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Riviera Towns
by Herbert Adams Gibbons
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As I had recently been writing upon French colonial history, Lamy's daring and fruitful journeys in Central Africa were fresh in my mind, and I remembered his tragic death in the Wadai fifteen years ago. An old man had just come up the hill, and was dragging weary legs encased in clay-stained trousers across the promenade. A conical basket of lettuce heads was on his back, and he used the handle of his hoe as a cane.

"Did you know Lamy?" I inquired.

"Lamy was a boy in this town when I was a grown man going to my work. I used to pass him playing on this very spot," he answered.

As we walked along toward the main street, we asked whether there were others from Mougins who, like Lamy, had played a part in the history of France abroad. No, the people of Mougins liked to stay at home. Fortunately for the prosperity of the country, the young men returned after their military service, and the attractions and opportunities of city life rarely took them and held them farther away than Cannes and Grasse. The Artist had his eye on the lettuce basket and the hoe, and I wanted to hear more of life in Mougins. We asked the old man to share a bottle with us.

The cocher was waiting in front of a cafe, and corroborated the statement on a huge painted sign, that here was to be found the true vin mousseux of Mougins. It was evident that we were not the first tourists to come from Cannes. The cocher was a friend of the proprietress, who made us welcome in the way tourists are greeted. Little cakes and a dusty bottle were produced promptly, and in the stream of words that greeted us we could gather that this was a red-letter occasion for us, and that it was possible to have the vin mousseux of Mougins shipped to Paris by the dozen or the hundred. This annoyed us and dampened our ardor for the treat. The Artist and I share a foolish feeling of wanting to be pioneers. We like to believe that our travels take us out of the beaten path, and that we are constantly discovering delectable places. After us the tourists—but not before!

The corkscrew of the proprietress, however, consoled us. A corkscrew through whose handle the beaded pressure of gas escapes before the cork is drawn may be common enough. But the fact remains that neither of us had seen one. We expressed our delight and wonder, and the Artist naively told the proprietress, before he tasted the wine, that he felt rewarded for the trip to Mougins just for the discovery of the corkscrew. After the first sip, I added that now we knew why we had walked up the long hill. The proprietress and the cocher beamed. Our enthusiasm meant money to them. The old man twisted his mouth contemptuously.

"Tell me, then," he said, "what was your thought of me when you saw me coming up the hill to the promenade with my burden of lettuce heads? And when I told you that I had seen Lamy playing as a boy on the spot where his statue stands? Sorry for me, were you not? Lamy had the good sense, you think, to quit Mougins, and go out to glory. I and the rest of Mougins, you think, have stayed here because we do not know any better. It is all in the point of view. One of you is enthusiastic over a patent corkscrew, and the other over the wine. You tourists from the city cannot understand us. It is because you carry your limitations with you. You think you lead a large, broad, varied life. You do not. Finding the greatest interest of Mougins in a patent corkscrew and sparkling wine betrays you."

"Ces messieurs have a passion for the country and for towns away from the railroad," remonstrated the cocher. "This afternoon I tempted them from the Casino at Cannes. They are a thousand times enthusiastic about Mougins, your homes, your streets, your views, and all they have seen in the valley coming here. If they had limitations, would they have wanted to come? It is senseless to think that they make the effort, that they spend the money, just to be pleased with what they see from their own world or what reminds them of their own world. I spend my life with tourists, and they always appreciate, I have never known them to fail to thank me for having brought them to Mougins."

Our critic—and, indeed, our judge—turned on the cocher.

"Tell me," he said sharply, raising his voice witheringly, "would you risk bringing tourists to Mougins if there were not this cafe and the vin mousseux?"

The cocher puffed his cigar vigorously. The Artist, highly delighted, broke an almost invariable rule to prove that the greatest interest of Mougins was not the corkscrew. He opened his sketch-book. While the old man was fingering the sketches, I ordered another bottle.

Our guest had been the vanguard of the homeward procession. All Mougins was now passing before us.

"Now you see," continued our mentor, "what it is to live. A score of men who knew Lamy have passed before you. They did not go to Africa to hunt negroes and to put our flag on the map at the same time as the names of unknown towns. They are here, and will eat a good dinner tonight. Lamy is dead. Now I do not say that we are heroes, and that our point of view is heroic. But I do say that we are not to be pitied. And I say, moreover, that we do as much for France as Lamy did. If we had all gone to Africa, there might be more names on the map, but there would be less food in the markets of Grasse and Cannes."

"Oh, for the ghost of Gray," commented the Artist "He would be face to face with the 'unseen flower'—but not blushing!"

"A case of auream quisquis mediocritatem diligit," I answered.

We were getting classical as well as philosophical, and it was time to go. To whom was the mediocrity?



CHAPTER XIII

FREJUS

The ride from Theoule to St. Raphael, by the Corniche de l'Esterel, gives a feeling of satiety. The road along the sea is a succession of curves, each one leading around a rocky promontory into a bay that causes you to exclaim, "This is the best!" For thirty-five kilometers there is constantly a new adjustment of values, until you find yourself at the point where comparatives and superlatives are exhausted. The vehicle of language has broken down. Recurrent adjectives become trite. When the search for new ones is an effort, you realize that nature has imposed, through the prodigal display of herself, a limit of capacity to enjoy. Of copper rocks and azure sea; of mountain streams hurrying through profusely wooded valleys; of cliffs with changing profiles; of conifers; of enclosed parks, whose charm of undergrowth run wild and of sunlit green tree-trunks successfully hides the controlling hand of man to the uninitiated in forestry; of hedges and pergolas and ramblers and villas and lighthouses and islets and yachts, we had our fill.

But at La Napoule a Roman milestone announced that we were on the road to Forum Julii: and the very first thing that attracted us when we reached St. Raphael was a bit of aqueduct on the promenade. It looked singularly out of place right by the sea, and surrounded by an iron fence quite in keeping with those of the hotels across the street. The inscription (Third Republic, not Roman) told us that this portion of the aqueduct from the River Siagne to Frejus was removed from its original emplacement and set up here under the prefectship of Monsieur X, the subprefectship of Monsieur Y, and the mayorship of Monsieur Z. The fishing village that has rapidly grown into one of the most important "resorts" of the Riviera claims distinction on historical grounds. Napoleon landed at St. Raphael on his return from Elba. Gounod composed Romeo and Juliet here. General Gallieni was cultivating his vineyard here when the war of 1914 broke out, and the call to arms sent him from his seclusion to become the savior of Paris. But when ruins became fashionable in the last decade of Queen Victoria, it was necessary for St. Raphael to have an ancient monument. An arch of the aqueduct was imported to the beach with as little regard for congruous setting as Mr. Croesus-in-Ten-Years shows in importing an English lawn to his front yard at Long Branch and a gallery of ancestral portraits to his dining-room on Fifth Avenue.

The Artist looked at the ruins in silence. He tried to gnaw the ends of his mustache. His eyes changed from amusement to contempt, and then to interest. I was ready for his question.

"Say, where is this town Frejus?"

The cocher protested. He had bargained to take us to St. Raphael, the horses were tired, and anyway there was no good hotel, no food, nothing to do at Frejus.

"Where is Frejus?" repeated the Artist. The cocher pointed his whip unwillingly westward along the shore. The Artist turned to me with his famous nose-and-eyes-and-chin-up expression.

"What do you say, mon vieux?"

"Decidedly Frejus," I answered.

Accustomed to American queerness, the cocher resigned himself to the reins for another five kilometers.

Since the River Argens began to flow, it has been depositing silt against the eastern shore of the Gulf of Frejus, at the point of which stands St Raphael. Consequently the road, sentineled by linden trees, crosses a rich plain, and is more than a mile from the sea when it reaches the city of Julius Caesar. The upper ends of the mole of the ancient port, high and dry like ships at low tide, join the walls of the canal. You have to look closely to distinguish the canal and the depression of the basin into which it widens near the town. For where land has encroached upon sea, vegetable gardens and orchards have been planted. Inland, the arches from the aqueduct of the Siagne shed their bricks in wheat fields and protrude from clumps of hazels. As it enters the city, the road turns back on itself and mounts to the market-place. The sharp outward bend of the elevation above the narrow stretch of lowland suggest that there was a time, long before Roman days, when Frejus, like the towns of the Corniche de l'Esterel, was built on a promontory.

Frejus belongs to no definite period. It is not Roman, medieval, modern. It is not a watering-place fashionable or unfashionable, a manufacturing town prosperous or struggling, a port bustling or sleepy, a fishing-village or a flower-gathering center. Frejus suggests no marked racial characteristics in architecture or inhabitants. It is neither distinctly Midi nor distinctly Italian—as those terms are understood by travelers. Frejus is unique among the cities of the Cote d'Azur because it has no unmistakable cachet. Frejus suggests Rome, the Middle Ages, the twentieth century. Frejus embraces pleasure-seeking, industries, fish, flowers, and soldiering. Mermaids, delightfully reminiscent of the Lido and Abbazia in garb, dive from the end of the mole into a safe swimming-pool; children of the proletariat in coarse black tabliers, who have not left sandals and white socks on the beach behind them, fish for crabs; naval aviators start hydroplanes from an aerodrome beside the Roman amphitheater; fishermen, of olive Mediterranean complexion, dry copper-tinted nets on the beach, laying them, despite the scolding of the Senegalese guards, upon piles of granite and cement blocks with which laborers are building a new pier.

We had come to the beach for an after-luncheon smoke, and when we were not looking at the Senegalese and workmen, our eyes wandered from hydroplanes and machine-gun-armed motor-boats to the mermaids on the Roman mole. Not till we ran out of tobacco and the mole ran out of mermaids did we realize that Frejus was still unexplored and unsketched. We gave ourselves a six o'clock rendezvous on the beach. The Artist started to seek Roman ruins, while I turned towards the market-place, cathedral bound. Sea-level villas came first, and then a quarter of sixteenth-century houses, many of which showed on the ground floor medieval foundations. In two places I got back to the Romans. A cross section of thin flat bricks with generous interstices of cement in the front wall of a greengrocer's opposite, indicated the line of the Roman fortification. Walking around the next parallel street, I managed to get into a garden where a long piece of the wall remained.

I came out to the St. Raphael carriage road at a corner where arose a huge square tower of the Norman period. Almost to its crumbling top, houses had been built against it on two sides. The angle formed by the alley through which I came and the main street had fortunately kept the other two sides clear. The tower was the home of a wine and coal merchant, who had laid in a supply of cut wood on his roof to the height of several feet above the irregular parapet. Outside one of the narrow vertical slits, which in ages past had served as vantage point for a vizored knight fitting arrow to bow, hung a parrot cage. "Coco" was chattering Marseilles sailor French.

A single gargoyle remained. It was a panther, elongated like a dachshund. He was desecrated and humiliated by having tied around his middle the end of the clothesline that stretched across the alley. This proved, however, that he still held firmly his place. The panther, ignoring change of fortune, looked down as of yore, snarling, and with whiskers stiffened to indicate that if he had been given hind legs, they would be ready for a spring. So worn was the gargoyle that ears and chin and part of forehead had disappeared. But you can see the snarl just as you can see the Sphinx's smile. When a thing is well done, it is done for all time. If a poor workman had fashioned that gargoyle, there would have been no panther and no snarl when it was put up there. But a master worked the stone, and what he wrought is ineradicable. It will disappear only with the stone itself. When we speak of ruins, we mean that a part of the material used in expressing a conception has not resisted climate and age and earthquake and vandalism. Armless, Venus de Milo is still the perfect woman. Headless, Nike of Samothrace is still symbolic of the glory of prevailing.

In the morning, before reaching St. Raphael, we passed an African soldier limping along the dusty road. He was dispirited even to the crumpled look of his red fez, and the sun, shining mercilessly, glinted from his rifle-barrel to the beads of perspiration on the back of his neck. We were going fast, and had just time to wave gayly to cheer him up. He did not return our salute. This struck us as strange. Fearing that he might be ill, we made the cocher turn round, and went back to pick him up. He declared that a sprained ankle made it impossible for him to keep up with his regiment, which had been marching since early morning. He was grateful for the lift, and beamed when we assured him that we could take him as far as St. Raphael. At that time we were not thinking of going to Frejus, the garrison town of the African troops. When we overtook the regiment and reached his company, we tried to intercede with the French sergeant. The sergeant was adamant and positive.

"A thousand thanks, but the man is shamming. He is lazy. He must get out."

We had to give up our soldier. The sergeant knew his men, and justice is the basic doctrine which guides the discipline of the French colonial army. The regiment of Algerians must have stopped for lunch or maneuvers. For they were just coming through the Place du Marche when I reached there. Only the colonel was on horse. At the turn of the road, the captains stood out of rank to watch their companies wheel. Our soldier of the morning passed. He had forgotten his limp. The sergeant recognized me, and pointed to the soldier. His left upper eyelid came down with a wink, as if to say, "Don't I know them!"

There is a spirit of camaraderie between officers and men in Frejus that one never sees in native regiments of the British army. The French have none of our Anglo-Saxon feeling of caste and race prejudice, which makes discipline depend upon aloofness. French officers can be severe without being stern: and they know the difference between poise and pose. We Anglo-Saxons need to revise radically our judgment of the French in regard to certain traits that are the sine qua non of military efficiency. Energy, resourcefulness, coolness, persistence, endurance, pluck—where have these pet virtues of ours been more strikingly tested, where have they been more abundantly found, than in the French army?

The sign of the French colonial army is an anchor, and Frejus is full of officers who wear it. They are mostly men of the Midi, Roman Gauls every inch of them. The Lamys, the Gallienis, the Joffres, the Fochs, the Lyauteys were born with a genius for leadership in war. Their aptitude for African conquest and their joy in African colonization are the heritage of their native land. The fortunes of southern France and northern Africa were inseparable through the ten centuries of the spread of civilization and the Latin and Teutonic invasions in the Western Mediterranean. The connection was unbroken from the time that Hannibal marched his African troops through Frejus to Italy until the Omayyads conquered Tunis, Algeria and Morocco. It is the most natural thing in the world to see African troops in Frejus. They belong here now, because since men began to sail in ships, they have always been at home here as friends or enemies. Mediterranean Africa and Mediterranean France received simultaneously political, social and religious institutions, and from the same source. As the Crescent wanes, Gaul is coming back into her own.

Frejus shopkeepers suffer from the proximity of the upstart St. Raphael. Frejus keeps the bishop, but St. Raphael has taken the trade. There is now only one business street. It runs from the Place du Marche through the center of the city to the Place du Dome. You can get from one place to the other in about five minutes. Few people were on this street in mid-afternoon. None were going into the shops. I chose the department store, and asked the only saleswoman in sight for a collar. She brought down two styles, both of which were bucolic. Matched with a beflowered tie, either would have gone perfectly around the neck of a Polish immigrant in New York on his wedding day. I suggested that I be shown some other styles. The saleswoman gazed at me stonily.

"A bus leaves the corner below here for St. Raphael every hour. You are there in twenty minutes. Or you can go by train in six minutes."

Up went the boxes to their shelf. There was nothing for me to do but get out.

One says Place du Dome or Place de l'Hotel de Ville, depending upon whether sympathies are ultramontane or anti-clerical. For cathedral and city hall touch each other at right angles. LIBERTE-EGALITE-FRATERNITE is the legend in large letters on the cathedral wall: the one notice posted on the Hotel de Ville is a warning of the last day to pay taxes. Two beggars stand guard at the cathedral portal: Senegalese with fixed bayonets flank the archway leading to the municipal courtyard. The Hotel de Ville is a modern building, typical of French official taste of the present day: the cathedral is an edifice of several epochs, with a brick facade reminiscent of Bologna. The episcopal palace, adjacent to the cathedral, is part of the same structure. But it is used for government offices, and the entrance to its upper floor is by a staircase from the vestibule of the cathedral. The Service de Sante Municipale occupies the rooms along the portico that faces the cloister. The cure of souls has been banished to a private house across the street.

The cathedral quarter is wholly Louis XVI and First Empire. If I had begun my ramble there, I should have found much to admire. But I had been spoiled by the Louis XIII quarter nearer the sea. Travel impressions are largely dependent upon itinerary. I am often able to surprise a compatriot whose knowledge of Europe is limited to one "bang-up trip, and there wasn't much we missed, y'know," by being able to tell him the order in which he visited places. It is an easy thing to do. You simply have to notice how the tourist compares cities and other "sights." He is blissfully ignorant of the fact that his positive judgments, his unhesitating preferences are accidental. They do not express at all his real tastes and his real appreciation of values. However cultivated and intelligent an observer he may be, unless he has carefully weighed and made proper allowance for the influence of itinerary, his judgments and preferences are not to be taken seriously. For years I honestly believed that the Rue de la Porte Rosette was one of the finest streets in the world. I told my friends of it. But when Alexandria was revisited, the Rue de la Porte Rosette was a shabby thoroughfare. After a year in the interior of Asia Minor, the Rue de la Porte Rosette was the first street through which I drove in coming back to European civilization. The next time I saw it I was fresh from years of constant residence in Paris. In my memory, Sofia is a gem of an up-to-date city, while Bucharest is a poor imitation of the occidental municipality. The chances are more than even that my comparative estimate of the two Balkan capitals is wholly wrong. For each time I have visited Sofia, it was in coming from Turkey, while stops at Bucharest have followed immediately after Buda-Pest and Odessa.

I wandered through the cathedral quarter with less enthusiasm than was its due, and soon decided to rejoin the Artist. He was not in the neighborhood of any of the Roman ruins. He was not sitting behind an aperitif on a cafe terrace. He was not watching soldiers play football in the courtyard of the barracks. He was not sketching the Norman tower. He was not exploring alleys of the medieval quarter. He was not looking at hydroplanes over the fence of the aerodrome. My quest had led me unconsciously back to the beach. There was still an hour before our rendezvous. But where we had stretched in the sand after lunch was a delightful spot, and I had remembered to have my pouch filled at a tabac. I was not going to feel bored waiting for him. Where the laborers were working on the pier, the black soldier guards called out to me to beware of danger. Not being skilled in dodging construction machinery I gave it a wide berth. The place of our siesta had to be reached by going through ruins and climbing over a dune. The Artist was there.

"You know," he explained, ignoring with the sweep of his hand the Roman mole where a new bevy of mermaids had appeared, "the progress of aviation has fascinated me ever since that July day at Rheims when Wright went up and stayed up. Just look what those fellows are doing!"

Hydroplanes were appearing from the aerodrome. When they struck the water there was a hiss, which grew in volume and acuity as they skimmed the waves. After a few hundred yards, the machines rose as easily as from land, circled up to the clouds and into them. Coming down, the aviators practiced dipping and swerving by following and avoiding the purposely irregular course of motor-boats. An officer, who spoke to us to find out, I suppose, who we were and why we were there, remarked that the aviators were beginners. We were astonished. If this was learning to fly, what was flying?

"Our boys need little teaching to learn to fly," he explained. "That comes naturally. What they are learning is how to use their machines for fighting. Science and training and practice come in there. A world-old game is before you. It is only the medium that is new."

Words of wisdom. A bit of aqueduct led us to Frejus in the hope of tasting the charm of a more ancient past than we had found in other Riviera cities. We were not disappointed. The charm was there. But we would not have found it, had we tried to dissociate it from the present, had we ignored or deplored its setting. Nothing that lives assimilates what is foreign to its nature: nothing that lives survives dissection. We took Frejus as Frejus was, and not as we wanted it to be or thought it must be. We took the aerodrome with the hippodrome, the coal merchant with the Norman tower, the parrot with the gargoyle, the Hotel de Ville with the cathedral, and the mermaids with the mole.



CHAPTER XIV

SAINT-RAPHAEL

On the terrace of our little home at Theoule, a lover of the Riviera read what I had written about Frejus.

"If you have any idea of making a book out of your Riviera articles," she said positively, "do not think you can dismiss the Esterel and Saint-Raphael in so cavalier a fashion. That may be all right for Lester Hornby and you and serve as a good introduction to a story on Frejus, but in your project of a book on Riviera towns—"

There is no need to say more. I looked over to the hills of the Esterel and felt sorry I had neglected them. I thought of past experiences, and agreed that there was something more to write about the French end of the Riviera. And then we put our heads together over a time table, planned to go to Agay by train, and walk on the rest of the way to Saint-Raphael. If the weather was good, we should climb Mont Vinaigre, and see the Esterel from its highest point.

"I don't care whether it affords good subjects for Lester or not," declared my boss. "I've done the trip, and I know it will be fun—and remember what Horatio was told!"

Humankind and human habitation had occupied the Artist and myself on almost every day afield from, Theoule. Of course we had taken in the scenery, sketched it and spoken about it, but only as a background or accompaniment. From Cannes to Menton it is the human side of the Riviera that gets you. Nature is a sort of musical accompaniment to the song of human activity. Between Cannes and the Italian frontier, where the railway does not skirt the coast, you have the tramway. It is with you always, night and day, and makes itself heard at every curve. (The road is all curves!) As a result of the tramway, or perhaps as its cause, the Cannes-Menton stretch of the Riviera is solidly built up. Where the towns do not run into each other, an unbroken line of villas links them up. It is all the city—you cannot get away from that.

The road we follow to Frejus was opened in 1903, a gift to the nation from the initiative and enterprise of the Touring-Club de France. The building of a tram line was fortunately forbidden. But with the railway and rapidly-developing use of the automobile, the little villages of the Esterel coast are being rapidly built up. Around the cape from Theoule, Le Trayas will soon rival Saint-Raphael as a center for Esterel excursions. Then we have Antheor, Agay, and Boulouris before reaching the long and charming villa-covered approach to Saint-Raphael.

But we do not need to worry yet about what is going to happen. The blessed fact remains that the Esterel, between Theoule and Saint-Raphael, is not yet closely populated like the rest of the Riviera. The tramway has not come. The railway frequently goes out of sight, if not out of hearing, for a mile or two. You have nature all by herself, with no houses, no human beings, no human inventions. The interior of the Esterel is as refreshingly different from the hinterland of the rest of the Riviera as most of the coast. There are no cities and towns back on the hills, no railways and tramways, no fine motor roads to make the pedestrian's progress a disagreeable and almost continuous passage through clouds of dust. The Esterel is hills and valleys, streams and forests and birds. You do not even have poles and wires to remind you of the world you have left for the moment.

The only way one comes to know this country is to have a villa on its fringe, as we did, and get lost in it every time you try to explore it. But such good fortune does not fall to everyone—nor the time—so it is comforting to point out that much of interest in the Esterel can be visited by motorists from the Corniche. Between La Napoule and Agay, the Touring-Club de France has put sign-posts at every little path leading from the Corniche back into the interior. Some paths, also, where the road mounts on Cap Roux, lead down to grottoes on the water's edge or out to cliffs. Each sign gives the attraction and the distance. In our walks from Theoule we explored most of these, but discovered that one must not have an objective for lunch. For there is no connection between the number of kilometers and the time you must take. A map and compass are wise precautions. Some paths are scarcely marked at all, and when you have to slide down the side of a volcanic hill into a ravine and try to guess where you are supposed to go next, a woodsman's instinct is needed. The excursions are surer because more frequented, but none the less charming, after you have rounded the cape and crossed the little River Agay.

Agay, the Agathon of Ptolemy, boasts of the only harbor on the Esterel. On one side is the Pointe d'Antheor and on the other Cap Dramont. Right behind the harbor rises the Rastel d'Agay, a jagged mass of copper rock a thousand feet high, climbing which is an excellent preparation for and indication of what one may expect in Esterel exploration. The way is not made easy for you as it is in the eastern end of the Riviera. But unless you strike an exceptionally warm day you have the will for pushing on afoot that is completely lacking at Monte Carlo and Menton.

The most ambitious and most interesting excursion into the Esterel that can be made in a day's walk is to go to Saint-Raphael from Agay by way of Mont Vinaigre. You must make an early start and be ready to put in from five to six hours if you want to eat your lunch on the highest peak of the Esterel. It took us from seven o'clock to noon, and we kept going steadily. Crossing the railway, we struck out to the right of the Agay through forests of pine and cork to Le Gratadis, then along the Ravin du Pertus, pushing through the underbrush in blossom and skirting the many walls of rock that served to indicate where the path was not. It would have been easier to have made the round trip from Saint-Raphael. But we should not have the full realization of the wild beauty of the Esterel nor that joyful feeling of reaching astra per aspera. The way down to Saint-Raphael, after descending to Le Malpey, less than an hour from the summit, is by a carriage road.

We wished we could have seen the stars from Mont Vinaigre. There was a belvedere, and if we had only brought our blankets! But however warm the day, the nights are cool, especially two thousand feet up. Only those who have slept out at night in Mediterranean countries know how cold it can get. The top of Mont Vinaigre, almost in the center of the Esterel, affords a view of the ensemble of volcanic hills crowded together by themselves that makes you realize why it is so easy to get lost in the valleys between them. The forests are thick and the ravines go every which way. Inland the Esterel is separated from the foothills of the Maritime Alps by the valleys of the Riou Blanc and Siagne through which runs the main road to Grasse, with a branch down the Siagne to Mandelieu. On the northern slope of the mountain is the road from Frejus to Cannes, which leaves the Esterel at Mandelieu. It is one of the oldest roads in France. Several Roman milestones have recently been unearthed here. In these hills the Romans found coal and copper, and from the quarries along the coast at Boulouris and on Cap Dramont the quarries of blue porphyry are still worked.

In mining possibilities the whole region is as rich as it was twenty centuries ago; but, as in many other parts of France, little has been done to take advantage of them. Some years ago an American friend of mine, motoring with his wife from Frejus to Cannes, discovered coal fields, formed a company, and is now drawing a revenue from hills whose former owners knew them only as preserves for shooting wild boar and other wild game. Within her own boundaries France has coal enough for all her needs if only she would mine it. But the French love to put their money into safe bonds of their own and foreign governments. The woolen stocking does not give up its hoarded coins for such enterprises as mines and domestic industries. Daughter's dot must be in a form acceptable to the prospective bridegroom's family. And then the French do not breed the new generation sufficiently large to furnish laborers for developing the natural resources of the country. They are hostile to immigration. When the war came Asia and Africa were called upon to man munition plants.

After the lesson of the war the French have tried to make their own country give up more of its wealth. However, though they are now more skeptical than ever of investing abroad, they still pursue an aggressive foreign policy to open up and protect fields of capital far from home. On the edge of the Esterel, a dozen miles away, at Frejus, Saint-Raphael and Cannes, the people have lost much money in Russian and Turkish bonds, Brazilian railways and coffee plantations. Their sons go to Algeria and Morocco to seek a fortune. Is this why only the coming of tourists and residents from a less hospitable clime has wrought any change in the country during the nineteenth century? From the standpoint of natural production the Riviera is relatively less important, less self-supporting than before the railway came.

By the forester's house of Le Malpey, after an hour's descent, we strike the carriage road. An hour and a half brings us to Valescure, an English colony built in pine woods. Another half hour and we are at Saint-Raphael.

The next morning we discovered that Saint-Raphael had its Old Town, which escaped us on our trip to Frejus. Only the new name of the main street—Rue Gambetta—indicated that we were in France of the Third Republic. But, as in Grasse, we felt that we were really in France of all the centuries. There was none of that unmistakably Italian atmosphere that still makes itself felt in Nice, once you wander into quarters east of the Place Massena. The thick walls of the old church—far too massive for its size—bear witness to the period when Mediterranean coast town church was sanctuary more than in name. To the church the people fled when the Saracen pirates came, and while the priests prayed they acted on the adage that God helps those who help themselves, pouring molten lead from the roof and shooting arbalests through meurtrieres that can still be distinguished despite bricks and plaster. This is the Saint-Raphael that Napoleon knew when he returned from Egypt and, fifteen years later, sailed for his first exile at Elba.

But we found much that was attractive in the new Saint-Raphael, which is as French as the old. The English keep themselves mostly at Valescure. Tourists come on chars-a-bancs for lunch, and hurry back to Nice. Saint-Raphael has developed as a French watering place. It does not have the protection of the high wall of the Maritime Alps. When the mistral, bane of the Midi, is not blowing, however, you wonder whether the native-born have not picked out for a seashore resort a more delightful bit of the Riviera coast than foreigners. A Frenchman once told me that Saint-Raphael was the logical Riviera town for the French simply because the night train from Paris landed a traveler there in time for noon lunch.

"This fact alone," he declared to me, "would induce me to choose Saint-Raphael in preference to Cannes and Nice. You know that when twelve o'clock has struck the day is ruined for a Frenchman if he is not reasonably sure of being able to sit down pretty soon to a good hot meal. The P.-L.-M. put Cannes and Nice just a little bit beyond our limit."

As you emerge from the Old Town, at the harbor, you pass by a large modern church in Byzantine style, whose portal shows to excellent advantage six porphyry columns from the nearby Boulouris quarries. Along the sea is the Boulevard Felix-Martin, which runs into the Corniche de l'Esterel. For several miles you feel that there is nothing to detract from the spell of the sea. Elsewhere on the Riviera you have promenades embellished by great buildings and monuments and forts and exotic trees. You have coves and capes and villa-clad hills with the Alpine background. You climb cliffs and see the Mediterranean at bends, through trees and across luxurious gardens. Panorama after panorama with distractions galore react on you like a picture gallery. But at Saint-Raphael the sea dominates. The Mediterranean alone holds you.

This is why you cannot endorse the bald statement flung at you by the famous sundial of the Rue de France at Nice:

"Io vado e vengo ogni giorno, Ma tu andrai senza ritorno."

It may be true enough of Nice that you will not go back. One has the confusion of human activities everywhere and tires of it everywhere. But just the sea alone is always new. Of course in the end the immortal sun has the better of you. But as long as life does last the effort will be made to get back to the Boulevard Felix-Martin at Saint-Raphael. For there, better than anywhere else on the Riviera, one can look at the sea.



CHAPTER XV

THEOULE

From Cannes to Menton the Riviera is cursed with electric tram lines. We were led beyond Cannes to the Corniche de l'Esterel by the absence of a tram line. We could not get away from the railway, however, without abandoning the coast. Is there any place desirable for living purposes in which the railway does not obtrude? When choosing a country residence, men with families, unless they have several motors and several chauffeurs, must stick close to the railway. Monsieur l'Adjoint was showing us the salon of his villa when a whistle announced the Vintimille express. He hastened to anticipate the train by reassuring us that there was a deep cut back of the villa and that the road-bed veered away from us just at the corner of the garden. It was in the neighboring villa that trains were really heard. We were to believe him—at that moment chandeliers and windows and two vases of dried grasses on the mantelpiece danced a passing greeting to the train. Monsieur l'Adjoint thought that he had failed to carry the day. But we live on a Paris boulevard, and know that noises are comparative. Vintimille expresses were not going to pass all the time.

We were glad that the railway had not deterred us. It was good to be right above the water. Some people do not like the glare of sun reflected from the sea. But they are late risers. Parents of small children are accustomed to waking with the sun. On the first morning in the Villa Etoile the baby chuckled early. Sun spots were dancing on the ceiling, and she was watching them. The breakfast on the terrace was no hurried swallowing of a cup of coffee with eyes fixed upon a newspaper propped against a sugar bowl. The agreement of the day before had been tripartite. The proprietor was easily satisfied with bank notes. But the wife had not consented to leave the freedom of the hotel until it had been solemnly agreed that newspapers were to be refused entrance into the Villa Etoile, and that watches were not to be drawn out (even furtively) from waistcoat pockets.

Unless agreements are fortified by favorable circumstances and constantly recurring interest, they are seldom lived up to. When promises are difficult to keep, where are the men of their word? Doing what one does not want to do is a sad business. That is why Puritanism is associated with gloom. On the terrace of the Villa Etoile no man could want to look at a newspaper or a watch. Across the Gulf of La Napoule lies Cannes. Beyond Cannes is the Cap d'Antibes. Mountains, covered with snow and coming down to the sea in successive chains, form the eastern horizon. Inland, Grasse is nestled close under them. Seaward, the Iles de Lerins seem to float upon the water. For on Sainte-Marguerite the line of demarcation between Mediterranean blue and forest green is sharp, and Saint-Honorat, dominated by the soft gray of the castle and abbey, is like a reflected cloud. Between Theoule and Cannes the railway crosses the viaduct of the Siagne. Through the arches one can see the golf course on which an English statesman thought out the later phases of British Imperialism. To the west, the Gulf of La Napoule ends in the pine-covered promontory of the Esquillon. Except for a very small beach in front of the Theoule hotel, the coast is rocky. From February to May our terrace outlook competed successfully with duties elsewhere.

Young and old in Theoule have to make a daily effort to enjoy educational and religious privileges. We wondered at first why the school and church were placed on the promontory, a good mile and a half from the town. But later we came to realize that this was a salutary measure. The climate is insidious. A daily antidote against laziness is needed. I was glad that I volunteered to take the children to school at eight and two, and go after them at eleven and four, and that they held me to it. In order to reach a passable route on the steep wall of rock and pine, the road built by the Touring-Club de France makes a bend of two kilometers in the valley behind Theoule. By taking a footpath from the hotel, the pedestrian eliminates the bend in five minutes. In spite of curves, the road is continuously steep and keeps a heavy grade until it reaches the Pointe de l'Esquillon.

I never tired of the four times a day. Between the Villa Etoile and the town was the castle, built on the water's edge. After Louis XIV it became a soap factory, and was restored to its ancient dignity only recently. I ought not to say "dignity," for the restorer was a baron of industry, and his improvements are distressing. The entrance to the park created on the inner side of the road opposite the chateau is the result of landscape dentistry. The creator did not find that the natural rock lent itself to his fancies, and filled in the hollows with stones of volcanic origin. On the side of the hill, fountains and pools and a truly massive flight of steps have been made. Scrawny firs are trying to grow where they ought not to. Quasi-natural urns overflow with captive flowers, geraniums and nasturtiums predominating. Ferns hang as gracefully as shirtings displayed in a department store window. Stone lions defy, and terra cotta stags run away from, porcelain dogs. There are bowers and benches of imitation petrified wood.

American money may be responsible for the chateau garden, but the villas of Theoule are all French. Modern French artistic genius runs to painting and clothes. There is none left for building or house-furnishing. French taste, as expressed in homes, inside and outside, is as bad as Prussian. We may admire mildly the monotonous symmetry of post-Haussmann Paris. When we get to the suburbs and to the provincial towns and to summer and winter resorts, we have to confess that architecture is a lost art in France. In America, especially in our cities, we have regrettable traces of mid-Victorianism, and we have to contend with Irish politicians and German contractors. In the suburbs, and in the country, however, where Americans build their own homes, we have become accustomed to ideas of beauty that make the results of the last sixty years of European growth painful to us. Our taste in line, color, decoration, and interior furnishing is at hopeless variance with that of twentieth-century Europe. We admire and we buy in Europe that which our European ancestors created. Our admiration—and our buying—is confined strictly to Europe of the past. Present-day Europe displays German Schmuck from one end to the other, and France is no exception.

On the walk to school you soon get beyond the chateau and the villas. But even on the promontory there is more than the dodging of automobiles to remind one that this is the twentieth century. The Corniche de l'Esterel has been singled out by the moving-picture men for playing out-of-door scenarios. When the sun is shining, a day rarely passes without film-making. The man with a camera has the rising road and bends around which the action can enter into the scene, the forest up and the forest down, the Mediterranean and mountain and island and Cannes backgrounds. Automobile hold-ups with pistols barking, the man and the maid in the woods and on the terrace, the villain assaulting and the hero rescuing the defenseless woman, the heroine jumping from a rock into the sea, and clinging to an upturned boat—these are commonplace events on the Corniche de l'Esterel.

The world of cinemas and motors does not rise early. On the morning walk, children and squirrels and birds were all one met. Children go slowly, and squirrels and birds belong to nature. There was always time to breathe in the forest and the sea and to look across to the mountains. When cartables and gouters were handed over at the school gate, parental responsibility ceased for three hours. One had the choice of going on around the point towards Trayas or down to the sea.

The people of Theoule say that Corsica, sixty miles away, can be seen from the Esquillon. All one has to do is to keep going day after day until "atmospheric conditions are favorable." The Touring-Club de France has built a Belvedere at the extremity of the Esquillon. Arrows on a dial indicate the direction of important places from Leghorn to Marseilles. The Apennines behind Florence, as well as Corsica, are marked as within the range of visibility. The Apennines had not been seen for years, but Corsica was liable to appear at any time. The first day the Artist went with me to the Esquillon, an Oldest Inhabitant said that we had a Corsica day. A milkwoman en route reported Corsica in sight, and told us to hurry. Towards nine o'clock the sun raises a mist from the sea, she explained. In the belvedere we found a girl without a guide book who had evidently come over from Trayas. She was crouched down to dial level, and her eyes were following the Corsica arrow. She did not look up or move when we entered. Minutes passed. There was no offer to give us a chance. We coughed and shuffled, and the Artist sang "The Little Gray Home in the West." I informed the Artist—in French—that a specialist had once remarked upon my hyperopic powers, and that if Corsica were really in sight I could not fail to see it.

Not until she had to shake the cramp out of her back did the girl straighten up.

"Corsica is invisible today," she announced.

"Yes," I answered sadly. "Ten minutes ago the mist began to come up. You know, sun upon the water—"

A look in her eyes made me hesitate. "And all that sort of thing," I ended lamely.

"Nonsense," she said briskly. She surveyed the Artist from mustache to cane point and turned back to me. "You, at least," she declared, "are American, but of the unpractical sort. And you are as unresourceful as you are ungallant, Monsieur. How do I know? Well, you were complaining about my monopolizing the dial. There is a map on the tiles under your feet, and a compass dangles uselessly from your watch-chain. I wonder, too, if you are hyperopic. You know which is the Carlton Hotel over there in Cannes. Tell me how many windows there are across a floor."

The atmosphere was wonderfully clear, and the Carlton stood out plainly. But I failed the test.

The girl laughed. I did not mind that. When the Artist started in, I turned on him savagely.

"Well, you count the Carlton windows," I said.

"No specialist ever told me I was hyperopic," he came back.

I had to save the day by answering that I was glad to be myopic just now. Who wanted to see Corsica any longer? The girl knew interesting upper paths on the western side of the promontory. She had as much time as we, or rather, I must say regretfully, she and the Artist had more time than I. For eleven o'clock came quickly, and I hurried off to fulfill my parental duty. The Artist told me afterwards that there was a fine cuisine at the Trayas restaurant.

I did think of my compass one day: for I had sore need of it. But, as generally happens in such cases, I was not wearing it. Between Theoule and La Napoule, the nearest town on the way to Cannes, a tempting forest road leads back into the valley. A sign states that a curious view of a mountain peak, named after Marcus Aurelius, could be had by following the road for half a dozen kilometers. It was one of the things tourists did when they were visiting the Corniche for a day. Consequently, when one was staying on the Corniche, it was always an excursion of the morrow. During the Artist's first week, we were walking over to Mandelieu to take the tram to Cannes one morning, and suddenly decided that the last thing in the world for sensible folks to do was to go to Cannes on a day when the country was calling insistently. We turned in at the sign. After we had seen the view, we thought that it would be possible to take a short cut back to Theoule. The wall of the valley that shut us off from the sea must certainly be the big hill just behind the Villa Etoile. If, instead of retracing our steps towards La Napoule, we kept ahead, and remembered to take the left at every cross path, we would come out at the place where the Corniche road made its big bend before mounting to the promontory. It was all so simple that it could not be otherwise. We were sure of the direction, and fairly sure of the distance, since we had left the motor road between Theoule and La Napoule.

There was an hour and a half before lunch. A lumber road followed the brook, and the brook skirted the hill beyond which was Theoule and the Villa Etoile. It was a day to swear by, and April flowers were in full bloom. It was delightful until we had to confess that the hill showed no signs of coming down to a valley on the left. Finally, at a point where a path went up abruptly from the stream, we decided that it would be best to cut over the summit of the hill and not wait until the Corniche road appeared before us. In this way we would avoid the walk back from the hotel to our villa, and come out in our own garden. But on the Riviera nature has shown no care in placing her hills where they ought to be and in symmetrizing and limiting them. They go on indefinitely. So did we, until we came to feel that we would be like the soldiers of Xenophon once we spied the sea. But the cry "Thalassa" was denied us. Eventually we turned back, and tried keeping the hill on the right. This was as perplexing as keeping it on the left had been. A pair of famished explorers, hungry enough to eat canned tuna-fish and crackers with relish, reached a little town inland from Mandelieu about seven o'clock that night with no clear knowledge of from where or how they had come.

Between the town of Theoule and the belvedere of the Esquillon, down along the water's edge, one never tires of exploring the caves. Paths lead through the pines and around the cliffs. The Artist was attracted to the caves by the hope of finding vantage points from which to sketch Grasse and Cannes and Antibes and the Alps and the castle on Saint-Honorat. But he soon came to love the copper rocks, which pine needles had dyed, and deserted black and white for colors. When the climate got him, he was not loath to join in my hunt for octopi. The inhabitants tell thrilling stories of the monsters that lurk under the rocks at the Pointe de l'Esquillon and forage right up to the town. One is warned to be on his guard against long tentacles reaching out swiftly and silently. One is told that slipping might mean more than a ducking. Owners of villas on the rocks make light of octopi stories, and as local boomers are trying to make Theoule a summer resort, it is explained that the octopi never come near the beach. Even if they did, they would not be dangerous there. How could they get a hold on the sand with some tentacles while others were grabbing you?

I have never wanted to see anything quite so badly as I wanted to see an octopus at Theoule. Octopus hunting surpasses gathering four-leaf clovers and fishing as an occupation in which hope eternal plays the principle role. I gradually abandoned other pursuits, and sat smoking on rocks by the half day, excusing indolence on the ground of the thrilling story I was going to get. I learned over again painfully the boyhood way of drinking from a brook, and lay face downward on island stones. With the enthusiastic help of my children, I made a dummy stuffed with pine cones, and let him float at the end of a rope. Never a tentacle, let alone octopus, appeared. I had to rest content with Victor Hugo's stirring picture in "The Toilers of the Sea."

A plotting wife encouraged the octopus hunts by taking part in them, and expressing frequently her belief in the imminent appearance of the octopi. She declared that sooner or later my reward would come. She threw off the mask on the first day of May, when she thought it was time to return to work. She announced to the Artist and me that the octopi had gone over to the African coast to keep cool until next winter, and that we had better all go to Paris to do the same. We were ready. Theoule was still lovely, and the terrace breakfasts had lost none of their charm. But one does not linger indefinitely on the Riviera unless dolce far niente has become the principal thing in life.

THE END

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