Imatges de pÓgina

whisper might well have filled the chapel, but no doubt they are used to her, and in any case there seems to be nobody about except some workmen.

The garden of the Spurs Bernardines, enclosed on three sides by the low long buildings of the convent, is singularly charming. All sorts of old-fashioned flowers abound here-mignonette, sweet peas, moss roses, set round with neat borders of box, and there are also beds of thyme and rosemary. Outside the dormitories is a long hedge of camellias, which are in bloom, the sister says, from October until March. The original buildings, dating from about seventy years back, of which the chapel is still in use, were constructed entirely of thatch and have a very quaint appearance. It was in this little chapel that the Emperor Napoleon the Third and the Empress Eugénie came to pray for an heir, an event commemorated by a tablet on the wall. The thatched walls of the cells were not, however, considered sanitary, and the Seurs Bernardines are now properly lodged in less picturesque stone cells of very fair dimensions. In one room they are allowed to see their friends and relatives once a month, and apparently there is no time limit to this their only chance of conversation. In the refectory, a long low building, fresh and airy, with pink monthly roses peeping in at the windows, and a floor of deep sand, I am given a glimpse of the harsher side of the discipline. A narrow table runs down the middle of the room, with a little drawer containing the knife, fork, spoon, and cup of each sister opposite her seat on the wooden bench, but on Fridays the Bernardines have to receive their food kneeling on their knees on the sand. Meantime not one of these ladies is to be seen, and ma sour,' who feels herself responsible for my entertainment, is distinctly disappointed. As we pass through the gardens she peers cautiously behind the privet hedges and round the clumps of rhododendrons, very much like a child playing hide and seek, and admonishing me all the time in a loud whisper. "You must be very quiet here, mademoiselle; this is where the sisters often sit, and they do not like to be disturbed.' Then she suddenly seizes my arm and points down a side-alley. “Look, look, mademoiselle, quick. Ah ! you have missed it.' My basty, nervous glance--for I am rather prepared to see a wild animal—only shows me the vanishing figure of a young woman in a white monkish frock with a black cowl and a large straw hat. Ma scur'is dissatisfied, and she hurries me to a long row of greenhouses, where several Pénitentes are occupied in nailing up the vines. Où sont donc ces dames ? ' she demands a little fretfully, and we are told that, workmen being in the garden, 'ces dames' are all away working in the fields. This she obviously thinks is ridiculous when there is a visitor to be entertained, but discipline forbids her to say so, and she conducts me with a contemptuous sniff to the cemetery, to show me, as she explains, that in death they are all equal. In contrast to the garden the cemetery is certainly a depressing spot-rows and rows of plain mounds without even grass upon them, only adorned with a cross of cockle shells. A sign of pilgrimage, I suggest, but the sister shakes her head. 'I do not know; they are cheap, and in death we are all alike.' She repeats the latter phrase with virtuous self-satisfaction. Servantes de Marie, Bernardines, Pénitentes, it is all the same.' Looking round me I am inclined to doubt the accuracy of her statement. There are graves upon which the shells are distinctly larger than others, and at the head of these a bush is planted, sometimes even a plant of white marguerites. I shrewdly suspect that these superior graves belong to the Servantes de Marie, but I make no comment, for after all the best of us occasionally deceive ourselves.

As we walk back under the plane trees we meet the cows being driven up to the milking sheds. They are sleek, well-cared-for beasts, still shining with cleanliness from their morning tubs. The extremely aged appearance of the Pénitente in charge leads me in my ignorance to ask a question which proves to be particularly indiscreet. How long do they remain Pénitentes and under the protection of Notre-Dame de Refuge ? ' But always, mademoiselle,' is the reply, unless they take the vows of the Bernardines and become Silent Sisters.' 'But cannot they take your vows ? 'I ask, appalled at the thought of this only means of exit; 'cannot they become Servantes de Marie ?' Instantly 'ma soeur' draws herself up very stiffly, and the geniality dies out of her face. But certainly not, mademoiselle,' she says coldly; 'nobody with a slur upon them can join our Order; we are irreproachable.' Wondering if the Bernardines are merely a further development of the Pénitentes, and if this accounts for the slight accent of contempt and amusement, mingled, however, with some awe, with which my guide has referred to them, I enquire if they are all under a cloud. This suggestion gives even greater offence than my former one. 'Not at all, mademoiselle; the Order is open to the unfortunate, and there are many who take the vows; also to the Enfants Abandonnés. But there are others, and they are very aristocratic ladies.' She then goes on to tell me that only a few months ago a young girl of ancient family had joined the Order. She had led a blameless life, but there was a dark spot in her pedigree. She could not join us.' 'Ma soeur 'spreads out her hands with an expressive gesture. “We are irreproachable.' She pauses and taps herself upon the chest. 'I, I who speak to you, mademoiselle, je suis irréprochable.' A cold chill seems suddenly to fall upon the peace and contentment of the sunlit garden. I can think of no suitable response, and in a silence which surprises ‘ma soeur,' who has entirely recovered her geniality, I make my offering for the fête of the Ascension, and say a brief good-bye to an Order, which, in the name of Christianity, condemns its unfortunate sisters to perpetual servitude or silence.

In the villages on the lower slopes of the Pyrenees Ascension Day is kept very quietly. The churches are full, as is always the case in the Basque country ; there is a little dancing, and everybody seems to carry roses; but the merry-making is obviously of a sober kind. Nevertheless we are en fite, and the holiday atmosphere is more noticeable on the last day of the month, which is also a Sunday. Up the valley of the Nive the train potters along by the river, stopping at the many little villages to take up and set down parties of holiday-makers. The Nive is crossed at intervals by ancient stone bridges, some of which are supposed to date from the time of the Romans, but are of more recent interest as having borne the weight of Wellington's artillery. In the scattered villages, reached through long avenues of oak trees, where the British forces must have bivouacked, not a few of the white houses, with their heavy wooden cornices, bear the suggestive date of 1814. The Nive is also famous for its trout, and the train is full of fishermen who have come for a day's sport. At one little station a venerable priest, who has travelled from Bayonne to celebrate the last Mass of the month of May at the old church up on the hill, is met and greeted by the whole village. One of the anglers, looking rather like the White Knight in his waders, and hung round with nets, rods, and tackle, and all the impedimenta with which a Basque goes out to catch trout, climbs out of the train to have a chat with the priest. The postman also descends to cool his bottle of wine under the tap, for leisure is the most marked characteristic of this railway,' which is a single line. Each of these little stations appears to be the property of one family, and it is the prolonged interchange of greetings between our engine driver, the station master, his wife, mother, and innumerable offspring which is now delaying us. A small boy of four or five is seated upon a minute chair on the platform, grasping a red flag which it is his business to wave when a train approaches, presumably as a warning to his brethren and the chickens who play unconcernedly upon the rails. His hair is dressed in long ringlets, and his face is puckered with anxiety, for he feels that the responsibility of the traffic on the whole line to Bayonne rests upon his little shoulders. At length the train crawls slowly on through a beautiful but very narrow gorge, where is the famous Pas de Roland. This is a rock with a circular hole in it, said to have been made by the spear, or, as some say, the foot of the Paladin, in order that his army might pass through the gorge to join his uncle, Charlemagne, without scaling the rocks above or plunging into the torrent below. As we emerge into the cherry orchards of Biderray the clouds which have been gathering for some hours begin to come down in steady rain. Il est là !'had been the comment of the toothless old grandmother in charge of the little station amongst the hayfields where I had embarked in the early morning, and she had cast a gloomy eye at the sky and then upon

the half-cut meadow where her son-in-law was preparing to spend hiš fi te day. It is unfortunate that the last day of May, and that a holiday, should be a wet one. But so it is, and after all the blessing

invoked by the priests has been responded to, for the land is crying out for water, and the hay should have been carried by now. If it refers to the rain it is certainly there when we reach the end of the journey at St. Jean Pied de Port, the fortified town which guards the pass into Spain through the Col de Roncevaux. A dark curtain is drawn down over the mountains, and the observations of a visitor seem likely to be restricted within narrow limits. Of human interest however there is plenty, for the hotel on the place is crowded with . family parties from Bayonne, who have come out to spend the day, and it is with some difficulty that, returning a little late from the church, I can find a free table for déjeuner.

A small, shrill, and familiar voice greets me as I enter. It is unexpected to meet Marthe Etcheverry so far from St. Jean de Luz, but from the subsequent conversation I gather that she has been spending the fête of the Ascension with her grandparents at Bayonne. To-day she is with her parents and her brother, who is about a year older than herself, and she is talking in intelligible French as becomes a fête day, her best clothes, and the assembled company. She is vexed because the bonne has been washing her face and hands at table, an indecorous proceeding, and she is now patting down her short full skirts and demanding a glass of white Bordeaux from her father's bottle as the best means of restoring her self-respect. Her request is refused, for her parents are evidently enlightened people, and, as the little voice persists they reason with her, the father at great length and with extreme gentleness, the mother more shortly and with some asperity. But Marthe is quite undeterred. She is now launched upon a thrilling tale of some unforgotten Pentecôte (she is not yet six) when she was taken by her grandparents to see the fandango danced at Fuenterrabia, and how she had a glass of real red wine-' mais rouge, papa.' The tale waxes in interest and unveracity as it proceeds, and the heroine turns to smile affably at the applause with which it is greeted by one of the fishermen who has travelled with me in the morning, and who is probably a bachelor. Marthe's father spreads out his hands and shrugs his shoulders in mock despair. ' Cet enfant ment tellement,' he complains with ill-concealed pride ; ‘son frère jamais !' The brother indeed, with his sweet placid Basque face, who has been listening to his sister's narrative with an occasional appreciative snigger, is evidently at a safe distance from any incriminating effort at imagination. But at this juncture Madame Etcheverry interposes with some effect, and Marthe's attention is temporarily concentrated upon the excellent dish of trout which has appeared a little indiscriminately between the sausage and the entrecôte. A fresh diversion is soon caused, however, by a large white dog decorated with brown spots, belonging to the fisherman, and who is only too pleased to fall in with Marthe's desire to share with him her déjeuner. His owner explains that the amiable creature is called Mocha, because he was

VOL, LXIV-No. 378

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intended to be entirely brown, a joke which is thoroughly appreciated by the assembled company, and Marthe clasps her minute hands in ecstasy, as Mocha thrusts his nose upon the lap of a well-behaved little girl at a neighbouring table who is strictly forbidden to feed him. Meantime the rain, which has come down pitilessly since the morning, shows signs of relenting, and it is a relief to escape from the heated atmosphere of the salle à manger into the freshness of the rain-washed Place, with its dripping plane trees.

Quaint houses overhang the river where it falls in a cascade below the bridge, and further up are visible the flying buttresses which constitute the only picturesque feature of the plain, solid little church. But the clouds have only temporarily lifted, and there is barely time to walk round the fifteenth-century ramparts before the rain comes down again, and a retreat under the archway of the clock tower beside the church seems advisable. Here an aged crone, her head tied up in a black handkerchief, is established with a basket of cherries, and, in spite of the weather, she is doing a good business with the little boys of the town. A group of three remain in affectionate proximity to her basket. The two elder, for want of a better receptacle for their cherries, have taken the smallest boy's cap, and this not being sufficient, they have further filled his trousers pockets. The urchin remains unmoved by these arrangements, but when it comes to a subdivision of the spoil he proves quite competent to hold his own. His cap he surrenders, conscious that superior force will prevail, but the contents of his pockets he has mutely decided are to be his own, and oddly enough he imposes this opinion upon his elders with the slightest possible show of resistance. He is a true Basque, as stolid and immovable as the plain, square-set church behind him, and he jemains under the shelter of the arch munching his cherries in total silence long after his brothers have retired, vanquished, from the field. Every now and then he rubs a fat, sunburnt hand across his chest, presumably to assist the passage of his cherry stones, for I cannot see that they reappear in orthodox fashion. He takes his pleasures quietly, and indeed quietness seems to be the note of St. Jean Pied de Port on this particular fête day. An old man passes under the archway and pauses in front of the open church door to cross himself and bow devoutly to the darkness of the interior. A group of little girls are waiting on the steps under umbrellas, but even they are subdued.

Suddenly round the corner comes Marthe, a very self-important Marthe, who has escaped from the tyranny of her mother, nurse, and brother, and has induced a long-suffering father to bring her out fishing with Mocha and his master. She is enveloped in a blue cape, with a hood drawn tightly round her face, and her sharp little eyes are dancing with excitement. She is having a glorious time, and assuredly the Spanish children are never taken out fishing. She pauses for a moment, fascinated by the cherries, but the angler's

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