THE PATH TO ROME
By Hilaire Belloc
'... AMORE ANTIQUI RITUS, ALTO SUB NUMINE ROMAE'
PRAISE OF THIS BOOK
To every honest reader that may purchase, hire, or receive this book, and to the reviewers also (to whom it is of triple profit), greeting—and whatever else can be had for nothing.
If you should ask how this book came to be written, it was in this way. One day as I was wandering over the world I came upon the valley where I was born, and stopping there a moment to speak with them all—when I had argued politics with the grocer, and played the great lord with the notary-public, and had all but made the carpenter a Christian by force of rhetoric—what should I note (after so many years) but the old tumble-down and gaping church, that I love more than mother-church herself, all scraped, white, rebuilt, noble, and new, as though it had been finished yesterday. Knowing very well that such a change had not come from the skinflint populace, but was the work of some just artist who knew how grand an ornament was this shrine (built there before our people stormed Jerusalem), I entered, and there saw that all within was as new, accurate, and excellent as the outer part; and this pleased me as much as though a fortune had been left to us all; for one's native place is the shell of one's soul, and one's church is the kernel of that nut.
Moreover, saying my prayers there, I noticed behind the high altar a statue of Our Lady, so extraordinary and so different from all I had ever seen before, so much the spirit of my valley, that I was quite taken out of myself and vowed a vow there to go to Rome on Pilgrimage and see all Europe which the Christian Faith has saved; and I said, 'I will start from the place where I served in arms for my sins; I will walk all the way and take advantage of no wheeled thing; I will sleep rough and cover thirty miles a day, and I will hear Mass every morning; and I will be present at high Mass in St Peter's on the Feast of St Peter and St Paul.'
Then I went out of the church still having that Statue in my mind, and I walked again farther into the world, away from my native valley, and so ended some months after in a place whence I could fulfil my vow; and I started as you shall hear. All my other vows I broke one by one. For a faggot must be broken every stick singly. But the strict vow I kept, for I entered Rome on foot that year in time, and I heard high Mass on the Feast of the Apostles, as many can testify—to wit: Monsignor this, and Chamberlain the other, and the Bishop of so-and-so—o—polis in partibus infidelium; for we were all there together.
And why (you will say) is all this put by itself in what Anglo-Saxons call a Foreword, but gentlemen a Preface? Why, it is because I have noticed that no book can appear without some such thing tied on before it; and as it is folly to neglect the fashion, be certain that I read some eight or nine thousand of them to be sure of how they were written and to be safe from generalizing on too frail a basis.
And having read them and discovered first, that it was the custom of my contemporaries to belaud themselves in this prolegomenaical ritual (some saying in a few words that they supplied a want, others boasting in a hundred that they were too grand to do any such thing, but most of them baritoning their apologies and chanting their excuses till one knew that their pride was toppling over)—since, I say, it seemed a necessity to extol one's work, I wrote simply on the lintel of my diary, Praise of this Book, so as to end the matter at a blow. But whether there will be praise or blame I really cannot tell, for I am riding my pen on the snaffle, and it has a mouth of iron.
Now there is another thing book writers do in their Prefaces, which is to introduce a mass of nincompoops of whom no one ever heard, and to say 'my thanks are due to such and such' all in a litany, as though any one cared a farthing for the rats! If I omit this believe me it is but on account of the multitude and splendour of those who have attended at the production of this volume. For the stories in it are copied straight from the best authors of the Renaissance, the music was written by the masters of the eighteenth century, the Latin is Erasmus' own; indeed, there is scarcely a word that is mine. I must also mention the Nine Muses, the Three Graces; Bacchus, the Maenads, the Panthers, the Fauns; and I owe very hearty thanks to Apollo.
Yet again, I see that writers are for ever anxious of their style, thinking (not saying)—
'True, I used "and which" on page 47, but Martha Brown the stylist gave me leave;' or:
'What if I do end a sentence with a preposition? I always follow the rules of Mr Twist in his "'Tis Thus 'Twas Spoke", Odd's Body an' I do not!'
Now this is a pusillanimity of theirs (the book writers) that they think style power, and yet never say as much in their Prefaces. Come, let me do so... Where are you? Let me marshal you, my regiments of words!
Rabelais! Master of all happy men! Are you sleeping there pressed into desecrated earth under the doss-house of the Rue St Paul, or do you not rather drink cool wine in some elysian Chinon looking on the Vienne where it rises in Paradise? Are you sleeping or drinking that you will not lend us the staff of Friar John wherewith he slaughtered and bashed the invaders of the vineyards, who are but a parable for the mincing pedants and bloodless thin-faced rogues of the world?
Write as the wind blows and command all words like an army! See them how they stand in rank ready for assault, the jolly, swaggering fellows!
First come the Neologisms, that are afraid of no man; fresh, young, hearty, and for the most part very long-limbed, though some few short and strong. There also are the Misprints to confuse the enemy at his onrush. Then see upon the flank a company of picked Ambiguities covering what shall be a feint by the squadron of Anachronisms led by old Anachronos himself; a terrible chap with nigglers and a great murderer of fools.
But here see more deeply massed the ten thousand Egotisms shining in their armour and roaring for battle. They care for no one. They stormed Convention yesterday and looted the cellar of Good-Manners, who died of fear without a wound; so they drank his wine and are to-day as strong as lions and as careless (saving only their Captain, Monologue, who is lantern-jawed).
Here are the Aposiopaesian Auxiliaries, and Dithyramb that killed Punctuation in open fight; Parenthesis the giant and champion of the host, and Anacoluthon that never learned to read or write but is very handy with his sword; and Metathesis and Hendiadys, two Greeks. And last come the noble Gallicisms prancing about on their light horses: cavalry so sudden that the enemy sicken at the mere sight of them and are overcome without a blow. Come then my hearties, my lads, my indefatigable repetitions, seize you each his own trumpet that hangs at his side and blow the charge; we shall soon drive them all before us headlong, howling down together to the Picrocholian Sea.
So! That was an interlude. Forget the clamour.
But there is another matter; written as yet in no other Preface: peculiar to this book. For without rhyme or reason, pictures of an uncertain kind stand in the pages of the chronicle. Why?
Because it has become so cheap to photograph on zinc.
In old time a man that drew ill drew not at all. He did well. Then either there were no pictures in his book, or (if there were any) they were done by some other man that loved him not a groat and would not have walked half a mile to see him hanged. But now it is so easy for a man to scratch down what he sees and put it in his book that any fool may do it and be none the worse—many others shall follow. This is the first.
Before you blame too much, consider the alternative. Shall a man march through Europe dragging an artist on a cord? God forbid!
Shall an artist write a book? Why no, the remedy is worse than the disease.
Let us agree then, that, if he will, any pilgrim may for the future draw (if he likes) that most difficult subject, snow hills beyond a grove of trees; that he may draw whatever he comes across in order to enliven his mind (for who saw it if not he? And was it not his loneliness that enabled him to see it?), and that he may draw what he never saw, with as much freedom as you readers so very continually see what you never draw. He may draw the morning mist on the Grimsel, six months afterwards; when he has forgotten what it was like: and he may frame it for a masterpiece to make the good draughtsman rage.
The world has grown a boy again this long time past, and they are building hotels (I hear) in the place where Acedes discovered the Water of Youth in a hollow of the hill Epistemonoscoptes.
Then let us love one another and laugh. Time passes, and we shall soon laugh no longer—and meanwhile common living is a burden, and earnest men are at siege upon us all around. Let us suffer absurdities, for that is only to suffer one another.
Nor let us be too hard upon the just but anxious fellow that sat down dutifully to paint the soul of Switzerland upon a fan.
When that first Proverb-Maker who has imposed upon all peoples by his epigrams and his fallacious half-truths, his empiricism and his wanton appeals to popular ignorance, I say when this man (for I take it he was a man, and a wicked one) was passing through France he launched among the French one of his pestiferous phrases, 'Ce n'est que le premier pas qui coute' and this in a rolling-in-the-mouth self-satisfied kind of a manner has been repeated since his day at least seventeen million three hundred and sixty-two thousand five hundred and four times by a great mass of Ushers, Parents, Company Officers, Elder Brothers, Parish Priests, and authorities in general whose office it may be and whose pleasure it certainly is to jog up and disturb that native slumber and inertia of the mind which is the true breeding soil of Revelation.
For when boys or soldiers or poets, or any other blossoms and prides of nature, are for lying steady in the shade and letting the Mind commune with its Immortal Comrades, up comes Authority busking about and eager as though it were a duty to force the said Mind to burrow and sweat in the matter of this very perishable world, its temporary habitation.
'Up,' says Authority, 'and let me see that Mind of yours doing something practical. Let me see Him mixing painfully with circumstance, and botching up some Imperfection or other that shall at least be a Reality and not a silly Fantasy.'
Then the poor Mind comes back to Prison again, and the boy takes his horrible Homer in the real Greek (not Church's book, alas!); the Poet his rough hairy paper, his headache, and his cross-nibbed pen; the Soldier abandons his inner picture of swaggering about in ordinary clothes, and sees the dusty road and feels the hard places in his boot, and shakes down again to the steady pressure of his pack; and Authority is satisfied, knowing that he will get a smattering from the Boy, a rubbishy verse from the Poet, and from the Soldier a long and thirsty march. And Authority, when it does this commonly sets to work by one of these formulae: as, in England north of Trent, by the manifestly false and boastful phrase, 'A thing begun is half ended', and in the south by 'The Beginning is half the Battle'; but in France by the words I have attributed to the Proverb-Maker, 'Ce n'est que le premier pas qui coute'.
By this you may perceive that the Proverb-Maker, like every other Demagogue, Energumen, and Disturber, dealt largely in metaphor—but this I need hardly insist upon, for in his vast collection of published and unpublished works it is amply evident that he took the silly pride of the half-educated in a constant abuse of metaphor. There was a sturdy boy at my school who, when the master had carefully explained to us the nature of metaphor, said that so far as he could see a metaphor was nothing but a long Greek word for a lie. And certainly men who know that the mere truth would be distasteful or tedious commonly have recourse to metaphor, and so do those false men who desire to acquire a subtle and unjust influence over their fellows, and chief among them, the Proverb-Maker. For though his name is lost in the great space of time that has passed since he flourished, yet his character can be very clearly deduced from the many literary fragments he has left, and that is found to be the character of a pusillanimous and ill-bred usurer, wholly lacking in foresight, in generous enterprise, and chivalrous enthusiasm—in matters of the Faith a prig or a doubter, in matters of adventure a poltroon, in matters of Science an ignorant Parrot, and in Letters a wretchedly bad rhymester, with a vice for alliteration; a wilful liar (as, for instance, 'The longest way round is the shortest way home'), a startling miser (as, 'A penny saved is a penny earned'), one ignorant of largesse and human charity (as, 'Waste not, want not'), and a shocking boor in the point of honour (as, 'Hard words break no bones'—he never fought, I see, but with a cudgel).
But he had just that touch of slinking humour which the peasants have, and there is in all he said that exasperating quality for which we have no name, which certainly is not accuracy, and which is quite the opposite of judgement, yet which catches the mind as brambles do our clothes, causing us continually to pause and swear. For he mixes up unanswerable things with false conclusions, he is perpetually letting the cat out of the bag and exposing our tricks, putting a colour to our actions, disturbing us with our own memory, indecently revealing corners of the soul. He is like those men who say one unpleasant and rude thing about a friend, and then take refuge from their disloyal and false action by pleading that this single accusation is true; and it is perhaps for this abominable logicality of his and for his malicious cunning that I chiefly hate him: and since he himself evidently hated the human race, he must not complain if he is hated in return.
Take, for instance, this phrase that set me writing, 'Ce nest que le premier pas qui coute'. It is false. Much after a beginning is difficult, as everybody knows who has crossed the sea, and as for the first step a man never so much as remembers it; if there is difficulty it is in the whole launching of a thing, in the first ten pages of a book, or the first half-hour of listening to a sermon, or the first mile of a walk. The first step is undertaken lightly, pleasantly, and with your soul in the sky; it is the five-hundredth that counts. But I know, and you know, and he knew (worse luck) that he was saying a thorny and catching thing when he made up that phrase. It worries one of set purpose. It is as though one had a voice inside one saying:
'I know you, you will never begin anything. Look at what you might have done! Here you are, already twenty-one, and you have not yet written a dictionary. What will you do for fame? Eh? Nothing: you are intolerably lazy—and what is worse, it is your fate. Beginnings are insuperable barriers to you. What about that great work on The National Debt? What about that little lyric on Winchelsea that you thought of writing six years ago? Why are the few lines still in your head and not on paper? Because you can't begin. However, never mind, you can't help it, it's your one great flaw, and it's fatal. Look at Jones! Younger than you by half a year, and already on the Evening Yankee taking bribes from Company Promoters! And where are you?' &c., &c.—and so forth.
So this threat about the heavy task of Beginning breeds discouragement, anger, vexation, irritability, bad style, pomposity and infinitives split from helm to saddle, and metaphors as mixed as the Carlton. But it is just true enough to remain fast in the mind, caught, as it were, by one finger. For all things (you will notice) are very difficult in their origin, and why, no one can understand. Omne Trinum: they are difficult also in the shock of maturity and in their ending. Take, for instance, the Life of Man, which is the Difficulty of Birth, the Difficulty of Death, and the Difficulty of the Grand Climacteric.
LECTOR. What is the Grand Climacteric?
AUCTOR. I have no time to tell you, for it would lead us into a discussion on Astrology, and then perhaps to a question of physical science, and then you would find I was not orthodox, and perhaps denounce me to the authorities.
I will tell you this much; it is the moment (not the year or the month, mind you, nor even the hour, but the very second) when a man is grown up, when he sees things as they are (that is, backwards), and feels solidly himself. Do I make myself clear? No matter, it is the Shock of Maturity, and that must suffice for you.
But perhaps you have been reading little brown books on Evolution, and you don't believe in Catastrophes, or Climaxes, or Definitions? Eh? Tell me, do you believe in the peak of the Matterhorn, and have you doubts on the points of needles? Can the sun be said truly to rise or set, and is there any exact meaning in the phrase, 'Done to a turn' as applied to omelettes? You know there is; and so also you must believe in Categories, and you must admit differences of kind as well as of degree, and you must accept exact definition and believe in all that your fathers did, that were wiser men than you, as is easily proved if you will but imagine yourself for but one moment introduced into the presence of your ancestors, and ask yourself which would look the fool. Especially must you believe in moments and their importance, and avoid with the utmost care the Comparative Method and the argument of the Slowly Accumulating Heap. I hear that some scientists are already beginning to admit the reality of Birth and Death—let but some brave few make an act of Faith in the Grand Climacteric and all shall yet be well.
Well, as I was saying, this Difficulty of Beginning is but one of three, and is Inexplicable, and is in the Nature of Things, and it is very especially noticeable in the Art of Letters. There is in every book the Difficulty of Beginning, the Difficulty of the Turning-Point (which is the Grand Climacteric of a Book)—
LECTOR. What is that in a Book?
AUCTOR. Why, it is the point where the reader has caught on, enters into the Book and desires to continue reading it.
LECTOR. It comes earlier in some books than in others.
AUCTOR. As you say... And finally there is the Difficulty of Ending.
LECTOR. I do not see how there can be any difficulty in ending a book.
AUCTOR. That shows very clearly that you have never written one, for there is nothing so hard in the writing of a book—no, not even the choice of the Dedication—as is the ending of it. On this account only the great Poets, who are above custom and can snap their divine fingers at forms, are not at the pains of devising careful endings. Thus, Homer ends with lines that might as well be in the middle of a passage; Hesiod, I know not how; and Mr Bailey, the New Voice from Eurasia, does not end at all, but is still going on.
Panurge told me that his great work on Conchology would never have been finished had it not been for the Bookseller that threatened law; and as it is, the last sentence has no verb in it. There is always something more to be said, and it is always so difficult to turn up the splice neatly at the edges. On this account there are regular models for ending a book or a Poem, as there are for beginning one; but, for my part, I think the best way of ending a book is to rummage about among one's manuscripts till one has found a bit of Fine Writing (no matter upon what subject), to lead up the last paragraphs by no matter what violent shocks to the thing it deals with, to introduce a row of asterisks, and then to paste on to the paper below these the piece of Fine Writing one has found.
I knew a man once who always wrote the end of a book first, when his mind was fresh, and so worked gradually back to the introductory chapter, which (he said) was ever a kind of summary, and could not be properly dealt with till a man knew all about his subject. He said this was a sovran way to write History.
But it seems to me that this is pure extravagance, for it would lead one at last to beginning at the bottom of the last page, like the Hebrew Bible, and (if it were fully carried out) to writing one's sentences backwards till one had a style like the London School of Poets: a very horrible conclusion.
However, I am not concerned here with the ending of a book, but with its beginning; and I say that the beginning of any literary thing is hard, and that this hardness is difficult to explain. And I say more than this—I say that an interminable discussion of the difficulty of beginning a book is the worst omen for going on with it, and a trashy subterfuge at the best. In the name of all decent, common, and homely things, why not begin and have done with it?
It was in the very beginning of June, at evening, but not yet sunset, that I set out from Toul by the Nancy gate; but instead of going straight on past the parade-ground, I turned to the right immediately along the ditch and rampart, and did not leave the fortifications till I came to the road that goes up alongside the Moselle. For it was by the valley of this river that I was to begin my pilgrimage, since, by a happy accident, the valley of the Upper Moselle runs straight towards Rome, though it takes you but a short part of the way. What a good opening it makes for a direct pilgrimage can be seen from this little map, where the dotted line points exactly to Rome. There are two bends which take one a little out of one's way, and these bends I attempted to avoid, but in general, the valley, about a hundred miles from Toul to the source, is an evident gate for any one walking from this part of Lorraine into Italy. And this map is also useful to show what route I followed for my first three days past Epinal and Remiremont up to the source of the river, and up over the great hill, the Ballon d'Alsace. I show the river valley like a trench, and the hills above it shaded, till the mountainous upper part, the Vosges, is put in black. I chose the decline of the day for setting out, because of the great heat a little before noon and four hours after it. Remembering this, I planned to walk at night and in the mornings and evenings, but how this design turned out you shall hear in a moment.
I had not gone far, not a quarter of a mile, along my road leaving the town, when I thought I would stop and rest a little and make sure that I had started propitiously and that I was really on my way to Rome; so I halted by a wall and looked back at the city and the forts, and drew what I saw in my book. It was a sight that had taken a firm hold of my mind in boyhood, and that will remain in it as long as it can make pictures for itself out of the past. I think this must be true of all conscripts with regard to the garrison in which they have served, for the mind is so fresh at twenty-one and the life so new to every recruit as he joins it, he is so cut off from books and all the worries of life, that the surroundings of the place bite into him and take root, as one's school does or one's first home. And I had been especially fortunate since I had been with the gunners (notoriously the best kind of men) and not in a big place but in a little town, very old and silent, with more soldiers in its surrounding circle than there were men, women, and children within its useless ramparts. It is known to be very beautiful, and though I had not heard of this reputation, I saw it to be so at once when I was first marched in, on a November dawn, up to the height of the artillery barracks. I remembered seeing then the great hills surrounding it on every side, hiding their menace and protection of guns, and in the south and east the silent valley where the high forests dominate the Moselle, and the town below the road standing in an island or ring of tall trees. All this, I say, I had permanently remembered, and I had determined, whenever I could go on pilgrimage to Rome, to make this place my starting-point, and as I stopped here and looked back, a little way outside the gates, I took in again the scene that recalled so much laughter and heavy work and servitude and pride of arms.
I was looking straight at the great fort of St Michel, which is the strongest thing on the frontier, and which is the key to the circle of forts that make up this entrenched camp. One could see little or nothing of its batteries, only its hundreds of feet of steep brushwood above the vineyards, and at the summit a stunted wood purposely planted. Next to it on the left, of equal height, was the hog back of the Cote Barine, hiding a battery. Between the Cote Barine and my road and wall, I saw the rising ground and the familiar Barracks that are called (I know not why) the Barracks of Justice, but ought more properly to be called the Barracks of petty tyrannies and good fellowship, in order to show the philosophers that these two things are the life of armies; for of all the virtues practised in that old compulsory home of mine Justice came second at least if not third, while Discipline and Comradeship went first; and the more I think of it the more I am convinced that of all the suffering youth that was being there annealed and forged into soldiery none can have suffered like the lawyers. On the right the high trees that stand outside the ramparts of the town went dwindling in perspective like a palisade, and above them, here and there, was a roof showing the top of the towers of the Cathedral or of St Gengoult. All this I saw looking backwards, and, when I had noticed it and drawn it, I turned round again and took the road.
I had, in a small bag or pocket slung over my shoulder, a large piece of bread, half a pound of smoked ham, a sketch-book, two Nationalist papers, and a quart of the wine of Brule—which is the most famous wine in the neighbourhood of the garrison, yet very cheap. And Brule is a very good omen for men that are battered about and given to despairing, since it is only called Brule on account of its having been burnt so often by Romans, Frenchmen, Burgundians, Germans, Flemings, Huns perhaps, and generally all those who in the last few thousand years have taken a short cut at their enemies over the neck of the Cote Barine. So you would imagine it to be a tumble-down, weak, wretched, and disappearing place; but, so far from this, it is a rich and proud village, growing, as I have said, better wine than any in the garrison. Though Toul stands in a great cup or ring of hills, very high and with steep slopes, and guns on all of them, and all these hills grow wine, none is so good as Brule wine. And this reminds me of a thing that happened in the Manoeuvres of 1891, quorum pars magna; for there were two divisions employed in that glorious and fatiguing great game, and more than a gross of guns—to be accurate, a hundred and fifty-six—and of these one (the sixth piece of the tenth battery of the eighth—I wonder where you all are now? I suppose I shall not see you again; but you were the best companions in the world, my friends) was driven by three drivers, of whom I was the middle one, and the worst, having on my Livret the note 'conducteur mediocre'. But that is neither here nor there; the story is as follows, and the moral is that the commercial mind is illogical.
When we had gone some way, clattering through the dust, and were well on on the Commercy road, there was a short halt, and during this halt there passed us the largest Tun or Barrel that ever went on wheels. You talk of the Great Tun of Heidelburg, or of those monstrous Vats that stand in cool sheds in the Napa Valley, or of the vast barrels in the Catacombs of Rheims; but all these are built in situ and meant to remain steady, and there is no limit to the size of a Barrel that has not to travel. The point about this enormous Receptacle of Bacchus and cavernous huge Prison of Laughter, was that it could move, though cumbrously, and it was drawn very slowly by stupid, patient oxen, who would not be hurried. On the top of it sat a strong peasant, with a face of determination, as though he were at war with his kind, and he kept on calling to his oxen, 'Han', and 'Hu', in the tones of a sullen challenge, as he went creaking past. Then the soldiers began calling out to him singly, 'Where are you off to, Father, with that battery?' and 'Why carry cold water to Commercy? They have only too much as it is;' and 'What have you got in the little barrelkin, the barrellet, the cantiniere's brandy-flask, the gourd, the firkin?' He stopped his oxen fiercely and turned round to us and said: 'I will tell you what I have here. I have so many hectolitres of Brule wine which I made myself, and which I know to be the best wine there is, and I am taking it about to see if I cannot tame and break these proud fellows who are for ever beating down prices and mocking me. It is worth eight 'scutcheons the hectolitre, that is, eight sols the litre; what do I say? it is worth a Louis a cup: but I will sell it at the price I name, and not a penny less. But whenever I come to a village the innkeeper begins bargaining and chaffering and offering six sols and seven sols, and I answer, "Eight sols, take it or leave it", and when he seems for haggling again I get up and drive away. I know the worth of my wine, and I will not be beaten down though I have to go out of Lorraine into the Barrois to sell it.'
So when we caught him up again, as we did shortly after on the road, a sergeant cried as we passed, 'I will give you seven, seven and a quarter, seven and a half', and we went on laughing and forgot all about him.
For many days we marched from this place to that place, and fired and played a confused game in the hot sun till the train of sick horses was a mile long, and till the recruits were all as deaf as so many posts; and at last, one evening, we came to a place called Heiltz le Maurupt, which was like heaven after the hot plain and the dust, and whose inhabitants are as good and hospitable as Angels; it is just where the Champagne begins. When we had groomed and watered our horses, and the stable guard had been set, and we had all an hour or so's leisure to stroll about in the cool darkness before sleeping in the barns, we had a sudden lesson in the smallness of the world, for what should come up the village street but that monstrous Barrel, and we could see by its movements that it was still quite full.
We gathered round the peasant, and told him how grieved we were at his ill fortune, and agreed with him that all the people of the Barrois were thieves or madmen not to buy such wine for such a song. He took his oxen and his barrel to a very high shed that stood by, and there he told us all his pilgrimage and the many assaults his firmness suffered, and how he had resisted them all. There was much more anger than sorrow in his accent, and I could see that he was of the wood from which tyrants and martyrs are carved. Then suddenly he changed and became eloquent:
'Oh, the good wine! If only it were known and tasted!... Here, give me a cup, and I will ask some of you to taste it, then at least I shall have it praised as it deserves. And this is the wine I have carried more than a hundred miles, and everywhere it has been refused!'
There was one guttering candle on a little stool. The roof of the shed was lost up in the great height of darkness; behind, in the darkness, the oxen champed away steadily in the manger. The light from the candle flame lit his face strongly from beneath and marked it with dark shadows. It flickered on the circle of our faces as we pressed round, and it came slantwise and waned and disappeared in the immense length of the Barrel. He stood near the tap with his brows knit as upon some very important task, and all we, gunners and drivers of the battery, began unhooking our mugs and passing them to him.
There were nearly a hundred, and he filled them all; not in jollity, but like a man offering up a solemn sacrifice. We also, entering into his mood, passed our mugs continually, thanking him in a low tone and keeping in the main silent. A few linesmen lounged at the door; he asked for their cups and filled them. He bade them fetch as many of their comrades as cared to come; and very soon there was a circulating crowd of men all getting wine of Brule and murmuring their congratulations, and he was willing enough to go on giving, but we stopped when we saw fit and the scene ended. I cannot tell what prodigious measure of wine he gave away to us all that night, but when he struck the roof of the cask it already sounded hollow. And when we had made a collection which he had refused, he went to sleep by his oxen, and we to our straw in other barns. Next day we started before dawn, and I never saw him again.
This is the story of the wine of Brule, and it shows that what men love is never money itself but their own way, and that human beings love sympathy and pageant above all things. It also teaches us not to be hard on the rich.
I walked along the valley of the Moselle, and as I walked the long evening of summer began to fall. The sky was empty and its deeps infinite; the clearness of the air set me dreaming. I passed the turn where we used to halt when we were learning how to ride in front of the guns, past the little house where, on rare holidays, the boys could eat a matelote, which is fish boiled in wine, and so on to the place where the river is held by a weir and opens out into a kind of lake.
Here I waited for a moment by the wooden railing, and looked up into the hills. So far I had been at home, and I was now poring upon the last familiar thing before I ventured into the high woods and began my experience. I therefore took a leisurely farewell, and pondered instead of walking farther. Everything about me conduced to reminiscence and to ease. A flock of sheep passed me with their shepherd, who gave me a good-night. I found myself entering that pleasant mood in which all books are conceived (but none written); I was 'smoking the enchanted cigarettes' of Balzac, and if this kind of reverie is fatal to action, yet it is so much a factor of happiness that I wasted in the contemplation of that lovely and silent hollow many miles of marching. I suppose if a man were altogether his own master and controlled by no necessity, not even the necessity of expression, all his life would pass away in these sublime imaginings.
This was a place I remembered very well. The rising river of Lorraine is caught and barred, and it spreads in a great sheet of water that must be very shallow, but that in its reflections and serenity resembles rather a profound and silent mere. The steeps surrounding it are nearly mountainous, and are crowned with deep forests in which the province reposes, and upon which it depends for its local genius. A little village, which we used to call 'St Peter of the Quarries', lies up on the right between the steep and the water, and just where the hills end a flat that was once marshy and is now half fields, half ponds, but broken with luxuriant trees, marks the great age of its civilization. Along this flat runs, bordered with rare poplars, the road which one can follow on and on into the heart of the Vosges. I took from this silence and this vast plain of still water the repose that introduces night. It was all consonant with what the peasants were about: the return from labour, the bleating folds, and the lighting of lamps under the eaves. In such a spirit I passed along the upper valley to the spring of the hills.
In St Pierre it was just that passing of daylight when a man thinks he can still read; when the buildings and the bridges are great masses of purple that deceive one, recalling the details of daylight, but when the night birds, surer than men and less troubled by this illusion of memory, have discovered that their darkness has conquered.
The peasants sat outside their houses in the twilight accepting the cool air; every one spoke to me as I marched through, and I answered them all, nor was there in any of their salutations the omission of good fellowship or of the name of God. Saving with one man, who was a sergeant of artillery on leave, and who cried out to me in an accent that was very familiar and asked me to drink; but I told him I had to go up into the forest to take advantage of the night, since the days were so warm for walking. As I left the last house of the village I was not secure from loneliness, and when the road began to climb up the hill into the wild and the trees I was wondering how the night would pass.
With every step upward a greater mystery surrounded me. A few stars were out, and the brown night mist was creeping along the water below, but there was still light enough to see the road, and even to distinguish the bracken in the deserted hollows. The highway became little better than a lane; at the top of the hill it plunged under tall pines, and was vaulted over with darkness. The kingdoms that have no walls, and are built up of shadows, began to oppress me as the night hardened. Had I had companions, still we would only have spoken in a whisper, and in that dungeon of trees even my own self would not raise its voice within me.
It was full night when I had reached a vague clearing in the woods, right up on the height of that flat hill. This clearing was called 'The Fountain of Magdalen'. I was so far relieved by the broader sky of the open field that I could wait and rest a little, and there, at last, separate from men, I thought of a thousand things. The air was full of midsummer, and its mixture of exaltation and fear cut me off from ordinary living. I now understood why our religion has made sacred this season of the year; why we have, a little later, the night of St John, the fires in the villages, and the old perception of fairies dancing in the rings of the summer grass. A general communion of all things conspires at this crisis of summer against us reasoning men that should live in the daylight, and something fantastic possesses those who are foolish enough to watch upon such nights. So I, watching, was cut off. There were huge, vague summits, all wooded, peering above the field I sat in, but they merged into a confused horizon. I was on a high plateau, yet I felt myself to be alone with the immensity that properly belongs to plains alone. I saw the stars, and remembered how I had looked up at them on just such a night when I was close to the Pacific, bereft of friends and possessed with solitude. There was no noise; it was full darkness. The woods before and behind me made a square frame of silence, and I was enchased here in the clearing, thinking of all things.
Then a little wind passed over the vast forests of Lorraine. It seemed to wake an indefinite sly life proper to this seclusion, a life to which I was strange, and which thought me an invader. Yet I heard nothing. There were no adders in the long grass, nor any frogs in that dry square of land, nor crickets on the high part of the hill; but I knew that little creatures in league with every nocturnal influence, enemies of the sun, occupied the air and the land about me; nor will I deny that I felt a rebel, knowing well that men were made to work in happy dawns and to sleep in the night, and everything in that short and sacred darkness multiplied my attentiveness and my illusion. Perhaps the instincts of the sentry, the necessities of guard, come back to us out of the ages unawares during such experiments. At any rate the night oppressed and exalted me. Then I suddenly attributed such exaltation to the need of food.
'If we must try this bookish plan of sleeping by day and walking by night,' I thought, 'at least one must arrange night meals to suit it.'
I therefore, with my mind still full of the forest, sat down and lit a match and peered into my sack, taking out therefrom bread and ham and chocolate and Brule wine. For seat and table there was a heathery bank still full of the warmth and savour of the last daylight, for companions these great inimical influences of the night which I had met and dreaded, and for occasion or excuse there was hunger. Of the Many that debate what shall be done with travellers, it was the best and kindest Spirit that prompted me to this salutary act. For as I drank the wine and dealt with the ham and bread, I felt more and more that I had a right to the road; the stars became familiar and the woods a plaything. It is quite clear that the body must be recognized and the soul kept in its place, since a little refreshing food and drink can do so much to make a man.
On this repast I jumped up merrily, lit a pipe, and began singing, and heard, to my inexpressible joy, some way down the road, the sound of other voices. They were singing that old song of the French infantry which dates from Louis XIV, and is called 'Aupres de ma blonde'. I answered their chorus, so that, by the time we met under the wood, we were already acquainted. They told me they had had a forty-eight hours' leave into Nancy, the four of them, and had to be in by roll-call at a place called Villey the Dry. I remembered it after all those years.
It is a village perched on the brow of one of these high hills above the river, and it found itself one day surrounded by earthworks, and a great fort raised just above the church. Then, before they knew where they were, they learnt that (1) no one could go in or out between sunset and sunrise without leave of the officer in command; (2) that from being a village they had become the 'buildings situate within Fort No. 18'; (3) that they were to be deluged with soldiers; and (4) that they were liable to evacuate their tenements on mobilization. They had become a fort unwittingly as they slept, and all their streets were blocked with ramparts. A hard fate; but they should not have built their village just on the brow of a round hill. They did this in the old days, when men used stone instead of iron, because the top of a hill was a good place to hold against enemies; and so now, these 73,426 years after, they find the same advantage catching them again to their hurt. And so things go the round.
Anyway Villey the Dry is a fort, and there my four brothers were going. It was miles off, and they had to be in by sunrise, so I offered them a pull of my wine, which, to my great joy, they refused, and we parted courteously. Then I found the road beginning to fall, and knew that I had crossed the hills. As the forest ended and the sloping fields began, a dim moon came up late in the east in the bank of fog that masked the river. So by a sloping road, now free from the woods, and at the mouth of a fine untenanted valley under the moon, I came down again to the Moselle, having saved a great elbow by this excursion over the high land. As I swung round the bend of the hills downwards and looked up the sloping dell, I remembered that these heathery hollows were called 'vallons' by the people of Lorraine, and this set me singing the song of the hunters, 'Entends tu dans nos vallons, le Chasseur sonner du clairon,' which I sang loudly till I reached the river bank, and lost the exhilaration of the hills.
I had now come some twelve miles from my starting-place, and it was midnight. The plain, the level road (which often rose a little), and the dank air of the river began to oppress me with fatigue. I was not disturbed by this, for I had intended to break these nights of marching by occasional repose, and while I was in the comfort of cities—especially in the false hopes that one got by reading books—I had imagined that it was a light matter to sleep in the open. Indeed, I had often so slept when I had been compelled to it in Manoeuvres, but I had forgotten how essential was a rug of some kind, and what a difference a fire and comradeship could make. Thinking over it all, feeling my tiredness, and shivering a little in the chill under the moon and the clear sky, I was very ready to capitulate and to sleep in bed like a Christian at the next opportunity. But there is some influence in vows or plans that escapes our power of rejudgement. All false calculations must be paid for, and I found, as you will see, that having said I would sleep in the open, I had to keep to it in spite of all my second thoughts.
I passed one village and then another in which everything was dark, and in which I could waken nothing but dogs, who thought me an enemy, till at last I saw a great belt of light in the fog above the Moselle. Here there was a kind of town or large settlement where there were ironworks, and where, as I thought, there would be houses open, even after midnight. I first found the old town, where just two men were awake at some cooking work or other. I found them by a chink of light streaming through their door; but they gave me no hope, only advising me to go across the river and try in the new town where the forges and the ironworks were. 'There,' they said, 'I should certainly find a bed.'
I crossed the bridge, being now much too weary to notice anything, even the shadowy hills, and the first thing I found was a lot of waggons that belonged to a caravan or fair. Here some men were awake, but when I suggested that they should let me sleep in their little houses on wheels, they told me it was never done; that it was all they could do to pack in themselves; that they had no straw; that they were guarded by dogs; and generally gave me to understand (though without violence or unpoliteness) that I looked as though I were the man to steal their lions and tigers. They told me, however, that without doubt I should find something open in the centre of the workmen's quarter, where the great electric lamps now made a glare over the factory.
I trudged on unwillingly, and at the very last house of this detestable industrial slavery, a high house with a gable, I saw a window wide open, and a blonde man smoking a cigarette at a balcony. I called to him at once, and asked him to let me a bed. He put to me all the questions he could think of. Why was I there? Where had I come from? Where (if I was honest) had I intended to sleep? How came I at such an hour on foot? and other examinations. I thought a little what excuse to give him, and then, determining that I was too tired to make up anything plausible, I told him the full truth; that I had meant to sleep rough, but had been overcome by fatigue, and that I had walked from Toul, starting at evening. I conjured him by our common Faith to let me in. He told me that it was impossible, as he had but one room in which he and his family slept, and assured me he had asked all these questions out of sympathy and charity alone. Then he wished me good-night, honestly and kindly, and went in.
By this time I was very much put out, and began to be angry. These straggling French towns give no opportunity for a shelter. I saw that I should have to get out beyond the market gardens, and that it might be a mile or two before I found any rest. A clock struck one. I looked up and saw it was from the belfry of one of those new chapels which the monks are building everywhere, nor did I forget to curse the monks in my heart for building them. I cursed also those who started smelting works in the Moselle valley; those who gave false advice to travellers; those who kept lions and tigers in caravans, and for a small sum I would have cursed the whole human race, when I saw that my bile had hurried me out of the street well into the countryside, and that above me, on a bank, was a patch of orchard and a lane leading up to it. Into this I turned, and, finding a good deal of dry hay lying under the trees, I soon made myself an excellent bed, first building a little mattress, and then piling on hay as warm as a blanket.
I did not lie awake (as when I planned my pilgrimage I had promised myself I would do), looking at the sky through the branches of trees, but I slept at once without dreaming, and woke up to find it was broad daylight, and the sun ready to rise. Then, stiff and but little rested by two hours of exhaustion, I took up my staff and my sack and regained the road.
I should very much like to know what those who have an answer to everything can say about the food requisite to breakfast? Those great men Marlowe and Jonson, Shakespeare, and Spenser before him, drank beer at rising, and tamed it with a little bread. In the regiment we used to drink black coffee without sugar, and cut off a great hunk of stale crust, and eat nothing more till the halt: for the matter of that, the great victories of '93 were fought upon such unsubstantial meals; for the Republicans fought first and ate afterwards, being in this quite unlike the Ten Thousand. Sailors I know eat nothing for some hours—I mean those who turn out at four in the morning; I could give the name of the watch, but that I forget it and will not be plagued to look up technicalities. Dogs eat the first thing they come across, cats take a little milk, and gentlemen are accustomed to get up at nine and eat eggs, bacon, kidneys, ham, cold pheasant, toast, coffee, tea, scones, and honey, after which they will boast that their race is the hardiest in the world and ready to bear every fatigue in the pursuit of Empire. But what rule governs all this? Why is breakfast different from all other things, so that the Greeks called it the best thing in the world, and so that each of us in a vague way knows that he would eat at breakfast nothing but one special kind of food, and that he could not imagine breakfast at any other hour in the day?
The provocation to this inquiry (which I have here no time to pursue) lies in the extraordinary distaste that I conceived that morning for Brule wine. My ham and bread and chocolate I had consumed overnight. I thought, in my folly, that I could break my fast on a swig of what had seemed to me, only the night before, the best revivifier and sustenance possible. In the harsh dawn it turned out to be nothing but a bitter and intolerable vinegar. I make no attempt to explain this, nor to say why the very same wine that had seemed so good in the forest (and was to seem so good again later on by the canal) should now repel me. I can only tell you that this heavy disappointment convinced me of a great truth that a Politician once let slip in my hearing, and that I have never since forgotten. 'Man,' said the Director of the State, 'man is but the creature of circumstance.'
As it was, I lit a pipe of tobacco and hobbled blindly along for miles under and towards the brightening east. Just before the sun rose I turned and looked backward from a high bridge that recrossed the river. The long effort of the night had taken me well on my way. I was out of the familiar region of the garrison. The great forest-hills that I had traversed stood up opposite the dawn, catching the new light; heavy, drifting, but white clouds, rare at such an hour, sailed above them. The valley of the Moselle, which I had never thought of save as a half mountainous region, had fallen, to become a kind of long garden, whose walls were regular, low, and cultivated slopes. The main waterway of the valley was now not the river but the canal that fed from it.
The tall grasses, the leaves, and poplars bordering the river and the canal seemed dark close to me, but the valley as a whole was vague, a mass of trees with one Lorraine church-tower showing, and the delicate slopes bounding it on either side.
Descending from this bridge I found a sign-post, that told me I had walked thirty-two kilometres—which is twenty miles—from Toul; that it was one kilometre to Flavigny, and heaven knows how much to a place called Charmes. The sun rose in the mist that lay up the long even trends of the vale, between the low and level hills, and I pushed on my thousand yards towards Flavigny. There, by a special providence, I found the entertainment and companionship whose lack had left me wrecked all these early hours.
As I came into Flavigny I saw at once that it was a place on which a book might easily be written, for it had a church built in the seventeenth century, when few churches were built outside great towns, a convent, and a general air of importance that made of it that grand and noble thing, that primary cell of the organism of Europe, that best of all Christian associations - a large village.
I say a book might be written upon it, and there is no doubt that a great many articles and pamphlets must have been written upon it, for the French are furiously given to local research and reviews, and to glorifying their native places: and when they cannot discover folklore they enrich their beloved homes by inventing it.
There was even a man (I forget his name) who wrote a delightful book called Popular and Traditional Songs of my Province, which book, after he was dead, was discovered to be entirely his own invention, and not a word of it familiar to the inhabitants of the soil. He was a large, laughing man that smoked enormously, had great masses of hair, and worked by night; also he delighted in the society of friends, and talked continuously. I wish he had a statue somewhere, and that they would pull down to make room for it any one of those useless bronzes that are to be found even in the little villages, and that commemorate solemn, whiskered men, pillars of the state. For surely this is the habit of the true poet, and marks the vigour and recurrent origin of poetry, that a man should get his head full of rhythms and catches, and that they should jumble up somehow into short songs of his own. What could more suggest (for instance) a whole troop of dancing words and lovely thoughts than this refrain from the Tourdenoise—
... Son beau corps est en terre Son ame en Paradis. Tu ris? Et ris, tu ris, ma Bergere, Ris, ma Bergere, tu ris.
That was the way they set to work in England before the Puritans came, when men were not afraid to steal verses from one another, and when no one imagined that he could live by letters, but when every poet took a patron, or begged or robbed the churches. So much for the poets.
Flavigny then, I say (for I seem to be digressing), is a long street of houses all built together as animals build their communities. They are all very old, but the people have worked hard since the Revolution, and none of them are poor, nor are any of them very rich. I saw but one gentleman's house, and that, I am glad to say, was in disrepair. Most of the peasants' houses had, for a ground floor, cavernous great barns out of which came a delightful smell of morning — that is, of hay, litter, oxen, and stored grains and old wood; which is the true breath of morning, because it is the scent that all the human race worth calling human first meets when it rises, and is the association of sunrise in the minds of those who keep the world alive: but not in the wretched minds of townsmen, and least of all in the minds of journalists, who know nothing of morning save that it is a time of jaded emptiness when you have just done prophesying (for the hundredth time) the approaching end of the world, when the floors are beginning to tremble with machinery, and when, in a weary kind of way, one feels hungry and alone: a nasty life and usually a short one.
To return to Flavigny. This way of stretching a village all along one street is Roman, and is the mark of civilization. When I was at college I was compelled to read a work by the crabbed Tacitus on the Germans, where, in the midst of a deal that is vague and fantastic nonsense and much that is wilful lying, comes this excellent truth, that barbarians build their houses separate, but civilized men together. So whenever you see a lot of red roofs nestling, as the phrase goes, in the woods of a hillside in south England, remember that all that is savagery; but when you see a hundred white-washed houses in a row along a dead straight road, lift up your hearts, for you are in civilization again.
But I continue to wander from Flavigny. The first thing I saw as I came into the street and noted how the level sun stood in a haze beyond, and how it shadowed and brought out the slight irregularities of the road, was a cart drawn by a galloping donkey, which came at and passed me with a prodigious clatter as I dragged myself forward. In the cart were two nuns, each with a scythe; they were going out mowing, and were up the first in the village, as Religious always are. Cheered by this happy omen, but not yet heartened, I next met a very old man leading out a horse, and asked him if there was anywhere where I could find coffee and bread at that hour; but he shook his head mournfully and wished me good-morning in a strong accent, for he was deaf and probably thought I was begging. So I went on still more despondent till I came to a really merry man of about middle age who was going to the fields, singing, with a very large rake over his shoulder. When I had asked him the same question he stared at me a little and said of course coffee and bread could be had at the baker's, and when I asked him how I should know the baker's he was still more surprised at my ignorance, and said, 'By the smoke coming from the large chimney.' This I saw rising a short way off on my right, so I thanked him and went and found there a youth of about nineteen, who sat at a fine oak table and had coffee, rum, and a loaf before him. He was waiting for the bread in the oven to be ready; and meanwhile he was very courteous, poured out coffee and rum for me and offered me bread.
It is a matter often discussed why bakers are such excellent citizens and good men. For while it is admitted in every country I was ever in that cobblers are argumentative and atheists (I except the cobbler under Plinlimmon, concerning whom would to heaven I had the space to tell you all here, for he knows the legends of the mountain), while it is public that barbers are garrulous and servile, that millers are cheats (we say in Sussex that every honest miller has a large tuft of hair on the palm of his hand), yet—with every trade in the world having some bad quality attached to it—bakers alone are exempt, and every one takes it for granted that they are sterling: indeed, there are some societies in which, no matter how gloomy and churlish the conversation may have become, you have but to mention bakers for voices to brighten suddenly and for a good influence to pervade every one. I say this is known for a fact, but not usually explained; the explanation is, that bakers are always up early in the morning and can watch the dawn, and that in this occupation they live in lonely contemplation enjoying the early hours.
So it was with this baker of mine in Flavigny, who was a boy. When he heard that I had served at Toul he was delighted beyond measure; he told me of a brother of his that had been in the same regiment, and he assured me that he was himself going into the artillery by special enlistment, having got his father's leave. You know very little if you think I missed the opportunity of making the guns seem terrible and glorious in his eyes. I told him stories enough to waken a sentry of reserve, and if it had been possible (with my youth so obvious) I would have woven in a few anecdotes of active service, and described great shells bursting under my horses and the teams shot down, and the gunners all the while impassive; but as I saw I should not be believed I did not speak of such things, but confined myself to what he would see and hear when he joined.
Meanwhile the good warm food and the rising morning had done two things; they had put much more vigour into me than I had had when I slunk in half-an-hour before, but at the same time (and this is a thing that often comes with food and with rest) they had made me feel the fatigue of so long a night. I rose up, therefore, determined to find some place where I could sleep. I asked this friend of mine how much there was to pay, and he said 'fourpence'. Then we exchanged ritual salutations, and I took the road. I did not leave the town or village without noticing one extraordinary thing at the far end of it, which was that, whereas most places in France are proud of their town-hall and make a great show of it, here in Flavigny they had taken a great house and written over it ECOLE COMMUNALE in great letters, and then they had written over a kind of lean-to or out-house of this big place the words 'Hotel de ville' in very small letters, so small that I had a doubt for a moment if the citizens here were good republicans—a treasonable thought on all this frontier.
Then, a mile onward, I saw the road cross the canal and run parallel to it. I saw the canal run another mile or so under a fine bank of deep woods. I saw an old bridge leading over it to that inviting shade, and as it was now nearly six and the sun was gathering strength, I went, with slumber overpowering me and my feet turning heavy beneath me, along the tow-path, over the bridge, and lay down on the moss under these delightful trees. Forgetful of the penalty that such an early repose would bring, and of the great heat that was to follow at midday, I quickly became part of the life of that forest and fell asleep.
When I awoke it was full eight o'clock, and the sun had gained great power. I saw him shining at me through the branches of my trees like a patient enemy outside a city that one watches through the loopholes of a tower, and I began to be afraid of taking the road. I looked below me down the steep bank between the trunks and saw the canal looking like black marble, and I heard the buzzing of the flies above it, and I noted that all the mist had gone. A very long way off, the noise of its ripples coming clearly along the floor of the water, was a lazy barge and a horse drawing it. From time to time the tow-rope slackened into the still surface, and I heard it dripping as it rose. The rest of the valley was silent except for that under-humming of insects which marks the strength of the sun.
Now I saw clearly how difficult it was to turn night into day, for I found myself condemned either to waste many hours that ought to be consumed on my pilgrimage, or else to march on under the extreme heat; and when I had drunk what was left of my Brule wine (which then seemed delicious), and had eaten a piece of bread, I stiffly jolted down the bank and regained the highway.
In the first village I came to I found that Mass was over, and this justly annoyed me; for what is a pilgrimage in which a man cannot hear Mass every morning? Of all the things I have read about St Louis which make me wish I had known him to speak to, nothing seems to me more delightful than his habit of getting Mass daily whenever he marched down south, but why this should be so delightful I cannot tell. Of course there is a grace and influence belonging to such a custom, but it is not of that I am speaking but of the pleasing sensation of order and accomplishment which attaches to a day one has opened by Mass; a purely temporal, and, for all I know, what the monks back at the ironworks would have called a carnal feeling, but a source of continual comfort to me. Let them go their way and let me go mine.
This comfort I ascribe to four causes (just above you will find it written that I could not tell why this should be so, but what of that?), and these causes are:
1. That for half-an-hour just at the opening of the day you are silent and recollected, and have to put off cares, interests, and passions in the repetition of a familiar action. This must certainly be a great benefit to the body and give it tone.
2. That the Mass is a careful and rapid ritual. Now it is the function of all ritual (as we see in games, social arrangements and so forth) to relieve the mind by so much of responsibility and initiative and to catch you up (as it were) into itself, leading your life for you during the time it lasts. In this way you experience a singular repose, after which fallowness I am sure one is fitter for action and judgement.
3. That the surroundings incline you to good and reasonable thoughts, and for the moment deaden the rasp and jar of that busy wickedness which both working in one's self and received from others is the true source of all human miseries. Thus the time spent at Mass is like a short repose in a deep and well-built library, into which no sounds come and where you feel yourself secure against the outer world.
4. And the most important cause of this feeling of satisfaction is that you are doing what the human race has done for thousands upon thousands upon thousands of years. This is a matter of such moment that I am astonished people hear of it so little. Whatever is buried right into our blood from immemorial habit that we must be certain to do if we are to be fairly happy (of course no grown man or woman can really be very happy for long—but I mean reasonably happy), and, what is more important, decent and secure of our souls. Thus one should from time to time hunt animals, or at the very least shoot at a mark; one should always drink some kind of fermented liquor with one's food—and especially deeply upon great feast-days; one should go on the water from time to time; and one should dance on occasions; and one should sing in chorus. For all these things man has done since God put him into a garden and his eyes first became troubled with a soul. Similarly some teacher or ranter or other, whose name I forget, said lately one very wise thing at least, which was that every man should do a little work with his hands.
Oh! what good philosophy this is, and how much better it would be if rich people, instead of raining the influence of their rank and spending their money on leagues for this or that exceptional thing, were to spend it in converting the middle-class to ordinary living and to the tradition of the race. Indeed, if I had power for some thirty years I would see to it that people should be allowed to follow their inbred instincts in these matters, and should hunt, drink, sing, dance, sail, and dig; and those that would not should be compelled by force.
Now in the morning Mass you do all that the race needs to do and has done for all these ages where religion was concerned; there you have the sacred and separate Enclosure, the Altar, the Priest in his Vestments, the set ritual, the ancient and hierarchic tongue, and all that your nature cries out for in the matter of worship.
From these considerations it is easy to understand how put out I was to find Mass over on this first morning of my pilgrimage. And I went along the burning road in a very ill-humour till I saw upon my right, beyond a low wall and in a kind of park, a house that seemed built on some artificial raised ground surrounded by a wall, but this may have been an illusion, the house being really only very tall. At any rate I drew it, and in the village just beyond it I learnt something curious about the man that owned it.
For I had gone into a house to take a third meal of bread and wine and to replenish my bottle when the old woman of the house, who was a kindly person, told me she had just then no wine. 'But,' said she, 'Mr So and So that lives in the big house sells it to any one who cares to buy even in the smallest quantities, and you will see his shed standing by the side of the road.'
Everything happened just as she had said. I came to the big shed by the park wall, and there was a kind of counter made of boards, and several big tuns and two men: one in an apron serving, and the other in a little box or compartment writing. I was somewhat timid to ask for so little as a quart, but the apron man in the most businesslike way filled my bottle at a tap and asked for fourpence. He was willing to talk, and told me many things: of good years in wine, of the nature of their trade, of the influence of the moon on brewing, of the importance of spigots, and what not; but when I tried to get out of him whether the owner were an eccentric private gentleman or a merchant that had the sense to earn little pennies as well as large ones, I could not make him understand my meaning; for his idea of rank was utterly different from mine and took no account of idleness and luxury and daftness, but was based entirely upon money and clothes. Moreover we were both of us Republicans, so the matter was of no great moment. Courteously saluting ourselves we parted, he remaining to sell wine and I hobbling to Rome, now a little painfully and my sack the heavier by a quart of wine, which, as you probably know, weighs almost exactly two pounds and a half.
It was by this time close upon eleven, and I had long reached the stage when some kinds of men begin talking of Dogged Determination, Bull-dog pluck, the stubborn spirit of the Island race and so forth, but when those who can boast a little of the sacred French blood are in a mood of set despair (both kinds march on, and the mobility of either infantry is much the same), I say I had long got to this point of exhaustion when it occurred to me that I should need an excellent and thorough meal at midday. But on looking at my map I found that there was nothing nearer than this town of Charmes that was marked on the milestones, and that was the first place I should come to in the department of the Vosges.
It would take much too long to describe the dodges that weary men and stiff have recourse to when they are at the close of a difficult task: how they divide it up in lengths in their minds, how they count numbers, how they begin to solve problems in mental arithmetic: I tried them all. Then I thought of a new one, which is really excellent, and which I recommend to the whole world. It is to vary the road, suddenly taking now the fields, now the river, but only occasionally the turnpike. This last lap was very well suited for such a method. The valley had become more like a wide and shallow trench than ever. The hills on either side were low and exactly even. Up the middle of it went the river, the canal and the road, and these two last had only a field between them; now broad, now narrow.
First on the tow-path, then on the road, then on the grass, then back on the tow-path, I pieced out the last baking mile into Charmes, that lies at the foot of a rather higher hill, and at last was dragging myself up the street just as the bell was ringing the noon Angelus; nor, however tedious you may have found it to read this final effort of mine, can you have found it a quarter as wearisome as I did to walk it; and surely between writer and reader there should be give and take, now the one furnishing the entertainment and now the other.
The delightful thing in Charmes is its name. Of this name I had indeed been thinking as I went along the last miles of that dusty and deplorable road—that a town should be called 'Charms'.
Not but that towns, if they are left to themselves and not hurried, have a way of settling into right names suited to the hills about them and recalling their own fields. I remember Sussex, and as I remember it I must, if only for example, set down my roll-call of such names, as—Fittleworth, where the Inn has painted panels; Amberley in the marshes; delicate Fernhurst, and Ditchling under its hill; Arundel, that is well known to every one; and Climping, that no one knows, set on a lonely beach and lost at the vague end of an impassable road; and Barlton, and Burton, and Duncton, and Coldwatham, that stand under in the shadow and look up at the great downs; and Petworth, where the spire leans sideways; and Timberley, that the floods make into an island; and No Man's Land, where first there breaks on you the distant sea. I never knew a Sussex man yet but, if you noted him such a list, would answer: 'There I was on such and such a day; this I came to after such and such a run; and that other is my home.' But it is not his recollection alone which moves him, it is sound of the names. He feels the accent of them, and all the men who live between Hind-head and the Channel know these names stand for Eden; the noise is enough to prove it. So it is also with the hidden valleys of the lie de France; and when you say Jouy or Chevreuse to a man that was born in those shadows he grows dreamy—yet they are within a walk of Paris.
But the wonderful thing about a name like Charmes is that it hands down the dead. For some dead man gave it a keen name proceeding from his own immediate delight, and made general what had been a private pleasure, and, so to speak, bequeathed a poem to his town. They say the Arabs do this; calling one place 'the rest of the warriors', and another 'the end', and another 'the surprise of the horses': let those who know them speak for it. I at least know that in the west of the Cotentin (a sea-garden) old Danes married to Gaulish women discovered the just epithet, and that you have 'St Mary on the Hill' and 'High Town under the Wind' and 'The Borough over the Heath', which are to-day exactly what their name describes them. If you doubt that England has such descriptive names, consider the great Truth that at one junction on a railway where a mournful desolation of stagnant waters and treeless, stonewalled fields threatens you with experience and awe, a melancholy porter is told off to put his head into your carriage and to chant like Charon, 'Change here for Ashton under the Wood, Moreton on the Marsh, Bourton on the Water, and Stow in the Wold.'
Charmes does not fulfil its name nor preserve what its forgotten son found so wonderful in it. For at luncheon there a great commercial traveller told me fiercely that it was chiefly known for its breweries, and that he thought it of little account. Still even in Charmes I found one marvellous corner of a renaissance house, which I drew; but as I have lost the drawing, let it go.
When I came out from the inn of Charmes the heat was more terrible than ever, and the prospect of a march in it more intolerable. My head hung, I went very slowly, and I played with cowardly thoughts, which were really (had I known it) good angels. I began to look out anxiously for woods, but saw only long whitened wall glaring in the sun, or, if ever there were trees, they were surrounded by wooden palisades which the owners had put there. But in a little time (now I had definitely yielded to temptation) I found a thicket.
You must know that if you yield to entertaining a temptation, there is the opportunity presented to you like lightning. A theologian told me this, and it is partly true: but not of Mammon or Belphegor, or whatever Devil it is that overlooks the Currency (I can see his face from here): for how many have yielded to the Desire of Riches and professed themselves very willing to revel in them, yet did not get an opportunity worth a farthing till they died? Like those two beggars that Rabelais tells of, one of whom wished for all the gold that would pay for all the merchandise that had ever been sold in Paris since its first foundation, and the other for as much gold as would go into all the sacks that could be sewn by all the needles (and those of the smallest size) that could be crammed into Notre-Dame from the floor to the ceiling, filling the smallest crannies. Yet neither had a crust that night to rub his gums with.
Whatever Devil it is, however, that tempts men to repose—and for my part I believe him to be rather an Aeon than a Devil: that is, a good-natured fellow working on his own account neither good nor ill—whatever being it is, it certainly suits one's mood, for I never yet knew a man determined to be lazy that had not ample opportunity afforded him, though he were poorer than the cure of Maigre, who formed a syndicate to sell at a scutcheon a gross such souls as were too insignificant to sell singly. A man can always find a chance for doing nothing as amply and with as ecstatic a satisfaction as the world allows, and so to me (whether it was there before I cannot tell, and if it came miraculously, so much the more amusing) appeared this thicket. It was to the left of the road; a stream ran through it in a little ravine; the undergrowth was thick beneath its birches, and just beyond, on the plain that bordered it, were reapers reaping in a field. I went into it contentedly and slept till evening my third sleep; then, refreshed by the cool wind that went before the twilight, I rose and took the road again, but I knew I could not go far.
I was now past my fortieth mile, and though the heat had gone, yet my dead slumber had raised a thousand evils. I had stiffened to lameness, and had fallen into the mood when a man desires companionship and the talk of travellers rather than the open plain. But (unless I went backward, which was out of the question) there was nowhere to rest in for a long time to come. The next considerable village was Thayon, which is called 'Thayon of the Vosges', because one is nearing the big hills, and thither therefore I crawled mile after mile.
But my heart sank. First my foot limped, and then my left knee oppressed me with a sudden pain. I attempted to relieve it by leaning on my right leg, and so discovered a singular new law in medicine which I will propose to the scientists. For when those excellent men have done investigating the twirligigs of the brain to find out where the soul is, let them consider this much more practical matter, that you cannot relieve the pain in one limb without driving it into some other; and so I exchanged twinges in the left knee for a horrible great pain in the right. I sat down on a bridge, and wondered; I saw before me hundreds upon hundreds of miles, painful and exhausted, and I asked heaven if this was necessary to a pilgrimage. (But, as you shall hear, a pilgrimage is not wholly subject to material laws, for when I came to Epinal next day I went into a shop which, whatever it was to the profane, appeared to me as a chemist's shop, where I bought a bottle of some stuff called 'balm', and rubbing myself with it was instantly cured.)
Then I looked down from the bridge across the plain, and saw, a long way off beyond the railway, the very ugly factory village of Thayon, and reached it at last, not without noticing that the people were standing branches of trees before their doors, and the little children noisily helping to tread the stems firmly into the earth. They told me it was for the coming of Corpus Christi, and so proved to me that religion, which is as old as these valleys, would last out their inhabiting men. Even here, in a place made by a great laundry, a modern industrial row of tenements, all the world was putting out green branches to welcome the Procession and the Sacrament and the Priest. Comforted by this evident refutation of the sad nonsense I had read in Cities from the pen of intellectuals—nonsense I had known to be nonsense, but that had none the less tarnished my mind—I happily entered the inn, ate and drank, praised God, and lay down to sleep in a great bed. I mingled with my prayers a firm intention of doing the ordinary things, and not attempting impossibilities, such as marching by night, nor following out any other vanities of this world. Then, having cast away all theories of how a pilgrimage should be conducted, and broken five or six vows, I slept steadily till the middle of the morning. I had covered fifty miles in twenty-five hours, and if you imagine this to be but two miles an hour, you must have a very mathematical mind, and know little of the realities of living. I woke and threw my shutters open to the bright morning and the masterful sun, took my coffee, and set out once more towards Epinal, the stronghold a few miles away—delighted to see that my shadow was so short and the road so hot to the feet and eyes. For I said, 'This at least proves that I am doing like all the world, and walking during the day.' It was but a couple of hours to the great garrison. In a little time I passed a battery. Then a captain went by on a horse, with his orderly behind him. Where the deep lock stands by the roadside—the only suggestion of coolness—I first heard the bugles; then I came into the long street and determined to explore Epinal, and to cast aside all haste and folly.
There are many wonderful things in Epinal. As, for instance, that it was evidently once, like Paris and Melun and a dozen other strongholds of the Gauls, an island city. For the rivers of France are full of long, habitable islands, and these were once the rallying-places of clans. Then there are the forts which are placed on high hills round the town and make it even stronger than Toul; for Epinal stands just where the hills begin to be very high. Again, it is the capital of a mountain district, and this character always does something peculiar and impressive to a town. You may watch its effect in Grenoble, in little Aubusson, and, rather less, in Geneva.
For in such towns three quite different kinds of men meet. First there are the old plain-men, who despise the highlanders and think themselves much grander and more civilized; these are the burgesses. Then there are the peasants and wood-cutters, who come in from the hill-country to market, and who are suspicious of the plain-men and yet proud to depend upon a real town with a bishop and paved streets. Lastly, there are the travellers, who come there to enjoy the mountains and to make the city a base for their excursions, and these love the hill-men and think they understand them, and they despise the plain-men for being so middle-class as to lord it over the hill-men: but in truth this third class, being outsiders, are equally hated and despised by both the others, and there is a combination against them and they are exploited.
And there are many other things in which Epinal is wonderful, but in nothing is it more wonderful than in its great church.
I suppose that the high Dukes of Burgundy and Lorraine and the rich men from Flanders and the House of Luxemburg and the rest, going to Rome, the centre of the world, had often to pass up this valley of the Moselle, which (as I have said) is a road leading to Rome, and would halt at fipinal and would at times give money for its church; with this result, that the church belongs to every imaginable period and is built anyhow, in twenty styles, but stands as a whole a most enduring record of past forms and of what has pleased the changing mind when it has attempted to worship in stone.
Thus the transept is simply an old square barn of rough stone, older, I suppose, than Charlemagne and without any ornament. In its lower courses I thought I even saw the Roman brick. It had once two towers, northern and southern; the southern is ruined and has a wooden roof, the northern remains and is just a pinnacle or minaret too narrow for bells.
Then the apse is pure and beautiful Gothic of the fourteenth century, with very tall and fluted windows like single prayers. The ambulatory is perfectly modern, Gothic also, and in the manner that Viollet le Duc in France and Pugin in England have introduced to bring us back to our origins and to remind us of the place whence all we Europeans came. Again, this apse and ambulatory are not perpendicular to the transept, but set askew, a thing known in small churches and said to be a symbol, but surely very rare in large ones. The western door is purely Romanesque, and has Byzantine ornaments and a great deep round door. To match it there is a northern door still deeper, with rows and rows of inner arches full of saints, angels, devils, and flowers; and this again is not straight, but so built that the arches go aslant, as you sometimes see railway bridges when they cross roads at an angle. Finally, there is a central tower which is neither Gothic nor Romanesque but pure Italian, a loggia, with splendid round airy windows taking up all its walls, and with a flat roof and eaves. This some one straight from the south must have put on as a memory of his wanderings.
The barn-transept is crumbling old grey stone, the Romanesque porches are red, like Strasburg, the Gothic apse is old white as our cathedrals are, the modern ambulatory is of pure white stone just quarried, and thus colours as well as shapes are mingled up and different in this astonishing building.
I drew it from that point of view in the market-place to the north-east which shows most of these contrasts at once, and you must excuse the extreme shakiness of the sketch, for it was taken as best I could on an apple-cart with my book resting on the apples—there was no other desk. Nor did the apple-seller mind my doing it, but on the contrary gave me advice and praise saying such things as—
'Excellent; you have caught the angle of the apse... Come now, darken the edge of that pillar... I fear you have made the tower a little confused,' and so forth.
I offered to buy a few apples off him, but he gave me three instead, and these, as they incommoded me, I gave later to a little child.
Indeed the people of Epinal, not taking me for a traveller but simply for a wandering poor man, were very genial to me, and the best good they did me was curing my lameness. For, seeing an apothecary's shop as I was leaving the town, I went in and said to the apothecary—
'My knee has swelled and is very painful, and I have to walk far; perhaps you can tell me how to cure it, or give me something that will.'
'There is nothing easier,' he said; 'I have here a specific for the very thing you complain of.'
With this he pulled out a round bottle, on the label of which was printed in great letters, 'BALM'.
'You have but to rub your knee strongly and long with this ointment of mine,' he said, 'and you will be cured.' Nor did he mention any special form of words to be repeated as one did it.
Everything happened just as he had said. When I was some little way above the town I sat down on a low wall and rubbed my knee strongly and long with this balm, and the pain instantly disappeared. Then, with a heart renewed by this prodigy, I took the road again and began walking very rapidly and high, swinging on to Rome.
The Moselle above fipinal takes a bend outwards, and it seemed to me that a much shorter way to the next village (which is called Archettes, or 'the very little arches', because there are no arches there) would be right over the hill round which the river curved. This error came from following private judgement and not heeding tradition, here represented by the highroad which closely follows the river. For though a straight tunnel to Archettes would have saved distance, yet a climb over that high hill and through the pathless wood on its summit was folly.
I went at first over wide, sloping fields, and some hundred feet above the valley I crossed a little canal. It was made on a very good system, and I recommend it to the riparian owners of the Upper Wye, which needs it. They take the water from the Moselle (which is here broad and torrential and falls in steps, running over a stony bed with little swirls and rapids), and they lead it along at an even gradient, averaging, as it were, the uneven descent of the river. In this way they have a continuous stream running through fields that would otherwise be bare and dry, but that are thus nourished into excellent pastures.
Above these fields the forest went up steeply. I had not pushed two hundred yards into its gloom and confusion when I discovered that I had lost my way. It was necessary to take the only guide I had and to go straight upwards wherever the line of greatest inclination seemed to lie, for that at least would take me to a summit and probably to a view of the valley; whereas if I tried to make for the shoulder of the hill (which had been my first intention) I might have wandered about till nightfall.
It was an old man in a valley called the Curicante in Colorado that taught me this, if one lost one's way going upwards to make at once along the steepest line, but if one lost it going downwards, to listen for water and reach it and follow it. I wish I had space to tell all about this old man, who gave me hospitality out there. He was from New England and was lonely, and had brought out at great expense a musical box to cheer him. Of this he was very proud, and though it only played four silly hymn tunes, yet, as he and I listened to it, heavy tears came into his eyes and light tears into mine, because these tunes reminded him of his home. But I have no time to do more than mention him, and must return to my forest.
I climbed, then, over slippery pine needles and under the charged air of those trees, which was full of dim, slanting light from the afternoon sun, till, nearly at the summit, I came upon a clearing which I at once recognized as a military road, leading to what we used to call a 'false battery', that is, a dug-out with embrasures into which guns could be placed but in which no guns were. For ever since the French managed to produce a really mobile heavy gun they have constructed any amount of such auxiliary works between the permanent forts. These need no fixed guns to be emplaced, since the French can use now one such parapet, now another, as occasion serves, and the advantage is that your guns are never useless, but can always be brought round where they are needed, and that thus six guns will do more work than twenty used to do.
This false battery was on the brow of the hill, and when I reached it I looked down the slope, over the brushwood that hid the wire entanglements, and there was the whole valley of the Moselle at my feet.
As this was the first really great height, so this was the first really great view that I met with on my pilgrimage. I drew it carefully, piece by piece, sitting there a long time in the declining sun and noting all I saw. Archettes, just below; the flat valley with the river winding from side to side; the straight rows of poplar trees; the dark pines on the hills, and the rounded mountains rising farther and higher into the distance until the last I saw, far off to the south-east, must have been the Ballon d'Alsace at the sources of the Moselle—the hill that marked the first full stage in my journey and that overlooked Switzerland.
Indeed, this is the peculiar virtue of walking to a far place, and especially of walking there in a straight line, that one gets these visions of the world from hill-tops.
When I call up for myself this great march I see it all mapped out in landscapes, each of which I caught from some mountain, and each of which joins on to that before and to that after it, till I can piece together the whole road. The view here from the Hill of Archettes, the view from the Ballon d'Alsace, from Glovelier Hill, from the Weissenstein, from the Brienzer Grat, from the Grimsel, from above Bellinzona, from the Principessa, from Tizzano, from the ridge of the Apennines, from the Wall of Siena, from San Quirico, from Radicofani, from San Lorenzo, from Montefiascone, from above Viterbo, from Roncigleone, and at last from that lift in the Via Cassia, whence one suddenly perceives the City. They unroll themselves all in their order till I can see Europe, and Rome shining at the end.
But you who go in railways are necessarily shut up in long valleys and even sometimes by the walls of the earth. Even those who bicycle or drive see these sights but rarely and with no consecution, since roads also avoid climbing save where they are forced to it, as over certain passes. It is only by following the straight line onwards that any one can pass from ridge to ridge and have this full picture of the way he has been.
So much for views. I clambered down the hill to Archettes and saw, almost the first house, a swinging board 'At the sign of the Trout of the Vosges', and as it was now evening I turned in there to dine.
Two things I noticed at once when I sat down to meat. First, that the people seated at that inn table were of the middle-class of society, and secondly, that I, though of their rank, was an impediment to their enjoyment. For to sleep in woods, to march some seventy miles, the latter part in a dazzling sun, and to end by sliding down an earthy steep into the road, stamps a man with all that this kind of people least desire to have thrust upon them. And those who blame the middle-class for their conventions in such matters, and who profess to be above the care for cleanliness and clothes and social ritual which marks the middle-class, are either anarchists by nature, or fools who take what is but an effect of their wealth for a natural virtue.
I say it roundly; if it were not for the punctiliousness of the middle-class in these matters all our civilization would go to pieces. They are the conservators and the maintainers of the standard, the moderators of Europe, the salt of society. For the kind of man who boasts that he does not mind dirty clothes or roughing it, is either a man who cares nothing for all that civilization has built up and who rather hates it, or else (and this is much more common) he is a rich man, or accustomed to live among the rich, and can afford to waste energy and stuff because he feels in a vague way that more clothes can always be bought, that at the end of his vagabondism he can get excellent dinners, and that London and Paris are full of luxurious baths and barber shops. Of all the corrupting effects of wealth there is none worse than this, that it makes the wealthy (and their parasites) think in some way divine, or at least a lovely character of the mind, what is in truth nothing but their power of luxurious living. Heaven keep us all from great riches—I mean from very great riches.
Now the middle-class cannot afford to buy new clothes whenever they feel inclined, neither can they end up a jaunt by a Turkish bath and a great feast with wine. So their care is always to preserve intact what they happen to have, to exceed in nothing, to study cleanliness, order, decency, sobriety, and a steady temper, and they fence all this round and preserve it in the only way it can be preserved, to wit, with conventions, and they are quite right.
I find it very hard to keep up to the demands of these my colleagues, but I recognize that they are on the just side in the quarrel; let none of them go about pretending that I have not defended them in this book.
So I thought of how I should put myself right with these people. I saw that an elaborate story (as, that I had been set upon by a tramp who forced me to change clothes: that I dressed thus for a bet: that I was an officer employed as a spy, and was about to cross the frontier into Germany in the guise of a labourer: that my doctor forbade me to shave—or any other such rhodomontade): I saw, I say, that by venturing upon any such excuses I might unwittingly offend some other unknown canon of theirs deeper and more sacred than their rule on clothes; it had happened to me before now to do this in the course of explanations.
So I took another method, and said, as I sat down—
'Pray excuse this appearance of mine. I have had a most unfortunate adventure in the hills, losing my way and being compelled to sleep out all night, nor can I remain to get tidy, as it is essential that I should reach my luggage (which is at Remiremont) before midnight.'
I took great care to pay for my glass of white wine before dinner with a bank-note, and I showed my sketches to my neighbour to make an impression. I also talked of foreign politics, of the countries I had seen, of England especially, with such minute exactitude that their disgust was soon turned to admiration.
The hostess of this inn was delicate and courteous to a degree, and at every point attempting to overreach her guests, who, as regularly as she attacked, countered with astonishing dexterity.
Thus she would say: 'Perhaps the joint would taste better if it were carved on the table; or do the gentlemen prefer it carved aside?'
To which a banker opposite me said in a deep voice: 'We prefer, madam, to have it carved aside.'
Or she would put her head in and say: 'I can recommend our excellent beer. It is really preferable to this local wine.'
And my neighbour, a tourist, answered with decision: 'Madame, we find your wine excellent. It could not be bettered.'
Nor could she get round them on a single point, and I pitied her so much that I bought bread and wine off her to console her, and I let her overcharge me, and went out into the afterglow with her benediction, followed also by the farewells of the middle-class, who were now taking their coffee at little tables outside the house.
I went hard up the road to Remiremont. The night darkened. I reached Remiremont at midnight, and feeling very wakeful I pushed on up the valley under great woods of pines; and at last, diverging up a little path, I settled on a clump of trees sheltered and, as I thought, warm, and lay down there to sleep till morning; but, on the contrary, I lay awake a full hour in the fragrance and on the level carpet of the pine needles looking up through the dark branches at the waning moon, which had just risen, and thinking of how suitable were pine-trees for a man to sleep under.