The Path to Rome
by Hilaire Belloc
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

'The beech,' I thought, 'is a good tree to sleep under, for nothing will grow there, and there is always dry beech-mast; the yew would be good if it did not grow so low, but, all in all, pine-trees are the best.' I also considered that the worst tree to sleep under would be the upas tree. These thoughts so nearly bordered on nothing that, though I was not sleepy, yet I fell asleep. Long before day, the moon being still lustrous against a sky that yet contained a few faint stars, I awoke shivering with cold.

In sleep there is something diminishes us. This every one has noticed; for who ever suffered a nightmare awake, or felt in full consciousness those awful impotencies which lie on the other side of slumber? When we lie down we give ourselves voluntarily, yet by the force of nature, to powers before which we melt and are nothing. And among the strange frailties of sleep I have noticed cold.

Here was a warm place under the pines where I could rest in great comfort on pine needles still full of the day; a covering for the beasts underground that love an even heat—the best of floors for a tired man. Even the slight wind that blew under the waning moon was warm, and the stars were languid and not brilliant, as though everything were full of summer, and I knew that the night would be short; a midsummer night; and I had lived half of it before attempting repose. Yet, I say, I woke shivering and also disconsolate, needing companionship. I pushed down through tall, rank grass, drenched with dew, and made my way across the road to the bank of the river. By the time I reached it the dawn began to occupy the east.

For a long time I stood in a favoured place, just above a bank of trees that lined the river, and watched the beginning of the day, because every slow increase of light promised me sustenance.

The faint, uncertain glimmer that seemed not so much to shine through the air as to be part of it, took all colour out of the woods and fields and the high slopes above me, leaving them planes of grey and deeper grey. The woods near me were a silhouette, black and motionless, emphasizing the east beyond. The river was white and dead, not even a steam rose from it, but out of the further pastures a gentle mist had lifted up and lay all even along the flanks of the hills, so that they rose out of it, indistinct at their bases, clear-cut above against the brightening sky; and the farther they were the more their mouldings showed in the early light, and the most distant edges of all caught the morning.

At this wonderful sight I gazed for quite half-an-hour without moving, and took in vigour from it as a man takes in food and wine. When I stirred and looked about me it had become easy to see the separate grasses; a bird or two had begun little interrupted chirrups in the bushes, a day-breeze broke from up the valley ruffling the silence, the moon was dead against the sky, and the stars had disappeared. In a solemn mood I regained the road and turned my face towards the neighbouring sources of the river.

I easily perceived with each laborious mile that I was approaching the end of my companionship with the Moselle, which had become part of my adventure for the last eighty miles. It was now a small stream, mountainous and uncertain, though in parts still placid and slow. There appeared also that which I take to be an infallible accompaniment of secluded glens and of the head waters of rivers (however canalized or even overbuilt they are), I mean a certain roughness all about them and the stout protest of the hill-men: their stone cottages and their lonely paths off the road.

So it was here. The hills had grown much higher and come closer to the river-plain; up the gullies I would catch now and then an aged and uncouth bridge with a hut near it all built of enduring stone: part of the hills. Then again there were present here and there on the spurs lonely chapels, and these in Catholic countries are a mark of the mountains and of the end of the riches of a valley. Why this should be so I cannot tell. You find them also sometimes in forests, but especially in the lesser inlets of the sea-coast, and, as I have said, here in the upper parts of valleys in the great hills. In such shrines Mass is to be said but rarely, sometimes but once a year in a special commemoration. The rest of the time they stand empty, and some of the older or simpler, one might take for ruins. They mark everywhere some strong emotion of supplication, thanks, or reverence, and they anchor these wild places to their own past, making them up in memories what they lack in multitudinous life.

I broke my fast on bread and wine at a place where the road crosses the river, and then I determined I would have hot coffee as well, and seeing in front of me a village called Rupt, which means 'the cleft' (for there is here a great cleft in the hillside), I went up to it and had my coffee. Then I discovered a singular thing, that the people of the place are tired of making up names and give nothing its peculiar baptism. This I thought really very wonderful indeed, for I have noticed wherever I have been that in proportion as men are remote and have little to distract them, in that proportion they produce a great crop of peculiar local names for every stream, reach, tuft, hummock, glen, copse, and gully for miles around; and often when I have lost my way and asked it of a peasant in some lonely part I have grown impatient as he wandered on about 'leaving on your left the stone we call the Nuggin, and bearing round what some call Holy Dyke till you come to what they call Mary's Ferry'... and so forth. Long-shoremen and the riparian inhabitants of dreadful and lonely rivers near the sea have just such a habit, and I have in my mind's eye now a short stretch of tidal water in which there are but five shoals, yet they all have names, and are called 'The House, the Knowle, Goodman's Plot, Mall, and the Patch.'

But here in Rupt, to my extreme astonishment, there was no such universal and human instinct. For I said to the old man who poured me out my coffee under the trellis (it was full morning, the sun was well up, and the clouds were all dappled high above the tops of the mountains): 'Father, what do you call this hill?' And with that I pointed to a very remarkable hill and summit that lie sheer above the village.

'That,' he said, 'is called the hill over above Rupt.'

'Yes, of course,' I said, 'but what is its name?'

'That is its name,' he answered.

And he was quite right, for when I looked at my map, there it was printed, 'Hill above Rupt'. I thought how wearisome it would be if this became a common way of doing things, and if one should call the Thames 'the River of London', and Essex 'the North side', and Kent 'the South side'; but considering that this fantastic method was only indulged in by one wretched village, I released myself from fear, relegated such horrors to the colonies, and took the road again.

All this upper corner of the valley is a garden. It is bound in on every side from the winds, it is closed at the end by the great mass of the Ballon d'Alsace, its floor is smooth and level, its richness is used to feed grass and pasturage, and knots of trees grow about it as though they had been planted to please the eye.

Nothing can take from the sources of rivers their character of isolation and repose. Here what are afterwards to become the influences of the plains are nurtured and tended as though in an orchard, and the future life of a whole fruitful valley with its regal towns is determined. Something about these places prevents ingress or spoliation. They will endure no settlements save of peasants; the waters are too young to be harnessed; the hills forbid an easy commerce with neighbours. Throughout the world I have found the heads of rivers to be secure places of silence and content. And as they are themselves a kind of youth, the early home of all that rivers must at last become—I mean special ways of building and a separate state of living, a local air and a tradition of history, for rivers are always the makers of provinces—so they bring extreme youth back to one, and these upper glens of the world steep one in simplicity and childhood.

It was my delight to lie upon a bank of the road and to draw what I saw before me, which was the tender stream of the Moselle slipping through fields quite flat and even and undivided by fences; its banks had here a strange effect of Nature copying man's art: they seemed a park, and the river wound through it full of the positive innocence that attaches to virgins: it nourished and was guarded by trees.

There was about that scene something of creation and of a beginning, and as I drew it, it gave me like a gift the freshness of the first experiences of living and filled me with remembered springs. I mused upon the birth of rivers, and how they were persons and had a name—were kings, and grew strong and ruled great countries, and how at last they reached the sea.

But while I was thinking of these things, and seeing in my mind a kind of picture of The River Valley, and of men clustering around their home stream, and of its ultimate vast plains on either side, and of the white line of the sea beyond all, a woman passed me. She was very ugly, and was dressed in black. Her dress was stiff and shining, and, as I imagined, valuable. She had in her hand a book known to the French as 'The Roman Parishioner', which is a prayer-book. Her hair was hidden in a stiff cap or bonnet; she walked rapidly, with her eyes on the ground. When I saw this sight it reminded me suddenly, and I cried out profanely, 'Devil take me! It is Corpus Christi, and my third day out. It would be a wicked pilgrimage if I did not get Mass at last.' For my first day (if you remember) I had slept in a wood beyond Mass-time, and my second (if you remember) I had slept in a bed. But this third day, a great Feast into the bargain, I was bound to hear Mass, and this woman hurrying along to the next village proved that I was not too late.

So I hurried in her wake and came to the village, and went into the church, which was very full, and came down out of it (the Mass was low and short—they are a Christian people) through an avenue of small trees and large branches set up in front of the houses to welcome the procession that was to be held near noon. At the foot of the street was an inn where I entered to eat, and finding there another man—I take him to have been a shopkeeper—I determined to talk politics, and began as follows:

'Have you any anti-Semitism in your town?'

'It is not my town,' he said, 'but there is anti-Semitism. It flourishes.'

'Why then?' I asked. 'How many Jews have you in your town?'

He said there were seven.

'But,' said I, 'seven families of Jews—'

'There are not seven families,' he interrupted; 'there are seven Jews all told. There are but two families, and I am reckoning in the children. The servants are Christians.'

'Why,' said I, 'that is only just and proper, that the Jewish families from beyond the frontier should have local Christian people to wait on them and do their bidding. But what I was going to say was that so very few Jews seem to me an insufficient fuel to fire the anti-Semites. How does their opinion flourish?'

'In this way,' he answered. 'The Jews, you see, ridicule our young men for holding such superstitions as the Catholic. Our young men, thus brought to book and made to feel irrational, admit the justice of the ridicule, but nourish a hatred secretly for those who have exposed their folly. Therefore they feel a standing grudge against the Jews.'

When he had given me this singular analysis of that part of the politics of the mountains, he added, after a short silence, the following remarkable phrase—

'For my part I am a liberal, and would have each go his own way: the Catholic to his Mass, the Jew to his Sacrifice.'

I then rose from my meal, saluted him, and went musing up the valley road, pondering upon what it could be that the Jews sacrificed in this remote borough, but I could not for the life of me imagine what it was, though I have had a great many Jews among my friends.

I was now arrived at the head of this lovely vale, at the sources of the river Moselle and the base of the great mountain the Ballon d'Alsace, which closes it in like a wall at the end of a lane. For some miles past the hills had grown higher and higher upon either side, the valley floor narrower, the torrent less abundant; there now stood up before me the marshy slopes and the enormous forests of pine that forbid a passage south. Up through these the main road has been pierced, tortuous and at an even gradient mile after mile to the very top of the hill; for the Ballon d'Alsace is so shaped that it is impossible for the Moselle valley to communicate with the Gap of Belfort save by some track right over its summit. For it is a mountain with spurs like a star, and where mountains of this kind block the end of main valleys it becomes necessary for the road leading up and out of the valley to go over their highest point, since any other road over the passes or shoulders would involve a second climb to reach the country beyond. The reason of this, my little map here, where the dark stands for the valley and the light for the high places, will show better than a long description. Not that this map is of the Ballon d'Alsace in particular, but only of the type of hill I mean.

Since, in crossing a range, it is usually possible to find a low point suitable for surmounting it, such summit roads are rare, but when one does get them they are the finest travel in the world, for they furnish at one point (that is, at the summit) what ordinary roads going through passes can never give you: a moment of domination. From their climax you look over the whole world, and you feel your journey to be adventurous and your advance to have taken some great definite step from one province and people to another.

I would not be bound by the exaggerated zig-zags of the road, which had been built for artillery, and rose at an easy slope. I went along the bed of the dell before me and took the forest by a little path that led straight upward, and when the path failed, my way was marked by the wire of the telegraph that crosses to Belfort. As I rose I saw the forest before me grow grander. The pine branches came down from the trunks with a greater burden and majesty in their sway, the trees took on an appearance of solemnity, and the whole rank that faced me—for here the woods come to an even line and stand like an army arrested upon a downward march — seemed something unusual and gigantic. Nothing more helped this impression of awe than the extreme darkness beneath those aged growths, and the change in the sky that introduced my entry into the silence and perfume of so vast a temple. Great clouds, so charged with rain that you would have thought them lower than the hills (and yet just missing their tops), came covering me like a tumbled roof and gathered all around; the heat of the day waned suddenly in their shade: it seemed suddenly as though summer was over or as though the mountains demanded an uncertain summer of their own, and shot the sunshine with the chill of their heights. A little wind ran along the grass and died again. As I gained the darkness of the first trees, rain was falling.

The silence of the interior wood was enhanced by a bare drip of water from the boughs that stood out straight and tangled I know not how far above me. Its gloom was rendered more tremendous by the half-light and lowering of the sky which the ceiling of branches concealed. Height, stillness, and a sort of expectancy controlled the memories of the place, and I passed silently and lightly between the high columns of the trees from night (as it seemed) through a kind of twilight forward to a near night beyond. On every side the perspective of these bare innumerable shafts, each standing apart in order, purple and fragrant, merged into recesses of distance where all light disappeared, yet as I advanced the slight gloaming still surrounded me, as did the stillness framed in the drip of water, and beneath my feet was the level carpet of the pine needles deadening and making distant every tiny noise. Had not the trees been so much greater and more enduring than my own presence, and had not they overwhelmed me by their regard, I should have felt afraid. As it was I pushed upward through their immovable host in some such catching of the breath as men have when they walk at night straining for a sound, and I felt myself to be continually in a hidden companionship.

When I came to the edge of this haunted forest it ceased as suddenly as it had begun. I left behind me such a rank of trees aligned as I had entered thousands of feet below, and I saw before me, stretching shapely up to the sky, the round dome-like summit of the mountain—a great field of grass. It was already evening; and, as though the tall trees had withdrawn their virtue from me, my fatigue suddenly came upon me. My feet would hardly bear me as I clambered up the last hundred feet and looked down under the rolling clouds, lit from beneath by the level light of evening, to the three countries that met at my feet.

For the Ballon d'Alsace is the knot of Europe, and from that gathering up and ending of the Vosges you look down upon three divisions of men. To the right of you are the Gauls. I do not mean that mixed breed of Lorraine, silent, among the best of people, but I mean the tree Gauls, who are hot, ready, and born in the plains and in the vineyards. They stand in their old entrenchments on either side of the Saone and are vivacious in battle; from time to time a spirit urges them, and they go out conquering eastward in the Germanics, or in Asia, or down the peninsulas of the Mediterranean, and then they suck back like a tide homewards, having accomplished nothing but an epic.

Then on the left you have all the Germanics, a great sea of confused and dreaming people, lost in philosophies and creating music, frozen for the moment under a foreign rigidity, but some day to thaw again and to give a word to us others. They cannot long remain apart from visions.

Then in front of you southward and eastward, if you are marching to Rome, come the Highlanders. I had never been among them, and I was to see them in a day; the people of the high hills, the race whom we all feel to be enemies, and who run straight across the world from the Atlantic to the Pacific, understanding each other, not understood by us. I saw their first rampart, the mountains called the Jura, on the horizon, and above my great field of view the clouds still tumbled, lit from beneath with evening.

I tired of these immensities, and, feeling now my feet more broken than ever, I very slowly and in sharp shoots of pain dragged down the slope towards the main road: I saw just below me the frontier stones of the Prussians, and immediately within them a hut. To this I addressed myself.

It was an inn. The door opened of itself, and I found there a pleasant woman of middle age, but frowning. She had three daughters, all of great strength, and she was upbraiding them loudly in the German of Alsace and making them scour and scrub. On the wall above her head was a great placard which I read very tactfully, and in a distant manner, until she had restored the discipline of her family. This great placard was framed in the three colours which once brought a little hope to the oppressed, and at the head of it in broad black letters were the three words, 'Freedom, Brotherhood, and an Equal Law'. Underneath these was the emblematic figure of a cock, which I took to be the Gallic bird, and underneath him again was printed in enormous italics—

Quand ce coq chantera Ici credit l'on fera.

Which means—

When you hear him crowing Then's the time for owing. Till that day—Pay.

While I was still wondering at this epitome of the French people, and was attempting to combine the French military tradition with the French temper in the affairs of economics; while I was also delighting in the memory of the solid coin that I carried in a little leathern bag in my pocket, the hard-working, God-fearing, and honest woman that governs the little house and the three great daughters, within a yard of the frontier, and on the top of this huge hill, had brought back all her troops into line and had the time to attend to me. This she did with the utmost politeness, though cold by race, and through her politeness ran a sense of what Teutons called Duty, which would once have repelled me; but I have wandered over a great part of the world, and I know it now to be a distorted kind of virtue.

She was of a very different sort from that good tribe of the Moselle valley beyond the hill; yet she also was Catholic— (she had a little tree set up before her door for the Corpus Christi: see what religion is, that makes people of utterly different races understand each other; for when I saw that tree I knew precisely where I stood. So once all we Europeans understood each other, but now we are divided by the worst malignancies of nations and classes, and a man does not so much love his own nation as hate his neighbours, and even the twilight of chivalry is mixed up with a detestable patronage of the poor. But as I was saying—) she also was a Catholic, and I knew myself to be with friends. She was moreover not exactly of- what shall I say? the words Celtic and Latin mean nothing— not of those who delight in a delicate manner; and her good heart prompted her to say, very loudly—

'What do you want?'

'I want a bed,' I said, and I pulled out a silver coin. 'I must lie down at once.'

Then I added, 'Can you make omelettes?'

Now it is a curious thing, and one I will not dwell on—

LECTOR. You do nothing but dwell.

AUCTOR. It is the essence of lonely travel; and if you have come to this book for literature you have come to the wrong booth and counter. As I was saying: it is a curious thing that some people (or races) jump from one subject to another naturally, as some animals (I mean the noble deer) go by bounds. While there are other races (or individuals—heaven forgive me, I am no ethnologist) who think you a criminal or a lunatic unless you carefully plod along from step to step like a hippopotamus out of water. When, therefore, I asked this family-drilling, house-managing, mountain-living woman whether she could make omelettes, she shook her head at me slowly, keeping her eyes fixed on mine, and said in what was the corpse of French with a German ghost in it, 'The bed is a franc.'

'Motherkin,' I answered, 'what I mean is that I would sleep until I wake, for I have come a prodigious distance and have last slept in the woods. But when I wake I shall need food, for which,' I added, pulling out yet another coin, 'I will pay whatever your charge may be; for a more delightful house I have rarely met with. I know most people do not sleep before sunset, but I am particularly tired and broken.'

She showed me my bed then much more kindly, and when I woke, which was long after dusk, she gave me in the living room of the hut eggs beaten up with ham, and I ate brown bread and said grace.

Then (my wine was not yet finished, but it is an abominable thing to drink your own wine in another person's house) I asked whether I could have something to drink.

'What you like,' she said.

'What have you?' said I.

'Beer,' said she.

'Anything else?' said I.

'No,' said she.

'Why, then, give me some of that excellent beer.'

I drank this with delight, paid all my bill (which was that of a labourer), and said good-night to them.

In good-nights they had a ceremony; for they all rose together and curtsied. Upon my soul I believe such people to be the salt of the earth. I bowed with real contrition, for at several moments I had believed myself better than they. Then I went to my bed and they to theirs. The wind howled outside; my boots were stiff like wood and I could hardly take them off; my feet were so martyrized that I doubted if I could walk at all on the morrow. Nevertheless I was so wrapped round with the repose of this family's virtues that I fell asleep at once. Next day the sun was rising in angry glory over the very distant hills of Germany, his new light running between the pinnacles of the clouds as the commands of a conqueror might come trumpeted down the defiles of mountains, when I fearlessly forced my boots on to my feet and left their doors.

The morning outside came living and sharp after the gale—almost chilly. Under a scattered but clearing sky I first limped, then, as my blood warmed, strode down the path that led between the trees of the farther vale and was soon following a stream that leaped from one fall to another till it should lead me to the main road, to Belfort, to the Jura, to the Swiss whom I had never known, and at last to Italy.

But before I call up the recollection of that hidden valley, I must describe with a map the curious features of the road that lay before me into Switzerland. I was standing on the summit of that knot of hills which rise up from every side to form the Ballon d'Alsace, and make an abrupt ending to the Vosges. Before me, southward and eastward, was a great plain with the fortress of Belfort in the midst of it. This plain is called by soldiers 'the Gap of Belfort', and is the only break in the hill frontier that covers France all the way from the Mediterranean to Flanders. On the farther side of this plain ran the Jura mountains, which are like a northern wall to Switzerland, and just before you reach them is the Frontier. The Jura are fold on fold of high limestone ridges, thousands of feet high, all parallel, with deep valleys, thousands of feet deep, between them; and beyond their last abrupt escarpment is the wide plain of the river Aar.

Now the straight line to Rome ran from where I stood, right across that plain of Belfort, right across the ridges of the Jura, and cut the plain of the Aar a few miles to the west of a town called Solothurn or Soleure, which stands upon that river.

It was impossible to follow that line exactly, but one could average it closely enough by following the high road down the mountain through Belfort to a Swiss town called Porrentruy or Portrut—so far one was a little to the west of the direct line.

From Portrut, by picking one's way through forests, up steep banks, over open downs, along mule paths, and so forth, one could cross the first ridge called the 'Terrible Hill', and so reach the profound gorge of the river Doubs, and a town called St Ursanne. From St Ursanne, by following a mountain road and then climbing some rocks and tracking through a wood, one could get straight over the second ridge to Glovelier. From Glovelier a highroad took one through a gap to Undervelier and on to a town called Moutier or Munster. Then from Munster, the road, still following more or less the line to Rome but now somewhat to the east of it, went on southward till an abrupt turn in it forced one to leave it. Then there was another rough climb by a difficult path up over the last ridge, called the Weissenstein, and from its high edge and summit it was but a straight fall of a mile or two on to Soleure.

So much my map told me, and this mixture of roads and paths and rock climbs that I had planned out, I exactly followed, so as to march on as directly as possible towards Rome, which was my goal. For if I had not so planned it, but had followed the highroads, I should have been compelled to zig-zag enormously for days, since these ridges of the Jura are but little broken, and the roads do not rise above the crests, but follow the parallel valleys, taking advantage only here and there of the rare gaps to pass from one to another.

Here is a sketch of the way I went, where my track is a white line, and the round spots in it are the towns and villages whose names are written at the side. In this sketch the plains and low valleys are marked dark, and the crests of the mountains left white. The shading is lighter according to the height, and the contour lines (which are very far from accurate) represent, I suppose, about a thousand feet between each, or perhaps a little more; and as for the distance, from the Ballon d'Alsace to Soleure might be two long days' march on a flat road, but over mountains and up rocks it was all but three, and even that was very good going. My first stage was across the plain of Belfort, and I had determined to sleep that night in Switzerland.

I wandered down the mountain. A little secret path, one of many, saved me the long windings of the road. It followed down the central hollow of the great cleft and accompanied the stream. All the way for miles the water tumbled in fall after fall over a hundred steps of rock, and its noise mixed with the freshness of the air, and its splashing weighted the overhanging branches of the trees. A little rain that fell from time to time through the clear morning seemed like a sister to the spray of the waterfalls; and what with all this moisture and greenery, and the surrounding silence, all the valley was inspired with content. It was a repose to descend through its leaves and grasses, and find the lovely pastures at the foot of the descent, a narrow floor between the hills. Here there were the first houses of men; and, from one, smoke was already going up thinly into the morning. The air was very pure and cold; it was made more nourishing and human by the presence and noise of the waters, by the shining wet grasses and the beaded leaves all through that umbrageous valley. The shreds of clouds which, high above the calm, ran swiftly in the upper air, fed it also with soft rains from time to time as fine as dew; and through those clear and momentary showers one could see the sunlight.

When I had enjoyed the descent through this place for but a few miles, everything changed. The road in front ran straight and bordered—it led out and onwards over a great flat, set here and there with hillocks. The Vosges ended abruptly. Houses came more thickly, and by the ceaseless culture of the fields, by the flat slate roofs, the white-washed walls, and the voices, and the glare, I knew myself to be once more in France of the plains; and the first town I came to was Giromagny.

Here, as I heard a bell, I thought I would go up and hear Mass; and I did so, but my attention at the holy office was distracted by the enormous number of priests that I found in the church, and I have wondered painfully ever since how so many came to be in a little place like Giromagny. There were three priests at the high altar, and nearly one for each chapel, and there was such a buzz of Masses going on, beginning and ending, that I am sure I need not have gone without my breakfast in my hurry to get one. With all this there were few people at Mass so early; nothing but these priests going in and out, and continual little bells. I am still wondering. Giromagny is no place for relics or for a pilgrimage, it cures no one, and has nothing of a holy look about it, and all these priests—

LECTOR. Pray dwell less on your religion, and—

AUCTOR. Pray take books as you find them, and treat travel as travel. For you, when you go to a foreign country, see nothing but what you expect to see. But I am astonished at a thousand accidents, and always find things twenty-fold as great as I supposed they would be, and far more curious; the whole covered by a strange light of adventure. And that is the peculiar value of this book. Now, if you can explain these priests—-

LECTOR. I can. It was the season of the year, and they were swarming.

AUCTOR. So be it. Then if you will hear nothing of what interests me, I see no reason for setting down with minute care what interests you, and I may leave out all mention of the Girl who could only speak German, of the Arrest of the Criminal, and even of the House of Marshal Turenne—- this last something quite exceptionally entertaining. But do not let us continue thus, nor push things to an open quarrel. You must imagine for yourself about six miles of road, and then—then in the increasing heat, the dust rising in spite of the morning rain, and the road most wearisome, I heard again the sound of bugles and the sombre excitement of the drums.

It is a thought-provoking thing, this passing from one great garrison to another all the way down the frontier. I had started from the busy order of Toul; I had passed through the silence and peace of all that Moselle country, the valley like a long garden, and I had come to the guns and the tramp of Epinal. I had left Epinal and counted the miles and miles of silence in the forests, I had crossed the great hills and come down into quite another plain draining to another sea, and I heard again all the clamour that goes with soldiery, and looking backward then over my four days, one felt—one almost saw—the new system of fortification, the vast entrenched camps each holding an army, the ungarnished gaps between.

As I came nearer to Belfort, I saw the guns going at a trot down a side road, and, a little later, I saw marching on my right, a long way off, the irregular column, the dust and the invincible gaiety of the French line. The sun here and there glinted on the ends of rifle-barrels and the polished pouches. Their heavy pack made their tramp loud and thudding. They were singing a song.

I had already passed the outer forts; I had noted a work close to the road; I had gone on a mile or so and had entered the long and ugly suburb where the tramway lines began, when, on one of the ramshackle houses of that burning, paved, and noisy endless street, I saw written up the words,

Wine; shut or open.

As it is a great rule to examine every new thing, and to suck honey out of every flower, I did not—as some would—think the phrase odd and pass on. I stood stock-still gazing at the house and imagining a hundred explanations. I had never in my life heard wine divided into shut and open wine. I determined to acquire yet one more great experience, and going in I found a great number of tin cans, such as the French carry up water in, without covers, tapering to the top, and standing about three feet high; on these were pasted large printed labels, '30', '40', and '50', and they were brimming with wine. I spoke to the woman, and pointing at the tin cans, said—

'Is this what you call open wine?'

'Why, yes,' said she. 'Cannot you see for yourself that it is open?'

That was true enough, and it explained a great deal. But it did not explain how—seeing that if you leave a bottle of wine uncorked for ten minutes you spoil it—you can keep gallons of it in a great wide can, for all the world like so much milk, milked from the Panthers of the God. I determined to test the prodigy yet further, and choosing the middle price, at fourpence a quart, I said—

'Pray give me a hap'orth in a mug.'

This the woman at once did, and when I came to drink it, it was delicious. Sweet, cool, strong, lifting the heart, satisfying, and full of all those things wine-merchants talk of, bouquet, and body, and flavour. It was what I have heard called a very pretty wine.

I did not wait, however, to discuss the marvel, but accepted it as one of those mysteries of which this pilgrimage was already giving me examples, and of which more were to come—(wait till you hear about the brigand of Radicofani). I said to myself—

'When I get out of the Terre Majeure, and away from the strong and excellent government of the Republic, when I am lost in the Jura Hills to-morrow there will be no such wine as this.'

So I bought a quart of it, corked it up very tight, put it in my sack, and held it in store against the wineless places on the flanks of the hill called Terrible, where there are no soldiers, and where Swiss is the current language. Then I went on into the centre of the town.

As I passed over the old bridge into the market-place, where I proposed to lunch (the sun was terrible—it was close upon eleven), I saw them building parallel with that old bridge a new one to replace it. And the way they build a bridge in Belfort is so wonderfully simple, and yet so new, that it is well worth telling.

In most places when a bridge has to be made, there is an infinite pother and worry about building the piers, coffer-dams, and heaven knows what else. Some swing their bridges to avoid this trouble, and some try to throw an arch of one span from side to side. There are a thousand different tricks. In Belfort they simply wait until the water has run away. Then a great brigade of workmen run down into the dry bed of the river and dig the foundations feverishly, and begin building the piers in great haste. Soon the water comes back, but the piers are already above it, and the rest of the work is done from boats. This is absolutely true. Not only did I see the men in the bed of the river, but a man whom I asked told me that it seemed to him the most natural way to build bridges, and doubted if they were ever made in any other fashion.

There is also in Belfort a great lion carved in rock to commemorate the siege of 1870. This lion is part of the precipice under the castle, and is of enormous size—- how large I do not know, but I saw that a man looked quite small by one of his paws. The precipice was first smoothed like a stone slab or tablet, and then this lion was carved into and out of it in high relief by Bartholdi, the same man that made the statue of Liberty in New York Harbour.

The siege of 1870 has been fixed for history in yet another way, and one that shows you how the Church works on from one stem continually. For there is a little church somewhere near or in Belfort (I do not know where, I only heard of it) which, a local mason and painter being told to decorate for so much, he amused himself by painting all round it little pictures of the siege—of the cold, and the wounds, and the heroism. This is indeed the way such things should be done, I mean by men doing them for pleasure and of their own thought. And I have a number of friends who agree with me in thinking this, that art should not be competitive or industrial, but most of them go on to the very strange conclusion that one should not own one's garden, nor one's beehive, nor one's great noble house, nor one's pigsty, nor one's railway shares, nor the very boots on one's feet. I say, out upon such nonsense. Then they say to me, what about the concentration of the means of production? And I say to them, what about the distribution of the ownership of the concentrated means of production? And they shake their heads sadly, and say it would never endure; and I say, try it first and see. Then they fly into a rage.

When I lunched in Belfort (and at lunch, by the way, a poor man asked me to use all my influence for his son, who was an engineer in the navy, and this he did because I had been boasting of my travels, experiences, and grand acquaintances throughout the world)—when, I say, I had lunched in a workman's cafe at Belfort, I set out again on my road, and was very much put out to find that showers still kept on falling.

In the early morning, under such delightful trees, up in the mountains, the branches had given me a roof, the wild surroundings made me part of the out-of-doors, and the rain had seemed to marry itself to the pastures and the foaming beck. But here, on a road and in a town, all its tradition of discomfort came upon me. I was angry, therefore, with the weather and the road for some miles, till two things came to comfort me. First it cleared, and a glorious sun showed me from a little eminence the plain of Alsace and the mountains of the Vosges all in line; secondly, I came to a vast powder-magazine.

To most people there is nothing more subtle or pleasing in a powder-magazine than in a reservoir. They are both much the same in the mere exterior, for each is a flat platform, sloping at the sides and covered with grass, and each has mysterious doors. But, for my part, I never see a powder-magazine without being filled at once with two very good feelings—- laughter and companionship. For it was my good fortune, years and years ago, to be companion and friend to two men who were on sentry at a powder-magazine just after there had been some anarchist attempts (as they call them) upon such depots—and for the matter of that I can imagine nothing more luscious to the anarchist than seven hundred and forty-two cases of powder and fifty cases of melinite all stored in one place. And to prevent the enormous noise, confusion, and waste that would have resulted from the over-attraction of this base of operations to the anarchists, my two friends, one of whom was a duty-doing Burgundian, but the other a loose Parisian man, were on sentry that night. They had strict orders to challenge once and then to fire.

Now, can you imagine anything more exquisite to a poor devil of a conscript, fagged out with garrison duty and stale sham-fighting, than an order of that kind? So my friends took it, and in one summer night they killed a donkey and wounded two mares, and broke the thin stem of a growing tree.

This powder-magazine was no exception to my rule, for as I approached it I saw a round-faced corporal and two round-faced men looking eagerly to see who might be attacking their treasure, and I became quite genial in my mind when I thought of how proud these boys felt, and of how I was of the 'class of ninety, rifled and mounted on its carriage' (if you don't see the point of the allusion, I can't stop to explain it. It was a good gun in its time—now they have the seventy-five that doesn't recoil—requiescat), and of how they were longing for the night, and a chance to shoot anything on the sky line.

Full of these foolish thoughts, but smiling in spite of their folly, I went down the road.

Shall I detail all that afternoon? My leg horrified me with dull pain, and made me fear I should never hold out, I do not say to Rome, but even to the frontier. I rubbed it from time to time with balm, but, as always happens to miraculous things, the virtue had gone out of it with the lapse of time. At last I found a side road going off from the main way, and my map told me it was on the whole a short cut to the frontier. I determined to take it for those few last miles, because, if one is suffering, a winding lane is more tolerable than a wide turnpike.

Just as I came to the branching of the roads I saw a cross put up, and at its base the motto that is universal to French crosses—

Ave Crux Spes Unica.

I thought it a good opportunity for recollection, and sitting down, I looked backward along the road I had come.

There were the high mountains of the Vosges standing up above the plain of Alsace like sloping cliffs above a sea. I drew them as they stood, and wondered if that frontier were really permanent. The mind of man is greater than such accidents, and can easily overleap even the high hills.

Then having drawn them, and in that drawing said a kind of farewell to the influences that had followed me for so many miles—the solemn quiet, the steady industry, the self-control, the deep woods, of Lorraine—1 rose up stiffly from the bank that had been my desk, and pushed along the lane that ran devious past neglected villages.

The afternoon and the evening followed as I put one mile after another behind me. The frontier seemed so close that I would not rest. I left my open wine, the wine I had found outside Belfort, untasted, and I plodded on and on as the light dwindled. I was in a grand wonderment for Switzerland, and I wished by an immediate effort to conquer the last miles before night, in spite of my pain. Also, I will confess to a silly pride in distances, and a desire to be out of France on my fourth day.

The light still fell, and my resolution stood, though my exhaustion undermined it. The line of the mountains rose higher against the sky, and there entered into my pilgrimage for the first time the loneliness and the mystery of meres. Something of what a man feels in East England belonged to this last of the plain under the guardian hills. Everywhere I passed ponds and reeds, and saw the level streaks of sunset reflected in stagnant waters.

The marshy valley kept its character when I had left the lane and regained the highroad. Its isolation dominated the last effort with which I made for the line of the Jura in that summer twilight, and as I blundered on my whole spirit was caught or lifted in the influence of the waste waters and of the birds of evening.

I wished, as I had often wished in such opportunities of recollection and of silence, for a complete barrier that might isolate the mind. With that wish came in a puzzling thought, very proper to a pilgrimage, which was: 'What do men mean by the desire to be dissolved and to enjoy the spirit free and without attachments?' That many men have so desired there can be no doubt, and the best men, whose holiness one recognizes at once, tell us that the joys of the soul are incomparably higher than those of the living man. In India, moreover, there are great numbers of men who do the most fantastic things with the object of thus unprisoning the soul, and Milton talks of the same thing with evident conviction, and the Saints all praise it in chorus. But what is it? For my part I cannot understand so much as the meaning of the words, for every pleasure I know comes from an intimate union between my body and my very human mind, which last receives, confirms, revives, and can summon up again what my body has experienced. Of pleasures, however, in which my senses have had no part I know nothing, so I have determined to take them upon trust and see whether they could make the matter clearer in Rome.

But when it comes to the immortal mind, the good spirit in me that is so cunning at forms and colours and the reasons of things, that is a very different story. That, I do indeed desire to have to myself at whiles, and the waning light of a day or the curtains of autumn closing in the year are often to me like a door shutting after one, as one comes in home. For I find that with less and less impression from without the mind seems to take on a power of creation, and by some mystery it can project songs and landscapes and faces much more desirable than the music or the shapes one really hears and sees. So also memory can create. But it is not the soul that does this, for the songs, the landscapes, and the faces are of a kind that have come in by the senses, nor have I ever understood what could be higher than these pleasures, nor indeed how in anything formless and immaterial there could be pleasure at all. Yet the wisest people assure us that our souls are as superior to our minds as are our minds to our inert and merely material bodies. I cannot understand it at all.

As I was pondering on these things in this land of pastures and lonely ponds, with the wall of the Jura black against the narrow bars of evening—(my pain seemed gone for a moment, yet I was hobbling slowly)—I say as I was considering this complex doctrine, I felt my sack suddenly much lighter, and I had hardly time to rejoice at the miracle when I heard immediately a very loud crash, and turning half round I saw on the blurred white of the twilit road my quart of Open Wine all broken to atoms. My disappointment was so great that I sat down on a milestone to consider the accident and to see if a little thought would not lighten my acute annoyance. Consider that I had carefully cherished this bottle and had not drunk throughout a painful march all that afternoon, thinking that there would be no wine worth drinking after I had passed the frontier.

I consoled myself more or less by thinking about torments and evils to which even such a loss as this was nothing, and then I rose to go on into the night. As it turned out I was to find beyond the frontier a wine in whose presence this wasted wine would have seemed a wretched jest, and whose wonderful taste was to colour all my memories of the Mount Terrible. It is always thus with sorrows if one will only wait.

So, lighter in the sack but heavier in the heart, I went forward to cross the frontier in the dark. I did not quite know where the point came: I only knew that it was about a mile from Delle, the last French town. I supped there and held on my way. When I guessed that I had covered this mile I saw a light in the windows on my left, a trellis and the marble tables of a cafe. I put my head in at the door and said—

'Am I in Switzerland?'

A German-looking girl, a large heavy man, a Bavarian commercial traveller, and a colleague of his from Marseilles, all said together in varying accents: 'Yes.'

'Why then,' I said, 'I will come in and drink.'

This book would never end if I were to attempt to write down so much as the names of a quarter of the extraordinary things that I saw and heard on my enchanted pilgrimage, but let me at least mention the Commercial Traveller from Marseilles.

He talked with extreme rapidity for two hours. He had seen all the cities in the world and he remembered their minutest details. He was extremely accurate, his taste was abominable, his patriotism large, his wit crude but continual, and to his German friend, to the host of the inn, and to the blonde serving-girl, he was a familiar god. He came, it seems, once a year, and for a day would pour out the torrent of his travels like a waterfall of guide-books (for he gloried in dates, dimensions, and the points of the compass in his descriptions); then he disappeared for another year, and left them to feast on the memory of such a revelation.

For my part I sat silent, crippled with fatigue, trying to forget my wounded feet, drinking stoup after stoup of beer and watching the Phocean. He was of the old race you see on vases in red and black; slight, very wiry, with a sharp, eager, but well-set face, a small, black, pointed beard, brilliant eyes like those of lizards, rapid gestures, and a vivacity that played all over his features as sheet lightning does over the glow of midnight in June.

That delta of the Rhone is something quite separate from the rest of France. It is a wedge of Greece and of the East thrust into the Gauls. It came north a hundred years ago and killed the monarchy. It caught the value in, and created, the great war song of the Republic.

I watched the Phocean. I thought of a man of his ancestry three thousand years ago sitting here at the gates of these mountains talking of his travels to dull, patient, and admiring northerners, and travelling for gain up on into the Germanics, and I felt the changeless form of Europe under me like a rock.

When he heard I was walking to Rome, this man of information turned off his flood into another channel, as a miller will send the racing water into a side sluice, and he poured out some such torrent as this:

'Do not omit to notice the famous view S.E. from the Villa So and So on Monte Mario; visit such and such a garden, and hear Mass in such and such a church. Note the curious illusion produced on the piazza of St Peter's by the interior measurements of the trapezium, which are so many years and so many yards,...' &c., and so forth... exactly like a mill.

I meanwhile sat on still silent, still drinking beer and watching the Phocean; gradually suffering the fascination that had captured the villagers and the German friend. He was a very wonderful man.

He was also kindly, for I found afterwards that he had arranged with the host to give me up his bed, seeing my weariness. For this, most unluckily, I was never able to thank him, since the next morning I was off before he or any one else was awake, and I left on the table such money as I thought would very likely satisfy the innkeeper.

It was broad day, but not yet sunrise (there were watery thin clouds left here and there from the day before, a cold wind drove them) when, with extreme pain, going slowly one step after the other and resting continually, I started for Porrentruy along a winding road, and pierced the gap in the Jura. The first turn cut me off from France, and I was fairly in a strange country.

The valley through which I was now passing resembled that of the lovely river Jed where it runs down from the Cheviots, and leads like a road into the secret pastures of the lowlands. Here also, as there, steep cliffs of limestone bounded a very level dale, all green grass and plenty; the plateau above them was covered also with perpetual woods, only here, different from Scotland, the woods ran on and upwards till they became the slopes of high mountains; indeed, this winding cleft was a natural passage through the first ridge of the Jura; the second stood up southward before me like a deep blue storm.

I had, as I passed on along this turning way, all the pleasures of novelty; it was quite another country from the governed and ordered France which I had left. The road was more haphazard, less carefully tended, and evidently less used. The milestones were very old, and marked leagues instead of kilometres. There was age in everything. Moss grew along the walls, and it was very quiet under the high trees. I did not know the name of the little river that went slowly through the meadows, nor whether it followed the custom of its French neighbours on the watershed, and was called by some such epithet as hangs to all the waters in that gap of Belfort, that plain of ponds and marshes: for they are called 'the Sluggish', 'the Muddy', or 'the Laggard'. Even the name of the Saone, far off, meant once 'Slow Water'.

I was wondering what its name might be, and how far I stood from Porrentruy (which I knew to be close by), when I saw a tunnel across the valley, and I guessed by the trend of the higher hills that the river was about to make a very sharp angle. Both these signs, I had been told, meant that I was quite close to the town; so I took a short cut up through the forest over a spur of hill—a short cut most legitimate, because it was trodden and very manifestly used—and I walked up and then on a level for a mile, along a lane of the woods and beneath small, dripping trees. When this short silence of the forest was over, I saw an excellent sight.

There, below me, where the lane began to fall, was the first of the German cities.

LECTOR. How 'German'?

AUCTOR. Let me explain. There is a race that stretches vaguely, without defined boundaries, from the Baltic into the high hills of the south. I will not include the Scandinavians among them, for the Scandinavians (from whom we English also in part descend) are long-headed, lean, and fierce, with a light of adventure in their pale eyes. But beneath them, I say, there stretches from the Baltic to the high hills a race which has a curious unity. Yes; I know that great patches of it are Catholic, and that other great patches hold varying philosophies; I know also that within them are counted long-headed and round-headed men, dark and fair, violent and silent; I know also that they have continually fought among themselves and called in Welch allies; still I go somewhat by the language, for I am concerned here with the development of a modern European people, and I say that the Germans run from the high hills to the northern sea. In all of them you find (it is not race, it is something much more than race, it is the type of culture) a dreaminess and a love of ease. In all of them you find music. They are those Germans whose countries I had seen a long way off, from the Ballon d'Alsace, and whose language and traditions I now first touched in the town that stood before me.

LECTOR. But in Porrentruy they talk French!

AUCTOR. They are welcome; it is an excellent tongue. Nevertheless, they are Germans. Who but Germans would so preserve—would so rebuild the past? Who but Germans would so feel the mystery of the hills, and so fit their town to the mountains? I was to pass through but a narrow wedge of this strange and diffuse people. They began at Porrentruy, they ended at the watershed of the Adriatic, in the high passes of the Alps; but in that little space of four days I made acquaintance with their influence, and I owe them a perpetual gratitude for their architecture and their tales. I had come from France, which is full of an active memory of Rome. I was to debouch into those larger plains of Italy, which keep about them an atmosphere of Rome in decay. Here in Switzerland, for four marches, I touched a northern, exterior, and barbaric people; for though these mountains spoke a distorted Latin tongue, and only after the first day began to give me a Teutonic dialect, yet it was evident from the first that they had about them neither the Latin order nor the Latin power to create, but were contemplative and easily absorbed by a little effort.

The German spirit is a marvel. There lay Porrentruy. An odd door with Gothic turrets marked the entry to the town. To the right of this gateway a tower, more enormous than anything I remembered to have seen, even in dreams, flanked the approach to the city. How vast it was, how protected, how high, how eaved, how enduring! I was told later that some part of that great bastion was Roman, and I can believe it. The Germans hate to destroy. It overwhelmed me as visions overwhelm, and I felt in its presence as boys feel when they first see the mountains. Had I not been a Christian, I would have worshipped and propitiated this obsession, this everlasting thing.

As it was I entered Porrentruy soberly. I passed under its deep gateway and up its steep hill. The moment I was well into the main street, something other of the Middle Ages possessed me, and I began to think of food and wine. I went to the very first small guest-house I could find, and asked them if they could serve me food. They said that at such an early hour (it was not yet ten) they could give me nothing but bread, yesterday's meat, and wine. I said that would do very well, and all these things were set before me, and by a custom of the country I paid before I ate. (A bad custom. Up in the Limousin, when I was a boy, in the noisy valley of the Torrent, on the Vienne, I remember a woman that did not allow me to pay till she had held the bottle up to the light, measured the veal with her finger, and estimated the bread with her eye; also she charged me double. God rest her soul!) I say I paid. And had I had to pay twenty or twenty-three times as much it would have been worth it for the wine.

I am hurrying on to Rome, and I have no time to write a georgic. But, oh! my little friends of the north; my struggling, strenuous, introspective, self-analysing, autoscopic, and generally reentrant friends, who spout the 'Hue! Pater, oh! Lenae!' without a ghost of an idea what you are talking about, do you know what is meant by the god? Bacchus is everywhere, but if he has special sites to be ringed in and kept sacred, I say let these be Brule, and the silent vineyard that lies under the square wood by Tournus, the hollow underplace of Heltz le Maurupt, and this town of Porrentruy. In these places if I can get no living friends to help me, I will strike the foot alone on the genial ground, and I know of fifty maenads and two hundred little attendant gods by name that will come to the festival.

What a wine!

I was assured it would not travel. 'Nevertheless,' said I, 'give me a good quart bottle of it, for I have to go far, and I see there is a providence for pilgrims.'

So they charged me fourpence, and I took my bottle of this wonderful stuff, sweet, strong, sufficient, part of the earth, desirable, and went up on my way to Rome.

Could this book be infinite, as my voyage was infinite, I would tell you about the shifty priest whom I met on the platform of the church where a cliff overhangs the valley, and of the anarchist whom I met when I recovered the highroad—- he was a sad, good man, who had committed some sudden crime and so had left France, and his hankering for France all those years had soured his temper, and he said he wished there were no property, no armies, and no governments.

But I said that we live as parts of a nation, and that there was no fate so wretched as to be without a country of one's own—what else was exile which so many noble men have thought worse than death, and which all have feared? I also told him that armies fighting in a just cause were the happiest places for living, and that a good battle for justice was the beginning of all great songs; and that as for property, a man on his own land was the nearest to God.

He therefore not convinced, and I loving and pitying him, we separated; I had not time to preach my full doctrine, but gave him instead a deep and misty glass of cool beer, and pledged him brotherhood, freedom, and an equal law. Then I went on my way, praying God that all these rending quarrels might be appeased. For they would certainly be appeased if we once again had a united doctrine in Europe, since economics are but an expression of the mind and do not (as the poor blind slaves of the great cities think) mould the mind. What is more, nothing makes property run into a few hands but the worst of the capital sins, and you who say it is 'the modern facilities of distribution' are like men who cannot read large print without spectacles; or again, you are like men who should say that their drunkenness was due to their drink, or that arson was caused by matches.

But, frankly, do you suppose I came all this way over so many hills to talk economics? Very far from it! I will pray for all poor men when I get to St Peter's in Rome (I should like to know what capital St Peter had in that highly capitalistic first century), and, meanwhile, do you discuss the margin of production while I go on the open way; there are no landlords here, and if you would learn at least one foreign language, and travel but five miles off a railway, you town-talkers, you would find how much landlordism has to do with your 'necessities' and your 'laws'.

LECTOR. I thought you said you were not going to talk economics?

AUCTOR. Neither am I. It is but the backwash of a wave... Well, then, I went up the open way, and came in a few miles of that hot afternoon to the second ridge of the Jura, which they call 'the Terrible Hill', or 'the Mount Terrible'—and, in truth, it is very jagged. A steep, long crest of very many miles lies here between the vale of Porrentruy and the deep gorge of the Doubs. The highroad goes off a long way westward, seeking for a pass or neck in the chain, but I determined to find a straight road across, and spoke to some wood-cutters who were felling trees just where the road began to climb. They gave me this curious indication. They said—

'Go you up this muddy track that has been made athwart the woods and over the pastures by our sliding logs' (for they had cut their trunks higher up the mountains), 'and you will come to the summit easily. From thence you will see the Doubs running below you in a very deep and dark ravine.'

I thanked them, and soon found that they had told me right. There, unmistakable, a gash in the forest and across the intervening fields of grass, was the run of the timber.

When I had climbed almost to the top, I looked behind me to take my last view of the north. I saw just before me a high isolated rock; between me and it was the forest. I saw beyond it the infinite plain of Alsace and the distant Vosges. The cliff of limestone that bounded that height fell sheer upon the tree-tops; its sublimity arrested me, and compelled me to record it.

'Surely,' I said, 'if Switzerland has any gates on the north they are these.' Then, having drawn the wonderful outline of what I had seen, I went up, panting, to the summit, and, resting there, discovered beneath me the curious swirl of the Doubs, where it ran in a dark gulf thousands of feet below. The shape of this extraordinary turn I will describe in a moment. Let me say, meanwhile, that there was no precipice or rock between me and the river, only a down, down, down through other trees and pastures, not too steep for a man to walk, but steeper than our steep downs and fells in England, where a man hesitates and picks his way. It was so much of a descent, and so long, that one looked above the tree-tops. It was a place where no one would care to ride.

I found a kind of path, sideways on the face of the mountain, and followed it till I came to a platform with a hut perched thereon, and men building. Here a good woman told me just how to go. I was not to attempt the road to Brune-Farine—that is, 'Whole-Meal Farm'—as I had first intended, foolishly trusting a map, but to take a gully she would show me, and follow it till I reached the river. She came out, and led me steeply across a hanging pasture; all the while she had knitting in her hands, and I noticed that on the levels she went on with her knitting. Then, when we got to the gully, she said I had but to follow it. I thanked her, and she climbed up to her home.

This gully was the precipitous bed of a stream; I clanked down it—thousands of feet—warily; I reached the valley, and at last, very gladly, came to a drain, and thus knew that I approached a town or village. It was St Ursanne.

The very first thing I noticed in St Ursanne was the extraordinary shape of the lower windows of the church. They lighted a crypt and ran along the ground, which in itself was sufficiently remarkable, but much more remarkable was their shape, which seemed to me to approach that of a horseshoe; I never saw such a thing before. It looked as though the weight of the church above had bulged these little windows out, and that is the way I explain it. Some people would say it was a man coming home from the Crusades that had made them this eastern way, others that it was a symbol of something or other. But I say—

LECTOR. What rhodomontade and pedantry is this talk about the shape of a window?

AUCTOR. Little friend, how little you know! To a building windows are everything; they are what eyes are to a man. Out of windows a building takes its view; in windows the outlook of its human inhabitants is framed. If you were the lord of a very high tower overlooking a town, a plain, a river, and a distant hill (I doubt if you will ever have such luck!), would you not call your architect up before you and say—

'Sir, see that the windows of my house are tall, narrow, thick, and have a round top to them'?

Of course you would, for thus you would best catch in separate pictures the sunlit things outside your home.

Never ridicule windows. It is out of windows that many fall to their deaths. By windows love often enters. Through a window went the bolt that killed King Richard. King William's father spied Arlette from a window (I have looked through it myself, but not a soul did I see washing below). When a mob would rule England, it breaks windows, and when a patriot would save her, he taxes them. Out of windows we walk on to lawns in summer and meet men and women, and in winter windows are drums for the splendid music of storms that makes us feel so masterly round our fires. The windows of the great cathedrals are all their meaning. But for windows we should have to go out-of-doors to see daylight. After the sun, which they serve, I know of nothing so beneficent as windows. Fie upon the ungrateful man that has no window-god in his house, and thinks himself too great a philosopher to bow down to windows! May he live in a place without windows for a while to teach him the value of windows. As for me, I will keep up the high worship of windows till I come to the windowless grave. Talk to me of windows!

Yes. There are other things in St Ursanne. It is a little tiny town, and yet has gates. It is full of very old houses, people, and speech. It was founded (or named) by a Bear Saint, and the statue of the saint with his bear is carved on the top of a column in the market-place. But the chief thing about it, so it seemed to me, was its remoteness.

The gorge of the Doubs, of which I said a word or two above, is of that very rare shape which isolates whatever may be found in such valleys. It turns right back upon itself, like a very narrow U, and thus cannot by any possibility lead any one anywhere; for though in all times travellers have had to follow river valleys, yet when they come to such a long and sharp turn as this, they have always cut across the intervening bend.

Here is the shape of this valley with the high hills round it and in its core, which will show better than description what I mean. The little picture also shows what the gorge looked like as I came down on it from the heights above.

In the map the small white 'A' shows where the railway bridge was, and in this map, as in the others, the dark is for the depth and the light is for the heights. As for the picture, it is what one sees when one is coming over the ridge at the north or top of the map, and when one first catches the river beneath one.

I thought a good deal about what the Romans did to get through the Mont Terrible, and how they negotiated this crook in the Doubs (for they certainly passed into Gaul through the gates of Porrentruy, and by that obvious valley below it). I decided that they probably came round eastward by Delemont. But for my part, I was on a straight path to Rome, and as that line lay just along the top of the river bend I was bound to take it.

Now outside St Ursanne, if one would go along the top of the river bend and so up to the other side of the gorge, is a kind of subsidiary ravine—awful, deep, and narrow—and this was crossed, I could see, by a very high railway bridge.

Not suspecting any evil, and desiring to avoid the long descent into the ravine, the looking for a bridge or ford, and the steep climb up the other side, I made in my folly for the station which stood just where the railway left solid ground to go over this high, high bridge. I asked leave of the stationmaster to cross it, who said it was strictly forbidden, but that he was not a policeman, and that I might do it at my own risk. Thanking him, therefore, and considering how charming was the loose habit of small uncentralized societies, I went merrily on to the bridge, meaning to walk across it by stepping from sleeper to sleeper. But it was not to be so simple. The powers of the air, that hate to have their kingdom disturbed, watched me as I began.

I had not been engaged upon it a dozen yards when I was seized with terror.

I have much to say further on in this book concerning terror: the panic that haunts high places and the spell of many angry men. This horrible affection of the mind is the delight of our modern scribblers; it is half the plot of their insane 'short stories', and is at the root of their worship of what they call 'strength', a cowardly craving for protection, or the much more despicable fascination of brutality. For my part I have always disregarded it as something impure and devilish, unworthy of a Christian. Fear I think, indeed, to be in the nature of things, and it is as much part of my experience to be afraid of the sea or of an untried horse as it is to eat and sleep; but terror, which is a sudden madness and paralysis of the soul, that I say is from hell, and not to be played with or considered or put in pictures or described in stories. All this I say to preface what happened, and especially to point out how terror is in the nature of a possession and is unreasonable.

For in the crossing of this bridge there was nothing in itself perilous. The sleepers lay very close together—I doubt if a man could have slipped between them; but, I know not how many hundred feet below, was the flashing of the torrent, and it turned my brain. For the only parapet there was a light line or pipe, quite slender and low down, running from one spare iron upright to another. These rather emphasized than encouraged my mood. And still as I resolutely put one foot in front of the other, and resolutely kept my eyes off the abyss and fixed on the opposing hill, and as the long curve before me was diminished by successive sharp advances, still my heart was caught half-way in every breath, and whatever it is that moves a man went uncertainly within me, mechanical and half-paralysed. The great height with that narrow unprotected ribbon across it was more than I could bear.

I dared not turn round and I dared not stop. Words and phrases began repeating themselves in my head as they will under a strain: so I know at sea a man perilously hanging on to the tiller makes a kind of litany of his instructions. The central part was passed, the three-quarters; the tension of that enduring effort had grown intolerable, and I doubted my ability to complete the task. Why? What could prevent me? I cannot say; it was all a bundle of imaginaries. Perhaps at bottom what I feared was sudden giddiness and the fall—

At any rate at this last supreme part I vowed one candle to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour if she would see that all went well, and this candle I later paid in Rome; finding Our Lady of Succour not hung up in a public place and known to all, as I thought She would be, but peculiar to a little church belonging to a Scotchman and standing above his high altar. Yet it is a very famous picture, and extremely old.

Well, then, having made this vow I still went on, with panic aiding me, till I saw that the bank beneath had risen to within a few feet of the bridge, and that dry land was not twenty yards away. Then my resolution left me and I ran, or rather stumbled, rapidly from sleeper to sleeper till I could take a deep breath on the solid earth beyond.

I stood and gazed back over the abyss; I saw the little horrible strip between heaven and hell—the perspective of its rails. I was made ill by the relief from terror. Yet I suppose railway-men cross and recross it twenty times a day. Better for them than for me!

There is the story of the awful bridge of the Mont Terrible, and it lies to a yard upon the straight line—quid dicam—the segment of the Great Circle uniting Toul and Rome.

The high bank or hillside before me was that which ends the gorge of the Doubs and looks down either limb of the sharp bend. I had here not to climb but to follow at one height round the curve. My way ran by a rather ill-made lane and passed a village. Then it was my business to make straight up the farther wall of the gorge, and as there was wood upon this, it looked an easy matter.

But when I came to it, it was not easy. The wood grew in loose rocks and the slope was much too steep for anything but hands and knees, and far too soft and broken for true climbing. And no wonder this ridge seemed a wall for steepness and difficulty, since it was the watershed between the Mediterranean and the cold North Sea. But I did not know this at the time. It must have taken me close on an hour before I had covered the last thousand feet or so that brought me to the top of the ridge, and there, to my great astonishment, was a road. Where could such a road lead, and why did it follow right along the highest edge of the mountains? The Jura with their unique parallels provide twenty such problems.

Wherever it led, however, this road was plainly perpendicular to my true route, and I had but to press on my straight line. So I crossed it, saw for a last time through the trees the gorge of the Doubs, and then got upon a path which led down through a field more or less in the direction of my pilgrimage.

Here the country was so broken that one could make out but little of its general features, but of course, on the whole, I was following down yet another southern slope, the southern slope of the third chain of the Jura, when, after passing through many glades and along a stony path, I found a kind of gate between two high rocks, and emerged somewhat suddenly upon a wide down studded with old trees and also many stunted yews, and this sank down to a noble valley which lay all before me.

The open down or prairie on which I stood I afterwards found to be called the 'Pasturage of Common Right', a very fine name; and, as a gallery will command a great hall, so this field like a platform commanded the wide and fading valley below.

It was a very glad surprise to see this sight suddenly unrolled as I stood on the crest of the down. The Jura had hitherto been either lonely, or somewhat awful, or naked and rocky, but here was a true vale in which one could imagine a spirit of its own; there were corn lands and no rocks. The mountains on either side did not rise so high as three thousand feet. Though of limestone they were rounded in form, and the slanting sun of the late afternoon (all the storm had left the sky) took them full and warm. The valley remaining wide and fruitful went on out eastward till the hills became mixed up with brume and distance. As I did not know its name I called it after the village immediately below me for which I was making; and I still remember it as the Valley of Glovelier, and it lies between the third and fourth ridges of the Jura.

Before leaving the field I drew what I saw but I was much too tired by the double and prodigious climb of the past hours to draw definitely or clearly. Such as it is, there it is. Then I went down over the smooth field.

There is something that distinguishes the rugged from the gracious in landscape, and in our Europe this something corresponds to the use and presence of men, especially in mountainous places. For men's habits and civilization fill the valleys and wash up the base of the hills, making, as it were, a tide mark. Into this zone I had already passed. The turf was trodden fine, and was set firm as it can only become by thousands of years of pasturing. The moisture that oozed out of the earth was not the random bog of the high places but a human spring, caught in a stone trough. Attention had been given to the trees. Below me stood a wall, which, though rough, was not the haphazard thing men pile up in the last recesses of the hills, but formed of chosen stones, and these bound together with mortar. On my right was a deep little dale with children playing in it—and this' I afterwards learned was called a 'combe': delightful memory! All our deeper hollows are called the same at home, and even the Welsh have the word, but they spell it cwm; it is their mountain way. Well, as I was saying, everything surrounding me was domestic and grateful, and I was therefore in a mood for charity and companionship when I came down the last dip and entered Glovelier. But Glovelier is a place of no excellence whatever, and if the thought did not seem extravagant I should be for putting it to the sword and burning it all down.

For just as I was going along full of kindly thoughts, and had turned into the sign of (I think it was) the 'Sun' to drink wine and leave them my benediction—

LECTOR. Why your benediction?

AUCTOR. Who else can give benedictions if people cannot when they are on pilgrimage? Learn that there are three avenues by which blessing can be bestowed, and three kinds of men who can bestow it.

(1) There is the good man, whose goodness makes him of himself a giver of blessings. His power is not conferred or of office, but is inhaerens persona; part of the stuff of his mind. This kind can confer the solemn benediction, or Benedictio major, if they choose; but besides this their every kind thought, word, or action is a Benedictio generalise and even their frowns, curses, angry looks and irritable gestures may be called Benedictiones minores vel incerti. I believe I am within the definitions. I avoid heresy. All this is sound theology. I do not smell of the faggot. And this kind of Benedictory Power is the fount or type or natural origin, as it were, of all others.

(2) There is the Official of Religion who, in the exercise of his office—

LECTOR. For Heaven's sake—

AUCTOR. Who began it? You protested my power to give benediction, and I must now prove it at length; otherwise I should fall under the accusation of lesser Simony—that is, the false assumption of particular powers. Well, then, there is the Official who ex officio, and when he makes it quite clear that it is qua sponsus and not sicut ut ipse, can give formal benediction. This power belongs certainly to all Bishops, mitred Abbots, and Archimandrates; to Patriarchs of course, and a fortiori to the Pope. In Rome they will have it that Monsignores also can so bless, and I have heard it debated whether or no the same were not true in some rustic way of parish priests. However this may be, all their power proceeds, not from themselves, but from the accumulation of goodness left as a deposit by the multitudes of exceptionally good men who have lived in times past, and who have now no use for it.

(3) Thirdly—and this is my point—any one, good or bad, official or non-official, who is for the moment engaged in an opusfaustum can act certainly as a conductor or medium, and the influence of what he is touching or doing passes to you from him. This is admitted by every one who worships trees, wells, and stones; and indeed it stands to reason, for it is but a branch of the well-known 'Sanctificatio ex loco, opere, tactu vel conditione.' I will admit that this power is but vague, slight, tenuous, and dissipatory, still there it is: though of course its poor effect is to that of the Benedictio major what a cat's-paw in the Solent is to a north-east snorter on Lindsey Deeps.

I am sorry to have been at such length, but it is necessary to have these things thrashed out once for all. So now you see how I, being on pilgrimage, could give a kind of little creeping blessing to the people on the way, though, as St Louis said to the Hascisch-eaters, 'May it be a long time before you can kiss my bones.'

So I entered the 'Sun' inn and saw there a woman sewing, a great dull-faced man like an ox, and a youth writing down figures in a little book. I said—

'Good morning, madam, and sirs, and the company. Could you give me a little red wine?' Not a head moved.

True I was very dirty and tired, and they may have thought me a beggar, to whom, like good sensible Christians who had no nonsense about them, they would rather have given a handsome kick than a cup of cold water. However, I think it was not only my poverty but a native churlishness which bound their bovine souls in that valley.

I sat down at a very clean table. I notice that those whom the Devil has made his own are always spick and span, just as firemen who have to go into great furnaces have to keep all their gear highly polished. I sat down at it, and said again, still gently—

'It is, indeed, a fine country this of yours. Could you give me a little red wine?'

Then the ox-faced man who had his back turned to me, and was the worst of the lot, said sulkily, not to me, but to the woman—

'He wants wine.'

The woman as sulkily said to me, not looking me in the eyes—

'How much will you pay?'

I said, 'Bring the wine. Set it here. See me drink it. Charge me your due.'

I found that this brutal way of speaking was just what was needed for the kine and cattle of this pen. She skipped off to a cupboard, and set wine before me, and a glass. I drank quite quietly till I had had enough, and asked what there was to pay. She said 'Threepence,' and I said 'Too much,' as I paid it. At this the ox-faced man grunted and frowned, and I was afraid; but hiding my fear I walked out boldly and slowly, and made a noise with my stick upon the floor of the hall without. Neither did I bid them farewell. But I made a sign at the house as I left it. Whether it suffered from this as did the house at Dorchester which the man in the boat caused to wither in one night, is more than I can tell.

The road led straight across the valley and approached the further wall of hills. These I saw were pierced by one of the curious gaps which are peculiar to limestone ranges. Water cuts them, and a torrent ran through this one also. The road through it, gap though it was, went up steeply, and the further valley was evidently higher than the one I was leaving. It was already evening as I entered this narrow ravine; the sun only caught the tops of the rock-walls. My fatigue was very great, and my walking painful to an extreme, when, having come to a place where the gorge was narrowest and where the two sides were like the posts of a giant's stile, where also the fifth ridge of the Jura stood up beyond me in the further valley, a vast shadow, I sat down wearily and drew what not even my exhaustion could render unremarkable.

While I was occupied sketching the slabs of limestone, I heard wheels coming up behind me, and a boy in a waggon stopped and hailed me.

What the boy wanted to know was whether I would take a lift, and this he said in such curious French that I shuddered to think how far I had pierced into the heart of the hills, and how soon I might come to quite strange people. I was greatly tempted to get into his cart, but though I had broken so many of my vows one remained yet whole and sound, which was that I would ride upon no wheeled thing. Remembering this, therefore, and considering that the Faith is rich in interpretation, I clung on to the waggon in such a manner that it did all my work for me, and yet could not be said to be actually carrying me. Distinguo. The essence of a vow is its literal meaning. The spirit and intention are for the major morality, and concern Natural Religion, but when upon a point of ritual or of dedication or special worship a man talks to you of the Spirit and Intention, and complains of the dryness of the Word, look at him askance. He is not far removed from Heresy.

I knew a man once that was given to drinking, and I made up this rule for him to distinguish between Bacchus and the Devil. To wit: that he should never drink what has been made and sold since the Reformation—I mean especially spirits and champagne. Let him (said I) drink red wine and white, good beer and mead—if he could get it—liqueurs made by monks, and, in a word, all those feeding, fortifying, and confirming beverages that our fathers drank in old time; but not whisky, nor brandy, nor sparkling wines, not absinthe, nor the kind of drink called gin. This he promised to do, and all went well. He became a merry companion, and began to write odes. His prose clarified and set, that had before been very mixed and cloudy. He slept well; he comprehended divine things; he was already half a republican, when one fatal day—it was the feast of the eleven thousand virgins, and they were too busy up in heaven to consider the needs of us poor hobbling, polyktonous and betempted wretches of men—I went with him to the Society for the Prevention of Annoyances to the Rich, where a certain usurer's son was to read a paper on the cruelty of Spaniards to their mules. As we were all seated there round a table with a staring green cloth on it, and a damnable gas pendant above, the host of that evening offered him whisky and water, and, my back being turned, he took it. Then when I would have taken it from him he used these words—

'After all, it is the intention of a pledge that matters;' and I saw that all was over, for he had abandoned definition, and was plunged back into the horrible mazes of Conscience and Natural Religion.

What do you think, then, was the consequence? Why, he had to take some nasty pledge or other to drink nothing whatever, and become a spectacle and a judgement, whereas if he had kept his exact word he might by this time have been a happy man.

Remembering him and pondering upon the advantage of strict rule, I hung on to my cart, taking care to let my feet still feel the road, and so passed through the high limestone gates of the gorge, and was in the fourth valley of the Jura, with the fifth ridge standing up black and huge before me against the last of the daylight. There were as yet no stars.

There, in this silent place, was the little village of Undervelier, and I thanked the boy, withdrew from his cart, and painfully approached the inn, where I asked the woman if she could give me something to eat, and she said that she could in about an hour, using, however, with regard to what it was I was to have, words which I did not understand. For the French had become quite barbaric, and I was now indeed lost in one of the inner places of the world.

A cigar is, however, even in Undervelier, a cigar; and the best cost a penny. One of these, therefore, I bought, and then I went out smoking it into the village square, and, finding a low wall, leaned over it and contemplated the glorious clear green water tumbling and roaring along beneath it on the other side; for a little river ran through the village.

As I leaned there resting and communing I noticed how their church, close at hand, was built along the low banks of the torrent. I admired the luxuriance of the grass these waters fed, and the generous arch of the trees beside it. The graves seemed set in a natural place of rest and home, and just beyond this churchyard was that marriage of hewn stone and water which is the source of so peculiar a satisfaction; for the church tower was built boldly right out into the stream and the current went eddying round it. But why it is that strong human building when it dips into water should thus affect the mind I cannot say, only I know that it is an emotion apart to see our device and structure where it is most enduring come up against and challenge that element which we cannot conquer, and which has always in it something of danger for men. It is therefore well to put strong mouldings on to piers and quays, and to make an architecture of them, and so it was a splendid thought of the Romans to build their villas right out to sea; so they say does Venice enthrall one, but where I have most noticed this thing is at the Mont St Michel—only one must take care to shut one's eyes or sleep during all the low tide.

As I was watching that stream against those old stones, my cigar being now half smoked, a bell began tolling, and it seemed as if the whole village were pouring into the church. At this I was very much surprised, not having been used at any time of my life to the unanimous devotion of an entire population, but having always thought of the Faith as something fighting odds, and having seen unanimity only in places where some sham religion or other glozed over our tragedies and excused our sins. Certainly to see all the men, women, and children of a place taking Catholicism for granted was a new sight, and so I put my cigar carefully down under a stone on the top of the wall and went in with them. I then saw that what they were at was vespers.

All the village sang, knowing the psalms very well, and I noticed that their Latin was nearer German than French; but what was most pleasing of all was to hear from all the men and women together that very noble good-night and salutation to God which begins—

Te, lucis ante terminum.

My whole mind was taken up and transfigured by this collective act, and I saw for a moment the Catholic Church quite plain, and I remembered Europe, and the centuries. Then there left me altogether that attitude of difficulty and combat which, for us others, is always associated with the Faith. The cities dwindled in my imagination, and I took less heed of the modern noise. I went out with them into the clear evening and the cool. I found my cigar and lit it again, and musing much more deeply than before, not without tears, I considered the nature of Belief.

Of its nature it breeds a reaction and an indifference. Those who believe nothing but only think and judge cannot understand this. Of its nature it struggles with us. And we, we, when our youth is full on us, invariably reject it and set out in the sunlight content with natural things. Then for a long time we are like men who follow down the cleft of a mountain and the peaks are hidden from us and forgotten. It takes years to reach the dry plain, and then we look back and see our home.

What is it, do you think, that causes the return? I think it is the problem of living; for every day, every experience of evil, demands a solution. That solution is provided by the memory of the great scheme which at last we remember. Our childhood pierces through again... But I will not attempt to explain it, for I have not the power; only I know that we who return suffer hard things; for there grows a gulf between us and many companions. We are perpetually thrust into minorities, and the world almost begins to talk a strange language; we are troubled by the human machinery of a perfect and superhuman revelation; we are over-anxious for its safety, alarmed, and in danger of violent decisions.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse