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Vagabond Glimpses of
N the afternoon of our ceaux. Its history under her dominion
second day at Am- is perhaps no more evil, but certainly
ceaux. The approach shown, though beautiful, are not particuto the château is down a long avenue larly significant. They have been much shaded by stately limes. Several groups restored, and show traces of their modern of country-folk in Sunday finery gave occupancy, though the whole effect is life and color to the scene. Their mellow and harmonious. Seen under costumes were not unusual in design, different auspices, our admiration would but they were gay and neat, and the perhaps have been more aroused. But women all wore lovely hand-made caps we were so unfortunate as to be escorted freshly starched and ironed. The by an obnoxious female, whose face, château is charmingly situated on the voice, and manner vied with each other river Cher-quite literally on the river, in exasperating us. We turned our atfor a part of the building, supported by tention from her supercilious proffers of stone arches, spans the stream and meets information to the peasants who were the farther shore with a drawbridge. our fellow-visitors. The women drew
During several reigns Chenonceaux together in a little knot, fingering the was the favorite pleasure place of the old tapestries and embroideries, while court. Here they held great fêtes, here the men examined with interest the curithey hunted, idled, quarreled, and in- ous weapons on the walls, exchanging trigued. During its ownership by Diane murmured comments on their inutility. de Poitiers the château knew its period At the gate M'dame stopped for a of greatest brilliance and gayety. It word with the little old white-capped was she who built the long gallery across lodge-keeper about her garden, and won the Cher and laid out the beautiful gar- from her a gay bunch of pansies. Turndens. Catherine de Médicis' first acting to enter the carriage, she found upon the death of Henry II was to M'sieur in the clutches of a most persuadepose Diane, the favorite, her hated sive old dame, who was trying to conrival, and herself take possession of the vince him that his visit to the ch eau happy halls and sunny woods of Chenon- would be incomplete if he did not buy a
CHENOXCEAUX box of the Chenonceaux specialty. He
He and promptly slept. The murmur of the succumbed to her insinuating pleadings breeze in the poplars, the sweet fragrance and bought at an exorbitant price what of the locust blooms, the subdued green proved to be barley-sugar sticks of a singu- and gold light sifting through the canopy larly atrocious flavor. We drove back to of leaves above, and the springy softness Amboise in the rain, and spent another of the turf wooed all the senses at once, night at the inn whose official title is and the pipe soon dropped unnoticed. the “Cheval Blanc" —but which remains When we awoke we indulged in a little for us “ At the Sign of the Little Fluffy target practice with the pistol which Cat."
M'sieur had insisted on buying in Paris,
and set sail again. Our last day with Gray Brother was a Below Amboise the banks of the river short one in miles, but we lengthened it had changed, rising into cliffs a little out by lazy paddling, a long nooning, and distance back from the shore. The peo a visit to the little town of Rochecorbon. ple of the little towns we passed lived The rain had not entirely forgotten us. for the most part in caves hollowed out It came down in little showers from occa- of the cliffs. Rochecorbon was one of sional bunches of black cloud that went these villages of cave-dwellers. It had hurrying before the west wind across a a single street, perhaps a quarter of a feecy white background pierced with mile long, a mere turnout from the main blue. During an interval of sunshine road, which followed the river's course. we landed on a shaded point which had On the river side of the street were a a tiny harbor with a sandy beach be- few real houses set in the usual walled tween protecting tree roots for Gray gardens. On the other side the peasants Brother Bread and cheese and straw- lived in layers, their homes occupying berries were quickly disposed of, for we the face of the rocky wall almost to the were always hungry in that glorious air. top. They looked as though the fronts M'sieur betook himself to his pipe, while of the ordinary plaster cottages of the M’dame curled up at the foot of a tree country had been sliced off, a yard or two thick, and pasted on the front of the Tours. We were directed to the Hotel cliff. The chimneys, built of brick or de l'Univers, an inn well recommended stone or a couple of pieces of drain tile, by Mr. Henry James in his “ A Little almost leaned against the wall, their Tour in France," and described by some smoke and soot making a black smudge one (I forget who) as the best hotel in on the rock above them. In some places France (or Europe, or the world, or little terraces and verandas were built perhaps—the town, I don't remember out in front, with a winding flight of the which). So it may be, for all we know, narrowest stone steps leading up to them. but we cannot be thankful enough that Almost every house had a window in fortune lodged us in a more humble but addition to its door, but we could not vastly more interesting corner. At Chediscover any other means of ventilation. nonceaux two friends, met by chance, had We realized that this must be the ideal told us they were stopping at a convent French home, for its very construction in Tours, which received a limited numeliminated the possibility of courants ber of pensionnaires. We took the add'air, as the Frenchman, in his dislike dress, determined to lodge there too, if for verbal short cuts, calls draughts. we might be admitted. And the Frenchman can discover—and Landed in the lee of a floating bathfleefrom-acourant d'air wherean Anglo- house and swimming school, we hasSaxon would be panting for breath. tened through narrow alleys to the indiBy the side of the village street a cated street.
We rang a bell at the side white-haired peasant woman sat, knitting of a great gate set in a blank wall, a busily. Her home consisted of two latch clicked, a small door swung gently rooms in the rock, several feet below the ajar, and we stepped into a small outer surface of the road. There she lived alone, she said, in spite of hereighty-odd years. Her house had a door and a window, but the back of the rooms was as dark as a pocket. The tiny front yard was filled with flowers; and, apparently delighted with my request for a rose, she dropped her knitting and hurried to cut a generous bouquet and tie it up tightly with a bit of string to present to me with a rheumaticos curtsy.
M'dame meanwhile had vanished, to appear a few minutes later at the canoe with a couple of glorious strawberries as her souvenir of our town of cave-dwellers. M'sieur does not know to this day how she got them, but he has always suspected, from their superlative sweetness, that they were the plunder of a raid.
At Blois we had forearmed ourselves for our next big town by asking the name of the best hotel in
A DOORWAY AT CHENONCEAUX
she returned with another sister, an even littler woman with the most sharply crossed
I have ever seen, but so gently sweet and amiable and so responsive to our desire that we promptly lost our hearts. We repeated our plea as persuasively as we could.
“ We would like to do it," she responded, eagerly sympathetic, “but it is not usual. Only the Mother Superior could allow it. She is in the country, at our other convent. But I will go there and ask her permission, if you will come back in two hours." Come . back? Of course we would ; and we did, to find her all Aurried with the hurry and heat of her journey, but radiant at the success of her mission. Our room would
be ready immediately. THE TOWER OF ST. MARTIN, FROM OUR GALLERY M'sieur returned to the court. We were met by a little nun river for the luggage, while M’damedressed all in white wool, and busily engaged on a bit of embroidery. With But M'sieur does not know what a very businesslike air she led us through M’dame did—at least not so well as she, another door into a larger court beyond, who sat in the shade of the beautiful and began to point out the carved pillars fourteenth-century cloisters and watched and ceiling of the cloisters, and the other the busy little sisters in their soft white objects of interest which the convent robes fluttering like birds around the garafforded. Sightseers were evidently a den, and felt the sweet conventual peace recognized phenomenon.
settle down upon her like a benediction. Apologetically, M'sieur interrupted Presently the world, in the person of her descriptions
M'sieur, broke in upon this cloistered “We would like to have a room here calm, and the white-robed fluttering for a few days, if it is possible.”
became agitated. Evidently curiosity Without a quiver of an eyelash or a was not left behind in the world along moment's pause of her needle, she shut with the other weaknesses of the flesh. the gates of Paradise in our faces with a We were told that our room was ready, laconic
and several sisters gathered to accom" Pas de messieurs—no gentlemen."
pany us thither.
It was then that our But we refused to be shut out quite acquaintance with Sister Geraldine beso cavalierly, and began to explain that gan. Dear Sister Geraldine, our devoted we were friends of the two American friend and servant ! I wish I could ladies who were already pensionnaires, draw a picture of her that would do her and that we wanted very, very much to justice. She was a lay sister, and wore join them. in so lovely a place. Our dark blue instead of the white robes of pleading had some effect, for, still em- the religieuses, but the same wide-frilled broidering, she went in search of some cap framed her strong, kind face. It one higher in authority. In a moment was the face of a woman of the people,
long-nosed and wide-mouthed, but it had We were welcomed by an old lay the clear beauty of perfect health, and sister, to whom the room had evidently the look from the warm brown eyes was belonged before we came to turn her infinitely sweet and tender. In physique out. She hovered about, trying to find she was a veritable Amazon, and it was something else to do for our comfort, evident that she was the porter of the directed us to put our shoes out at night convent.
for cleaning, and, as a final service, She at once made for our heavy valise, shyly offered M'sieur one of her own but M'sieur was before her, asserting beautifully laundered nightcaps, for fear that he would carry it. With one voice of the much-dreaded courant d'air. the sisters protested, while Sister Geral- M'sieur has never ceased to regret that dine made ineffectual passes at the he had not presence of mind to accept handle. M'sieur therewith took his stand her offer in the spirit in which it was astride the bag, his back against the made, and wear the cap regardless of wall, and returned but one answer to his own amour propre or M'dame's jeers. the anxious pleading which broke over His regret was made more poignant the him in waves. “ The sac is too heavy next morning, when he saw the good lay for women," he iterated and reiterated, sister hurrying across the court with his and finally bore the bone of contention boots, which he had not put out, secreted in triumph to our room. At least five behind her back. sisters escorted us, each eagerly catch- For four days we lived in the peaceful ing up some bit of luggage. We made atmosphere of the convent. M'dame quite a little procession as we trailed was forth with adopted by Sister Geralacross the large courtyard, through a dine, who spoiled her outrageously, and door, up a flight of stairs, on tiptoe M'sieur scraped acquaintance with the through the robing-room of the chapel, priest, with whom he smoked sundry and so out into another little courtyard. pipes in the garden and discussed canoes In the center was a tiny garden all in and the separation of Church and State. bloom, and our joy was great when we The school, which had been the main found that it was practically all our own. support of the convent, had been disconA high wall almost separated it from tinued by the new law, and the sisters another court nearly its counterpart, upon which the house occupied by the priest opened. Our own rooms (for we had two, a chamber and an antechamber !) were on the upper floor of the wing of the building which overlooked our court, and opened upon a gallery which ran around two sides. The rooms were quite bare, but spotlessly clean. On the walls were a few religious pictures and a crucifix, the polished floors were innocent of rugs, and the furniture was of the plainest. But a sense of rest settled upon our spirits as we entered, and the fresh linen sheets, woven by the sisters themselves, invited to sweet dreams.
IN THE CONVENT GARDEN