedition, 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 235 

and, after affording much amusement to the by- 
standers, it ended in my leading my cousin, with her 
eyes tightly shut, and the expression of Lady Jane 
Grey on her way to execution, into the box with the 
sloping floor, in whose safety it was so impossible to 
believe. We sit safely now in the ground floor of a 
two-storeyed house, and as we look back to that 
experience, it seems to us that no dentist's chair 
can have cradled more suffering than the lift of the 
Eiffel Tower. 

We left Paris by a late train that night. Summer 
and its habiliments had alike been crushed out of 
sight by dint of a final war-dance upon our port- 
manteaus. Everything connected with the Medoc 
was put away ; the Kodak, with its hidden 
store of vintage pictures, the apparatus of after- 
noon tea, even the well-thumbed and invaluable 
copy of Bellows' Dictionary that had up to 
this abided immutably in our pockets, was laid 
sorrowing to rest in the crown of the Libourne 
straw hat. What use was it to us on a degraded 



236 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY. 



line of railway on which all the porters spoke 
English ? 

We took a last look out of the train window at the 




SUCCESS TO THE VINTAGE OF i8qi. 



electric star of the Eiffel Tower, perched among the 
elder stars in the sky behind us, and my cousin 
opened her bonnet-box and drew forth for the last 



IN THE VINE COUNTRY, 237 

time that widow's cruse, the bottle of Grand St. 
Lambert. There was about a wine-glassful left, and 
out of a thick green Pauillac mug we solemnly drank 
success to our first vintage. 




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