Imatges de pÓgina
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"IF I wished to impress my chil- other elements and contrary agencies. dren with the greatness and the des- The voice, however, which is yet ting of France, I should take them to heard most loudly proclaims as the some point, whence they could look national cry that the army is order, down on the soldiers and army of the the army is progress. nation, and bid them there see the Chalons, the camp, the representastrength and future of their country” tion of the army, is even regarded as

Thus speaks — not, perhaps, in an aspect of civilisation. · C'est là," these exact words, but with this says a French military writer, “ qu'il meaning-a modern French writer; a voulu réunir tous ces braves qui and it was before the army became à Inkerman, Alma, Eupatoria, Traksuch an element in the government tir, Malakoff, et Sebastopol ont jeté as it is now that this sentiment was les semences de cette civilisation expressed; it was before a war had chevaleresque qui, courant part tout given its prestige of fame, or a dynasty l'univers, doit rendre, pour ainsi dire, had sought its support, that a philo- solidaires les unes des autres, tous les sopher and a historian saw in the nations du globe, et leur inscrire au camp the leading principle, and in front franchement et sans arrière the soldier the leading character, of pensée le nom glorieux de la France the national progress. Perhaps with et Napoléon "!! the bulk of the people, with the Hear this, men of Manchester! mass of Frenchmen, this feeling is It is a civilisation chevaleresque of less deep, less strong, than it was in which the soldier is to be the misthe days when the sentiment was sionary, and war the promulgating uttered'; and by many classes the principle which shall effect the conarmy is recognised rather as the force solidation of peoples. Perhaps it of order than as the necessary or

would be as effective as cotton bales. probable agent of future civilisation The two ideas represent the extremes and progress. The glory-passion and of the theories, in which men and the conquest-destiny are still, per- nations are striving to expand and haps, the predominant expressions, develop the destiny and the future of and the outward sentiment of the mankind. nation; but in the depths of society, The French phase is strange to us. in the under-currents of ranks and We connect the soldier with defence, classes, there have long been growing conquest, and finance budgets. We and growing feelings and ideas which accept as national his heroism and must seek their development through his glory, but we never dream of



associating him or his influences with locality wherein he might mass and our schemes or theories of advance amalgamate the braves of the Crimea and perfectability, and in this, per- and Africa—wherein he might prohaps, we deviate as much from the pagate the discipline, experiences, conclusions of history and the true habits, and traditions of past cammoral estimate of vocations as the paigns and combats, and make them French do in their exaggeration of inspirations in the future of the the soldier-mission.

armies of France. This camp is to The camp is the sphere, the natural do more ; it is to have other than a home, of an army. It is there we see strategic or military effect; it is also, the soldier - character in its truest in addition to its primary purposes, light-the soldier-body in its highest “to carry into the plains of Chammanifestation. In this tent-covered pagne, the aridity and sterility of plain at Chalons-in this aggregate which are proverbial, the fertilisation of men, of martial might and martial and prosperity produced by the estameans-we might therefore hope to blishment of a species of military see some exposition of this civilisa- colony." tion chevaleresque, and in studying It is a natural thing to associate here the characteristics, institution, pleasant things with pleasant places, and probable destiny ofthe French sol- and it is, therefore, a great outrage dier, we may obtain some knowledge on old fancies, old fallacies, to hear of as to what the soldier should be, and the plains of Champagne as sterile what he may become to other na- and arid-to find that the land of tionalities and other civilisations, that creamy sparkling vintage, which

There are spots here and there in brightens the eye, gladdens the the world which seem destined to be heart, and loosens the tongue, is sites of war and battle---some marked barren and desert. As we have seen by their position, some by their the nectar foaming and bubbling in sterility, some by their place in the the glass, and felt its inspiration upon great thoroughfares of migrations, us, we have dreamed of its birthplace in the great war-paths of conquest. as a land of corn and wine, rich and The vast expanse of champaign luxuriant, where nature revelled in country the succession of plains clustering vines, and man sat in extending towards the north-east trellissed arbours, a poetic Bacchanal, barrier of France, betwixt the great with the well-known long-necked towns of Chalons, Rheims, and Eper- bottle in one hand, and the graceful nay, has been again and again the long-shaped glass-sacred to the mehigh-road of invasion, the camping- mories of old draughts-in the other, ground of armies, and more than alternately quaffing and chanting á once the field of battle. The great chanson-d-boire. The reality is a plateau especially which lies betwixt striking reverse of such a picture. the rivers Marne and l’Aisne and The sparkle and the brilliancy are all the valley d'Argonne, broad and exported. Flat plains, bare fields sterile, unpeopled though environed unshaded by tree, and with no relief by cities--solitary, though crossed save narrow trenches to mark the and tracked by imperial roads and boundaries, and now and then rows of ancient highways-arid, yet dry and stiff poplars—dull

, uncouth peasants, healthful-open to the breezes, and who had not even the virtue of liftjust sheltered and shadowed in the ing the hat, which, with the Frenchdistance by hills, or rather uplands- man, like charity, covers a multitude watered by smaller streams, specious of sins of true courtesy-have no kinand undulating, and thus adapted for ship with the visions inspired by the the movements and manoeuvres of vintage of Champagne, are as alien armies-presents itself as a natural from them as romance from reality, camp--as a world-space formed and poetry from prose. How far they fore-destined for a terrain militaire. may approximate when the promised Napoleon the First fixed on it as a fertility and prosperity shall bloom strategic position for an advanced and blossom under the genial incamp against invasion, Napoleon fluences of military occupation, must the Third has selected it as the be a revelation of the future. The

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French soldier, taken individually, thoughts, memories, and associations seems an unpromising missionary at first, perhaps, than those of war or enough for such work ; what a sys- camp. Calm, still, almost dull, it is tem of order, a colony of braves, scarcely a congenial starting-point planted amid sterility and boorish- for the stir and bustle of military ness, may effect, what chivalresque- life. Then, again, there are the celeness it may diffuse, will be a ques- brated Caves de Jacqueson, the vast tion of cause and effect, which will catacombs wherein repose legions of fill a strange and interesting page in silver-capped bottles, which, like the the history of civilisation.

enchanted champions in the Moorish The French army, as long as the caverns, are one day to burst their present policies and relations of spell and sally forth into the world. states exist, must be a great agent These, too, were suggestive rather of in the destiny of the world--a great balls, suppers, fêtes champêtres, power in affecting the revolutions jeûners, smiling faces, laughing and developments of its government. hearts, merry voices, and broad jokes, When the millennium of arbitration than of grim soldiers and tented and commercial reciprocity -- fore- plains. Once en route, however, told by peace prophets--shall have once in the railway carriage, and the reached the fulness of time, we may military element presents itself as expect to see this warlike assemblage the predominating one. There Mondispersed, the martial array of tents sieur le Capitaine fusses with his assume a pastoral aspect, fierce petit carpet-bag; there Monsieur le Zouaves pruning vines, and stern Fourrier lights his cigar,and Monsieur chasseurs leading kine or fluting le Caporal broods over his ticket. under trees, and battered vivan- We, the bourgeois, a peasant, his dières milking goats. Meanwhile, wife, and our-self, feel our insignifias war is still an element in our sys- cance in detached corners, and have tem, and the soldier-vocation still a

an inward sense of the inferiority of necessity, a French army as the re- duffle and tweed to lace and worsted. presentative of the theory of force, The prospect outside is not cheerand the chivalresque civilisation which ing, neither is our society very exhilis to be promulgated by arms and arating flatness without, Hatness conquest, a French camp as an illus- within. The influences are decidtration of soldier-life and discipline, edly drowsy. Monsieur le Capitaine are facts which must have an import, dozes and dozes, and then wakes up studies and suggestions for the pre- to a remembrance of his bag. Monsent and future. Thus the camp at sieur le Fourrier makes spasmodic Chalons may be regarded. As the puffs, betwixt blinking and winking : lanista of a great military system- le Caporal nods over his pass-ticket, the experiment of a military colony rousing himself ever and anon to -it is an event of the times demand- a fierce surveillance of it ; the bouring attention and interest. Let us geois snores remorselessly on his look at it in its different aspects, wife's shoulder. Our own eyes open pictorial, social, martial, and poli- and shut on a succession of fat fields tical.

with little boundary trenches, some Chalons gives its name to the in stubble, some in green crops-all, camp, as being the place which con- however, level and unwooded, altonects it with the centre of govern- gether repudiating undulations and ment, though it is actually situated thickets. * Occasionally we start up at the village of Mourmelon, distant to look on a river or a row of poplars about sixteen or eighteen miles. A as a marked feature in the scene. railway keeps up the communication. Heavy rain, too, is making mud and The old city, with its old Gothic mist everywhere. At last we are at cathedral, its old inns with rambling the station, the Camp de Gare-not corridors and galleries, and courts at Mourmelon-le-Grand-no, that is which remind one of caravanserais, farther on - this is Mourmelon-leold streets and bridges, its pretty Petit, quite an inferior sort of village, gardens, and willows hanging over a very ordinary place, altogether unthe banks of the Marne, have other worthy of being the resort and ren


dezvous of braves. It is only the tending with rain and dirt. We humble introduction to its grand stop ; before us swings a huge board, namesake. At Chalons we had in- whereon a gamboge face smirked quired of a learned bibliothécaire through a halo of yellow spikes. It the name of the best hostelry at was the Soleil d'Or. Seen thus, Mourmelon, and been particularly through a haze and under a cloud, recommended above all things to it had not the brilliancy we had pitch our portmanteau in the Hôtel dreamed of. The hostelry had nodu Soleil d'Or. The high-sounding thing sunshiny or golden about it; title caught our fancy--we repeated on the contrary, it was rather dark it again and again, and at each and miry, and had the look of receivrepetition there arose visions of a ing its illuminations chiefly from oil luxurious chamber, of a grand salon, or tallow. The court, like the marand of a table-d'hôte graced by all chioness's marble halls, was rather the élite of military circles. The sloppy, and our reception by a garword was still on our tongue when a çon, who always appeared in his garçon offered us an apartment be- shirt sleeves, and always announced longing to the railway buffet. Like his presence by a grin betwixt imputhe prophet's chamber in the wall, it dence and idiotcy, in a salon which had its bed, and its table, and its seemed only a roofed and glazed candlestick-was clean and bare, well continuation of the court, and exhi. enough except to one dreaming of bited the barest garniture of tables the “Soleil d'Or.” A glimpse of the and forms, at once damped out all salon-de-manger, with its little tables our delusions. Would we see on covered with white cloths, its buffet chamber ?—there was hope yet, this rich in luscious fruits, preserves, gela- might make up for all; and we foltine, capons, and tongues, and pretty lowed our portmanteau up-stairs with with flowers, tempted us for the anticipations that the Soleil d'Or moment; but the Soleil d'Or was the might yet beam forth its splendour. ignis fatuus which lured us on. So A handmaiden, who despised stockwe mounted the omnibus, outside ings as much as her fellow the gartoo, the rain pelting upon us, the çon did waistcoat and coat, ushers mud scattering showers around. We us in, and points with a look of pride never saw anything like that mud-- to a narrow passage sort of room, in it was liquid, red, sticky, and yet which stood two immense masses of hard, striking one on the face like woodwork piled up with mattresses. pellets. On the road, it lay like a They looked like huge sofas which puddle river; in the plain, in little a lady of Brobdignag might have lakes and seas of mire. We were moved about or reclined on, but passing by the camp; in vain we quite beyond the need or locomotion tried to get a sight of it. As often as of lesser bulk or strength. It was a our driver pointed to some position, mystery to us for a long time, how the rain beat on our eyes, or a puff they could have been brought up the of wind endangered our hat. We staircase and into the door ; and we were conscious now and then of huge settled at last that they had been masses covered with canvass, arising built and fashioned in their places. before and beside us, and occasion. They were so high, too, that a Geofally of a group of tents lying betwixt frey Hudson could only have sought the bushes; but everything had a repose therein by means of a ladder; misty, miry form and shape. Now and a King John's man must have we are entering Mourmelon-le-Grand. had recourse to a leap or a scramble Its glories are sadly obscured by wet for the same purpose. When once and mire. The banners from the cafés we got over the dread of being hang heavily—the paint and gilding smothered, and became a little adroit look cold and dull--the soldiers have in the management of the mattresses, a bedraggled look as they slip along they were not bad sleeping-places. the streets; for the soldier, like the There was little space, however, left cock and other fine birds, requires in the room for sitting or for lavasunshine for his bravery, and is but tory operations. As a compensation a poor-looking creature when con- for this, there was a large mirror in

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a gilded frame. It was cracked and tainty as to the order of our bouilli starred, so that it did the work of a and rôti, and the rotation of fish dozen glasses, and showed the face and sweet. There were long, trying in several styles and proportions, pauses, too, caused by a propensity of giving one a good idea of the appear- the garçon to taste every bottle of ance of one's physiognomy under the wine in his pantry as he opened it. effect of enlargement or diminution; The naked heels of his colleague the gilt, too, was rathertarnished, and, were also a standing temptation, and like the Soleil d'Or, the mirror had many a time did a dish stray from only the dimness and haze of glory. its straight course, owing to the imThe window-difficult to shut and pulse he had to tickle them. Then more difficult to open, a daily trial there would be retaliation, and a tiny and exasperation to us--looked out damsel who occupied the tribune on a little open square, wherein stood would rush down from her stool to booths with sweet-stuffs and little avenge the handmaiden, and a host barrows of fruit. There was a guard- of shirt sleeves and slip-shod feet, house in front; and to the left rose which seemed to have a loose attachthe old church-tower with a large- ment to the establishment, would faced clock, the figures of which we issue forth to join the mêlee; and could trace even from the depths of thus our dinner would halt until the our down. Three loud raps on the garçon had finished his fun, or been table with the handle of a fork an- roused by some angry remonstrance. nounce the dinner-hour. The Soleil 'Twas a curious ménage that of the d'Or despised bell or gong; it had a Soleil d'Or. Yet how much better great contempt, too, for tablecloths they manage all these things in and napkins, and confessed reluc- France! How superior were these tantly to sheets and towels. Another men with their caps on at their peculiarity of the Soleil d'Or was a clothless table, struggling

for places, repudiation of superfluous raiment. making dashes at disbes, sopping up Our host took his place at the table- gravy with their bread, clashing d'hôte in his shirt, quite innocent of their glasses, and indulging freely in vest or surtout-but then he atoned one or two American fashions, to a for this, by always assuming on such burly English farmer over his beef occasions a fur cap like a Tartar’s. and beer, or a bagman over his The guests followed his example, and broiled mutton and port! The whole always sat down be-capped or be- thing, too, how much was it above an. hatted. They were all intensely bour- English country inn with its sanded geois – bagmen and yeomen done foor, coarse white sheets, eggs and in French, and not much improved bacon and stout! Ah, la belle France by the doing There was a great is the place for refinement in life and scramble for places, and we, from our

manners! gaucherie in the mêlee, rather than The assumption of national virfrom humility, had to take the low- tues has often more credit than the est seat. The potage was ladled out reality. The French have set up with great parade. It reminded us themselves as a standard people in strongly of a rich family broth said the courtesies and elegancies, in the to have been prepared by a house- refinements and delicacy of living. wife of our acquaintance for the hus- The world has taken them at their band of her love, by stirring a tallow word, and thereby has been imposed candle in a saucepan of boiling water. upon, we think, or rather has imThe Soleil d'Or, however, had ad- posed upon itself, as far, at least, az vanced on this idea, by adding pieces regards the French of to-day. Noof bread and litle strips of carrot and where that we have set our foot are cabbage. The other dishes were the life and manners and habits so well enough for those who had philo- selfish ; nowhere is there so little of sophic feelings with regard to grease, the courtesy which springs from heart cinders, and a general savour as of and feeling, so much of the external an old lamp. The courses, too, were show of bowing and phrasing. As rather eccentric in their succession, for eating, except a Caifre or a Bushand we were ever in pleasing uncer- man, we believe that no living being


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