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to the more severe critic. To the one be contenting enjoyment of their auspicious desires; to the other, a happy attendance of their chosen Muses.” 1
And now, fair dames and courteous gentlemen, give me attentive audience :
“ Lordyng lystnith to my tale,
THE NORMAN DILIGENCE.
The French guides, otherwise called the postilians, have one most diabolicall custome in their travelling upon the
wayes. Diabolicall it may be well called; for whensoever their horses doe a little anger them, they will say in their fury, Allons, diable, – that is, Go, thou divel. This I know by mine own experience.
It was early in the “ leafy month of June that I travelled through the beautiful province of Normandy. As France was the first foreign country I visited, everything wore an air of freshness and novelty, which pleased my eye, and kept my fancy constantly busy. Life was like a dream. It was a luxury to breathe again the free air, after having been so long cooped up at sea; and, like a long-imprisoned bird let loose from its cage, I revelled in the freshness and sunshine of the morning landscape.
On every side, valley and hill were covered with a carpet of soft velvet green. The birds were singing merrily in the trees, and the landscape wore that look of gayety so well described in the quaint language of an old romance, making the “ sad, pensive, and aching heart to rejoice, and to throw off mourning and sadness." Here and there a cluster of chestnut-trees shaded a thatched-roofed cottage, and little patches of vineyard were scattered on the slope of the hills, mingling their delicate green with the deep hues of the early summer grain. The whole landscape had a fresh, breezy look. It was not hedged in from the highways, but lay open to the eye of the traveller, and seemed to welcome him with open arms.
I felt less a stranger in the land ; and as my eye traced the dusty road winding along through a rich cultivated country, skirted on either side with blossoming fruit-trees, and occasionally caught glimpses of a little farm-house resting in a green hollow and lapped in the bosom of plenty, I felt that I was in a prosperous, hospitable, and happy land.
I had taken my seat on top of the diligence,
1 Selden's Prefatory Discourse to the Notes in Drayton's Poly-Olbion.
in order to have a better view of the country. It was one of those ponderous vehicles which totter slowly along the paved roads of France, laboring beneath a mountain of trunks and bales of all descriptions; and, like the Trojan horse, bearing a groaning multitude within it. It was a curious and cumbersome machine, resembling the bodies of three coaches placed upon one carriage, with a cabriolet on top for outside passengers.
On the panels of each door were painted the fleurs-de-lis of France, and upon the side of the coach, emblazoned in golden characters, “ Exploitation Générale des Messageries Royales des Diligences pour le Havre, Rouen, et Paris."
It would be useless to describe the motley groups that filled the four quarters of this little world. There was the dusty tradesman, with green coat and cotton umbrella ; the sallow invalid, in skull-cap and cloth shoes; the priest in his cassock; the peasant in his frock; and a whole family of squalling children. My fellow-travellers on top were a gay subaltern, with fierce mustache, and a nut-brown village beauty of sweet sixteen. The subaltern wore a military undress, and a little blue cloth cap, in the shape of a cow-bell, trimmed smartly with silver lace, and cocked on one side of his head. The brunette was decked out with a staid white Norman cap, nicely starched and plaited, and nearly three feet high, a rosary and cross about her neck, a linsey-woolsey gown, and wooden shoes.
The personage who seemed to rule this little world with absolute sway was a short, pursy man, with a busy, self-satisfied air, and the sonorous title of Monsieur le Conducteur. As insignia of office, he wore a little round fur cap
and fur-trimmed jacket; and carried in his hand a small leathern portfolio, containing his way-bill. He sat with us on top of the diligence, and with comic gravity issued his mandates to the postilion below, like some petty monarch speaking from his throne. In every dingy village we thundered through, he had a thousand commissions to execute and to receive; a package to throw out on this side, and another to take in on that; a whisper for the landlady at the inn; a love-letter and a kiss for her daughter; and a wink or a snap of his fingers for the chambermaid at the window. Then there were so many questions to be asked and answered, while changing horses! Everybody had a word to say. It was Monsieur le Conducteur ! here: Monsieur le Conducteur ! there. He was in complete bustle ; till at length crying, En route ! he ascended the dizzy height, and we lumbered away in a cloud of dust.
. But what most attracted my attention was the grotesque appearance of the postilion and the horses. He was a comical-looking little fellow, already past the heyday of life, with a thin, sharp countenance, to which the smoke of tobacco and the fumes of wine had given the dusty look of parchment. He was equipped in a short jacket of purple velvet, set off with a red collar, and adorned with silken cord. Tight breeches of bright yellow leather arrayed his pipe-stem legs, which were swallowed up in a huge pair of wooden boots, iron-fastened, and armed with long, rattling spurs.
His shirt-collar was of vast dimensions, and between it and the broad brim of his high, bellcrowned, varnished hat, projected an eel-skin queue, with a little tuft of frizzled hair, like a powder-puff, at the end, bobbing up and down with the motion of the rider, and scattering a white cloud around him.
The horses which drew the diligence were harnessed to it with ropes and leather thongs, in the most uncouth manner imaginable. They were five in number, black, white, and gray, — as various in size as in color. Their tails were braided and tied up with wisps of straw; and when the postilion mounted and cracked his heavy whip, off they started: one pulling this way, another that, - one on the gallop, another trotting, and the rest dragging along at a scram
bling pace, between a trot and a walk. No sooner did the vehicle get comfortably in motion, than the postilion, throwing the reins upon his horse's neck, and drawing a flint and steel from one pocket and a short-stemmed pipe from another, leisurely struck fire, and began to smoke. Ever and anon some part of the rope-harness would give way ; Monsieur le Conducteur from on high would thunder forth an oath or two; a head would be popped out at every window; half a dozen voices exclaim at once,
6 What's the matter?” and the postilion, apostrophizing the diable as usual, would thrust his long whip into the leg of his boot, leisurely dismount, and, drawing a handful of packthread from his pocket, quietly set himself to mend matters in the best way possible.
In this manner we toiled slowly along the dusty highway. Occasionally the scene was enlivened by a group of peasants, driving before them a little ass, laden with vegetables for a neighboring market. Then we would pass a solitary shepherd, sitting by the road-side, with a shaggy dog at his feet, guarding his flock, and making his scanty meal on the contents of his wallet; or perchance a little peasant girl, in wooden shoes, leading a cow by a cord attached to her horns, to browse along the side of the ditch. Then we would all alight to ascend some formidable hill on foot, and be escorted up by a clamorous group of sturdy mendicants, — annoyed by the ceaseless importunity of worthless beggary, or moved to pity by the palsied limbs of the aged, and the sightless eyeballs of the blind. Occasionally, too, the postilion drew ир
in front of a dingy little cabaret, completely overshadowed by wide-spreading trees. A lusty grape-vine clambered up beside the door; and a pine-bough was thrust out from a hole in the wall, by way of tavern-bush. Upon the front of the house was generally inscribed in large black letters, “ICI ON DONNE A BOIRE ET A MANGER; ON LOGE A PIED ET A CHEVAL"; a sign which may be thus paraphrased, — “Good entertainment for man and beast”; but which was once translated by a foreigner, “ Here they give to eat and drink; they lodge on foot and on horseback!”
Thus one object of curiosity succeeded another ; hill, valley, stream, and woodland flitted by me like the shifting scenes of a magic lantern, and one train of thought gave place to another; till at length, in the after part of the
day, we entered the broad and shady avenue of fine old trees which leads to the western gate of Rouen, and a few moments afterward were lost in the crowds and confusion of its narrow streets.
THE GOLDEN LION INN.
Monsieur Vinot. Je veux absolument un Lion d'Or; parce qu'on dit. Où allez-vous ? Au Lion d'Or !
D'où venezvous ? Du Lion d'Or ! — Où irons-nous ? Au Lion d'Or ! — Où y a-t-il de bon vin ? Au Lion d'Or !
La Rose Rouge. This answer of Monsieur Vinot must have When I had fully prepared myself for a rambeen running in my head as the diligence ble through the city, it was already sunset; stopped at the Messagerie ; for when the por and after the heat and dust of the day, the ter, who took my luggage, said:
freshness of the long evening twilight was de“Où allez-vous, Monsieur?"
lightful. When I enter a new city, I cannot I answered, without reflection (for, be it said rest till I have satisfied the first cravings of with all the veracity of a traveller, at that time curiosity by rambling through its streets. Nor I did not know there was a Golden Lion in the can I endure a cicerone, with his eternal “ This city), —
way, Sir.” I never desire to be led directly to " Au Lion d'Or."
an object worthy of a traveller's notice, but And so to the Lion d’Or we went.
prefer a thousand times to find my own way, The hostess of the Golden Lion received me and come upon it by surprise. This was parwith a courtesy and a smile, rang the house ticularly the case at Rouen. It was the first bell for a servant, and told him to take the European city of importance that I visited. gentleman's things to number thirty-five. I There was an air of antiquity about the whole followed him up-stairs. One, two, three, four, city that breathed of the Middle Ages; and five, six, seven! Seven stories high, by Our so strong and delightful was the impression Lady! — I counted them every one; and when that it made upon my youthful imagination, I went down to remonstrate, I counted them that nothing which I afterward saw could again ; so that there was no possibility of a either equal or efface it. I have since passed mistake. When I asked for a lower room, the through that city, but I did not stop.
I was hostess told me the house was full; and when unwilling to destroy an impression which, even I spoke of going to another hotel, she said she at this distant day, is as fresh upon my mind should be so very sorry, so désolée, to have as if it were of yesterday. Monsieur leave her, that I marched up again With these delightful feelings I rambled on to number thirty-five.
from street to street, till at length, after threadAfter finding all the fault I could with the ing a narrow alley, I unexpectedly came out in chamber, I ended, as is generally the case with front of the magnificent cathedral. If it had most men on such occasions, by being very well suddenly risen from the earth the effect could pleased with it. The only thing I could pos not have been more powerful and instantanesibly complain of was my being lodged in the
It completely overwhelmed my imaginaseventh story, and in the immediate neighbor tion; and I stood for a long time motionless, hood of a gentleman who was learning to play gazing entranced upon the stupendous edifice. the French horn. But to remunerate me for I had before seen no specimen of Gothic archithese disadvantages, my window looked down tecture; and the massive towers before me, the into a market-place, and gave me a distant view lofty windows of stained glass, the low portal, of the towers of the cathedral, and the ruins with its receding arches and rude statues, all of the church and abbey of St. Ouen.
produced upon my untravelled mind an im
pression of awful sublimity. When I entered the church, the impression was still more deep and solemn. It was the hour of vespers. The religious twilight of the place, the lamps that burned on the distant altar, the kneeling crowd, the tinkling bell, and the chant of the evening service that rolled along the vaulted roof in broken and repeated echoes, filled me with new and intense emotions. When I gazed on the stupendous architecture of the church, the huge columns that the eye followed up till they were lost in the gathering dusk of the arches above, the long and shadowy aisles, the statues of saints and martyrs that stood in every recess, the figures of armed knights upon the tombs, the uncertain light that stole through the painted windows of each little chapel, and the form of the cowled and solitary monk, kneeling at the shrine of his favorite saint, or passing between the lofty columns of the church, - all I had read of, but had not seen, -- I was transported back to the Dark Ages, and felt as I can never feel again.
On the following day, I visited the remains of an old palace, built by Edward the Third, now occupied as the Palais de Justice, and the ruins of the church and monastery of Saint Antoine. I saw the hole in the tower where the ponderous bell of the abbey fell through ; and took a peep at the curious illuminated
manuscript of Daniel d’Aubonne in the public library. The remainder of the morning was spent in visiting the ruins of the ancient abbey of St. Ouen, which is now transformed into the Hotel de Ville, and in strolling through its beautiful gardens, dreaming of the present and the past, and given up to “a melancholy of my own.”
At the table d'hôte of the Golden Lion, I fell into conversation with an elderly gentleman, who proved to be a great antiquarian, and thoroughly read in all the forgotten lore of the city. As our tastes were somewhat similar, we were soon upon very friendly terms; and after dinner we strolled out to visit some remarkable localities, and took the gloria together at the Chevalier Bayard.
When we returned to the Golden Lion, he entertained me with many curious stories of the spots we had been visiting. Among others, he related the following singular adventure of a monk of the abbey of St. Antoine, which amused me so much that I cannot refrain from presenting it to my readers. I will not, however, vouch for the truth of the story; for that the antiquarian himself would not do. He said he found it in an ancient manuscript of the Middle Ages, in the archives of the public library; and I give it as it was told me, without note or comment.
MARTIN FRANC AND THE MONK OF SAINT ANTHONY.1
Seignor, oiez une merveille,
FABLIAU DU BOUCHIER D’ABBEVILLE.
Lystyn Lordyngs to my tale,
shall here of one story,
ANCIENT METRICAL ROMANCE.
In times of old, there lived in the city of Rouen a tradesman named Martin Franc, who, by a series of misfortunes, had been reduced from opulence to poverty. But poverty, which generally makes men humble and laborious, only served to make him proud and lazy; and in proportion as he grew poorer and poorer, he grew also prouder and lazier. He contrived, however, to live along from day to day, by now and then pawning a silken robe of his wife, or selling a silver spoon, or some other trifle, saved from the wreck of his better fortunes ; and passed his time pleasantly enough in loitering about the market-place, and walking up and down on the sunny side of the street.
The fair Marguerite, his wife, was celebrated through the whole city for her beauty, her wit, and her virtue. She was a brunette, with the blackest eye, the whitest teeth, and the ripest nut-brown cheek in all Normandy ; her figure was tall and stately, her hands and feet most delicately moulded, and her swimming gait like the motion of a swan. In happier days she had been the delight of the richest tradesmen in the city, and the envy of the fairest dames.
The friends of Martin Frane, like the friends of many a ruined man before and since, deserted him in the day of adversity. Of all that had eaten his dinners, and drunk his wine, and flattered his wife, none sought the narrow
alley and humble dwelling of the broken trades
save one, and that one was Friar Gui, the sacristan of the abbey of St. Anthony. He was a little, jolly, red-faced friar, with a leer in his eye, and rather a doubtful reputation ; but as he was a kind of travelling gazette, and always brought the latest news and gossip of the city, and besides was the only person that condescended to visit the house of Martin Franc,
in fine, for the want of a better, he was considered in the light of a friend.
In these constant assiduities, Friar Gui had his secret motives, of which the single heart of Martin Franc was entirely unsuspicious. The keener eye of his wife, however, soon discovered two faces under the hood; but she persevered in misconstruing the friar's intentions, and in dexterously turning aside any expressions of gallantry that fell from his lips. In this way Friar Gui was for a long time kept at bay; and Martin Franc preserved in the day of poverty and distress that consolation of all this world's afflictions, — a friend. But, finally, things came to such a pass, that the honest tradesman opened his eyes, and wondered he had been asleep so long. Whereupon he was irreverent enough to thrust Friar Gui into the street by the shoulders.
Meanwhile the times grew worse and worse. One family relic followed another, - the last silken robe was pawned, the last silver spoon
1 The outlines of the following tale were taken from a Norman Fabliau of the thirteenth century, entitled Le Segretain Moine. To judge by the numerous imitations of this story which still exist in old Norman poetry, it seems to have been a prodigious favorite of its day, and to have
passed through as many hands as did the body of Friar Gui. It probably had its origin in “ The Story of the Little Hunchback," a tale of the Arabian Nights ; and in modern times has been imitated in the poetic tale of “ The Knight and the Friar," by George Colman.