( Originally Published 1911 )
HOTEL DE FRANCE, BLOIS, September 11th.
THIS has been a golden day of pure delight, with a brilliant sunshine from early morn to dewy eve, and a cool, refreshing air, an altogether ideal day for our prolonged visitations among the châteaux around Blois ! Lydia and I went to the little Protestant church with Miss Cassandra this morning, as a salve to our consciences, Archie says, in view of the giddy round of pleasure that we had planned for the afternoon. He and Walter tried to beguile Lydia from our side, to spend the morning in roaming about Blois with them; but she is a loyal little soul and resisted all their blandishments with sweet steadfastness, saying that after following the Huguenots through all the miseries that were heaped upon them, the least that we can do is to honor their memories in their chapel here at Blois.
Archie says that we are quite right and that this sentiment is praiseworthy; but that as he and Walter were unable to honor these heroic souls in their own language, to attend such a service would be a mockery.
"Yes," Walter added, "it would seem like a bit of play-acting to sit there in church, like two whited sepulchres, trying to look as if we understood when we should not know six words of what was being said."
Miss Cassandra, being accustomed to religious service where not a word is spoken in any language, naturally does not think much of these arguments; but having a strong liking for my two men she is quite willing to excuse them from accompanying us to the chapel. Nor do I wonder that they are glad to have a fine morning in which to roam about this interesting old town together, and to give zest and point to their rambles, M. La Tour has told them of an ancient coin associated with the history of Blois. This coin is said to be the oldest document in existence on, or in, which the name of Blois is inscribed, it also bears' the name of the officer of the mint at Blois at the time of its issue, far back in history. Of course Walter and Archie are very anxious to see this ancient coin, and M. La Tour has given them a letter of introduction to the man who has charge of it, which he assured them would admit them to a view of it Sundays or holidays, or any time in the day or night.
We enjoyed the service in the little church, where we heard a really eloquent discourse from an old pasteur with the most beautiful, benevolent face that you can imagine. We are quite sure that this handsome, venerable clergy-man comes from a long line, of heroic Huguenot ancestors, and Miss Cassandra says that she did not mind so much not understanding what he said, as she was quite sure that it was all to edification, which she evidently does not always feel with regard to the long tales that the guides spin off for us, and in truth Lydia and I have tripped them up more than twice in their history. We returned to the hotel quite enthusiastic about the chapel and its pastor, and Miss Cassandra is already planning some benevolent scheme to help the evidently struggling congregation. If her means were equal to her charitable intent, what would she not do for the benefit of mankind in all quarters of the globe? Walter and Archie were so impressed by her description of "the venerable descendant of a long line of massacred Huguenots" that they have made substantial acknowledgments to be sent by Lydia and myself to the patrons of the little chapel.
The idea of visiting three châteaux in one afternoon was rather appalling at first; but the afternoon was long, beginning soon after our twelve o'clock déjeuner, and the roads are fine for motoring in this level country. Our way lay for some miles by Loire, first on one bank and then on the other. This flat country, with its wide reaches of meadow land and distant horizon lines, has a charm of its own, its restfulness suits the drowsy autumn days, and no trees could be better fitted to border these roadsides and river banks than the tall slim Lombardy poplars, with their odd bunches of foliage atop like the plumes and pompons on soldiers' caps. Down by some of the streams large white poplars have spread out their branches, making coverts from the sunshine for man and beast. On these poplars we noticed what looked like huge green nests. "Are they crows' nests?" we asked, as there seem to be no end of crows all about here.
"No, not for the corbeaux," said the chauffeur, shaking his head and looking fairly puzzled, as he explained with some elaboration that this was a parasitic plant which drew its nourishment from various trees, and that later in the season white, waxlike berries would appear upon it.
"It is the mistletoe!" exclaimed Lydia, joyously, as if meeting an old friend in a strange land, and as she was, as usual, conducting the general information course, she asked the chauffeur if it was not used for decoration at Christmas and the New Year, being hung where lovers were likely to pass, a custom derived from the rites of the ancient Druids. The chauffeur was evidently unacquainted with the ways of the Druids, his studies in folk lore not having been extensive; but the bit about the lovers he understood, and in that curious way, that has so often surprised us, perhaps by a certain mental telepathy, he suddenly understood, slapped his hand upon his knee, and exclaimed, "Yes, yes, Mademoiselle, it is the same thing, le mis-le-toe, le gui."
So it is le gui, that we see on so many trees, and this man, evidently of the soil, as he knows all about the products here, tells us that it grows upon pear, apple and other trees and is cut off and sent in great quantities to the large towns for holiday celebrations.
From the level landscape with low-lying meadows and fields of turnips in which men and women were at work, we suddenly saw the great round towers of Chaumont rising from among the trees of a well-wooded ridge. Like Langeais, Chaumont is a strong fortress of the middle ages, dark and lowering at a first view, but with much beauty in its hillside park and gardens. We crossed a creaking, swaying suspension bridge, one is always crossing bridges here, as the Loire winds itself around these châteaux as if it delighted to encircle them in its shining arms.
The best view of the château is from this bridge, which connects the villages of Chaumont and Onzain. From this coign of vantage it rises before us, crowning the hill-crest with its many towers and dominating the little village at its feet and the broad river. The Loire is twice as wide here as at Blois, its surface broken up by many sand bars and stretches of pebbly beach, such brilliantly colored pebbles as we used to see in Northern Italy, when the rivers were low as these are here today. Much the same view is this as John Evelyn's first sight of Chaumont, on a May day long ago : "We took boate," wrote Evelyn, "passing by Chaumont, a proud castle on the left hand; before it a small island deliciously shaded with tall trees." As we motored through the village street, whose houses run parallel with the river, we noticed that the town seemed to be en fête. The outside of the little church was decorated with banners, lanterns and flowers, while within it was so filled to overflowing with villagers, and small maidens in white frocks and pink and blue sashes, that we could scarcely get our noses within the doorway. The village was celebrating some church festival, the chauffeur told us; but we stupidly forget which saint was being honored, perhaps because the remainder of the afternoon was spent among those who had small claim to saint-hood, and then as Miss Cassandra says, "There are so many of these saints, how can we ever keep track of them all?"
"And it is so much easier to remember the sinners," Walter adds, "because there is always something doing among them."
Leaving the auto in the village, we climbed up to the castle by a steep and narrow path and entered the great doorway where the moat and drawbridge between the huge round towers again reminded us of Langeais. Over this entrance are the graven initials of Louis and Anne of Brittany, the arms of George of Amboise with his cardinal's hat, and the double C's of Charles of Chaumont and his wife, Catherine of Chauvigny. Here also are some scattered D's which stand for Diane of Poitiers, who consented to accept this château when Catherine offered her a Hobson's choice of Chaumont or nothing. We were especially interested in a rich frieze in which were inter-twined the double C's and the odd device of the burning mountain, "Chaud-mont," from which, it is said, the name of the château was derived. As Chaumont is still inhabited, we were not shown the whole of the castle, but fortunately for us the suite of historic rooms was on view. Here again we came upon associations with the dreadful Catherine, whose bedroom and furniture are shown to visitors. Whether or not these articles are genuine, and grave doubts are thrown upon their authenticity, they are very handsome and of the proper period. The tapestries in these rooms are all old and charming in color, of old rose and pink. A description which I came across in a delightful book by Mr. Theodore A. Cook, which M. La Tour brought us from his mother's library, gives a better idea of this tapestry than any words of mine: "Beside the door a blinded Love with rose-red wings and quiver walks on the flushing paths, surrounded by strange scrolls and mutilated fragments of old verses; upon the wall in front are ladies with their squires attending, clad all in pink and playing mandolins, while by the stream that courses through the flowery meadows small rosy children feed the water birds, that seem to blush with pleasure beneath the willow boughs of faded red."
Next to the so-called room of Catherine de Médicis is the chamber attributed to Ruggieri, the chosen aide and abettor of her schemes, which apartment very properly communicates with a private stairway leading to the platform of the tower which is said to have been used by him as an observatory. Whether or not Catherine ever inhabited these rooms, and we know that she never lived for any length of time at Chaumont, I must confess that seeing them thus conveniently placed for plotting and adventure, they impressed us even more than her secret stairways and poison cupboards at Blois. This may have been because these rooms are small and dark and dreary, Ruggieri's being in one of the corner towers, with small windows cut in the wall, which is over two metres in thickness. From whatever reason, these apartments are the most weird and ghostly that we have seen, fitted up as they are with many memorials of Catherine, and two portraits of her, one in a rich costume, an extinguisher gown with pink underskirt and wide full sleeves bordered with a band of fur, each one as large as an ordinary muff. There is also a portrait of Ruggieri here, whose dark, sinister face adds much to the grewsomeness of the room, and standing here we could readily imagine the scene, described by a chronicler of the time, when the Queen sought Ruggieri here among his philters, minerals, foreign instruments, parchments and maps of the heavens, to consult him about the future of her offspring. This was soon after the death of Henry II, when the young King's health had begun to break down. When the Queen desired to be shown the horoscopes of her children, by some skillful arrangement of mirrors the astrologer made her four sons to pass before her, each in turn wearing crowns for a brief period; but all dying young and without heirs, each figure was to turn around as many times as the number of years he was to live. Poor Francis appeared, wan and sickly, and before he had made an en-tire circle he passed out of sight, from which the Queen knew that the young King would die before the year was out, which, as we know, came true, as did some of the other prognostications. What must have filled to the brim the cup of misery which this ambitious, disappointed woman had held to her lips, was to see the rival of her sons, the bitterly hated Henry of Navarre, following their shadows upon the mirror and making over twenty turns, which meant that he would reign in France for twenty years, or more. By whatever means the astrologer accomplished these predictions, the remarkable thing about them is that the account of this interview at Chaumont was written during the reign of Henry III, before some of them had been fulfilled. Catherine, firmly believing in Ruggieri's prognostications, left the château a sadder if not a wiser woman.
The rooms of Catherine communicate directly with the chapel, where there is a most realistic picture of The Last Judgment, and her book of the hours lies open on her prie dieu as if she had just finished her devotions. For good and sufficient reasons, we do not think of this Queen at prayer as readily as we figure her taking part in affairs of state, plotting for the destruction of her enemies and trying to hoodwink the Huguenots and Leaguers in turn.
"And yet," as Walter reminds us, "Catherine was extremely devout, with all her deviltry." You may remember a portrait of her in fine enamel at the Louvre, which represents Catherine kneeling before an altar, her hands devoutly clasped, and as if to give point to the time-honored adage "handsome is that handsome does," the Queen's face, in this enamel, possesses some claim to good looks.
M. La Tour has been telling us of some old papers, recently brought to light, which prove that Catherine, during the babyhood of her children, was an anxious and watchful mother. She seems to have written careful and minute directions regarding the food and clothing of her little ones, in one instance directing that her son Henry should not be encouraged to eat largely, adding, like any wise mother of to-day, "I am of opinion that my children are rather ill from being too fat than too thin." The evidence of this opinion is borne out by Clouet's drawings of the chubby face of Henry and the fat, heavy cheeks of Francis II, both in their babyhood. It was little Francis, an unassertive prince in after years, who at the age of two insisted upon discarding his petticoats, upon which the King, when consulted upon this important question, wrote to the governor of the royal nursery, "It is right indeed that my son should wear breeches if he asks for them; for I do not doubt that he knows perfectly well what is needful."
These intimate details of the youth of the royal children, trifling as they are, add a human interest to the figures of Henry II and Catherine, whom we only think of as sweeping through these châteaux in form and state, and raise a question as to whether, after all, this cruel Queen had not a heart somewhere tucked away under her jewelled bodice.
Chaumont has many associations earlier than the days of Catherine, reaching back to Charles of Amboise, who built much of the château, and to his father Georges, one of the chief ministers of Louis XII. It is said that Georges of Amboise used his tact and influence to gain the papal bull necessary for the King's divorce from Jeanne of France, which was brought to Chinon by Caesar Borgia, with great state and ceremony. It was this same papal envoy who brought Georges d'Amboise his cardinal's hat. Unscrupulous as he may have been in some instances, Cardinal d'Amboise seems to have been, in the main, a wise and judicious minister and helped Louis to institute many important reforms.
The romance of Chaumont is its association with the knightly figure of Henri Coiffier de Ruzé, Marquis de Cinq Mars. The opening scene of De Vigny's novel rises before us, as we pass through the rooms of Chaumont. The young Marquis was about to set forth upon his ill-fated journey into the great world, and the members of his family were gathered together for a solemn, farewell meal. De Vigny represents the poor youth neglecting his dinner, and even indifferent to his mother's sorrow over his departure in his desire to meet the beautiful eyes of Marie de Gonzague, who was seated at the other end of the table, from whom he was soon to part forever. It was by a lattice window in the rez-de-chaussée of the western tower that Cinq-Mars found Marie waiting for him, when he retraced his steps and came back at midnight for a last word with her. We looked in vain for the window by which the lovers swore eternal fidelity to their love and to each other; but the château has doubtless undergone some changes since those early days, although it looks so ancient. Lydia and I were wishing for a copy of Cinq-Mars in order to follow the young Marquis through his sad and singular experience at Loudun, his meeting with his old friend De Thou, his brilliant exploit at Perpignan, his rapid preferment at court, and just here Walter called us from our rapid review of the career of Cinq-Mars to show us a head of Benjamin Franklin in terra cotta. This excellent low relief of Franklin is in a case with a number of other medallions, made by an Italian, Nini, whom the owner of Chaumont brought here in the hope of turning to account some clay found on the estate. This admirable medallion excited the two antiquarians of the party more than anything we have seen here, even more than the weird sky parlor of Ruggieri. Walter is wondering whether this is not the medallion about which Dr. Franklin wrote to his daughter soon after his arrival at Passy, as the first of its kind made in France. This idea seems more probable, in view of the fact that the same M. Le Ray, who owned Chaumont at that time, was Franklin's host at Passy for nine years. All of which, as Walter says, makes it more than likely that the old philosopher came to Chaumont to have his portrait modelled by Nini, especially as his relations with the master of Chaumont were of the most friendly nature. The old potteries in which the Italian artist worked have long since been turned into stables and a riding school.
Another familiar and even more recent figure associated with Chaumont is Madame de Staël, who took refuge here, while reading the proofs of her work upon Germany, Chaumont being the requisite forty leagues from Paris. M. Le Ray and his family, with whom Madame de Staël was upon the most intimate terms, were in America at this time. Here in the old château the De Staëls lived for some time, the authoress working in peace and quietness upon her great work. When M. Le Ray and his family returned to Chaumont, although hospitably invited to remain at the château, Madame de Staël insisted upon removing with her family to a villa in the neighborhood, which was placed at her disposal by M. de Salaberry. At this place, called Fossé, Madame de Staël welcomed Madame Récamier and other friends, and with the charming French trait of making the most of the joys of the hour, she wrote with enthusiasm of the happy days that she passed near her friends at Chaumont. Even if the old Vendean soldier, the châtelain of Fossé, took little care of his estate, she said that his constant kindness made everything easy and his original turn of mind made everything amusing. "No sooner had we arrived," wrote Madame de Staël, "than an Italian musician whom I had with me, to give lessons to my daughter, began to play the guitar. My daughter accompanied on the harp the sweet voice of my fair friend, Madame Récamier; the peasants assembled below the windows astonished to find this colony of troubadours who came to enliven the solitude of their master. It was there that I passed my last days in France, with a few friends whose memories are cherished in my heart. Surely this reunion so intimate, this solitary sojourn, this delightful dalliance with the fine arts could hurt no one."
Charming, innocent, pastoral seems this life, as Madame de Staël described it, and yet even such simple pleasures as these she was not allowed to enjoy, for during a brief visit to the home of M. de Montmorency, an attempt was made to seize her manuscripts, which her children had fortunately put in a place of safety; her book was suppressed and she was ordered to leave France within three days.
When Madame de Staël asked why she was treated with such harshness by the government and why her book was censured, the answer given under the signature of the ministry plainly stated that the head and front of her offending consisted in her not having mentioned the Emperor in her last work. It is difficult to believe that a man who could do such great things as Napoleon could be so small as to follow this brilliant woman with bitter, relentless hatred, because she failed to burn incense at his shrine.
Although we were not given the freedom of the grounds, we were shown the beautiful court of honor with its one fine tree, a cedar of Lebanon which spreads its branches quite close to the chapel walls. There is an old Italian well in this court, with low reliefs carved upon its sides, and graceful ornaments of wrought iron above the sweep. We pictured to ourselves the Marquis de Cinq Mars and Marie de Gonzague meeting in this court, under the friendly branches of the great cedar, and so with a tender thought for these hapless old-time lovers, we turned away from Chaumont. Still musing and dreaming over its numerous and varied associations, we motored along toward Cheverny. This was an afternoon in which to dream,—the air was full of a delicious drowsy autumnal warmth, and a soft haze hung over the Loire and its tributaries. Involuntarily our thoughts turn back to the time when the kings and nobles of France made their stately progress along these same roads, many of them Roman roads, for the great road-builders were all over this country as in England. Upon these highways over which we speed along in an auto', great lumbering stage coaches once made their way, and in the fields, as to-day, were the toilers, the husband and wife, as in the Angelus of Millet. For an instant they would look up from their work to see what all the racket was about, and take a momentary interest in the gilded coaches, the gay outriders, the richly caparisoned horses, and all the pomp and circumstance of royalty. If near the highway, they would catch a fleeting glimpse of the beautiful face of some royal or noble dame, and seeing only the rich brocade of her gown, the jewels upon her breast and the gay feathers and flowers in her hat, they would turn back to their toil with a half-formulated wonder why life was a holiday to these favored ones and only bitter toil and hardship to nous autres. Thomas Jefferson's proposition, that all men are created free and equal, would have shocked these simple souls as it would their lords and masters, and yet a seed of thought was slumbering in their slow minds, germinating for a future awakening, a small seed that was destined to become a thousand in the sad and terrible reprisals of the French Revolution. To these starved peasants luxury stood for happiness, never themselves knowing the satisfaction of a full comfortable meal, it would have been impossible to make them believe that this outward show and splendor did not mean that these men and women, who rolled along in coaches and fed sumptuously every day, were the supremely blessed of the earth. And yet along these roads passed the coaches of the heavy hearted as well as of the gay. By much the same way that we are going journeyed the unhappy Princess Joanne when her husband, Louis XII, was minded to put her away to give place to a more ambitious marriage. Another royal lady to whom a crown brought naught but sorrow and disappointment was the gentle Louise de Vandemont-Lorraine, wife of Henry III, who fared this way to the home of her widowhood at Chenonceaux, and by much the same route passed Marie de Médicis when she fled from Blois and found refuge and aid at Loches.
As Cheverny and Chaumont are not far apart, we were aroused from our reflections by a sudden stop at a little smithy near the gates of the park. A most charming little smithy is this, with a niched saint on the outside, vines clambering all over the wall, and a picturesque outside staircase with a little balcony above. The blacksmith, himself, as he stood framed in by the doorway, made a picture that we thought well worth taking. Unfortunately the saint in the niche could not come in, as it was some distance from the door, but just at the right moment Lydia, quite unconsciously, stepped before the lens, and near the stone stairway which she had been examining.
"Far better than a saint!" said Archie under his breath, and then aloud, "Keep still, Miss Mott, the blacksmith will stay, I am sure, as he looks as if he had been built into that door."
I think we shall be able to send you a photo-graph of our little smithy, and perhaps one of the church across the road, which is quaint and interesting, with its timbered verandas (one cannot, by any stretch of courtesy, call them cloisters) and something like a lych-gate at the entrance. Within are some marbles and memorial tablets of the Hurault family. It seems that the Huraults owned the Seignory of Cheverny as long ago as the fourteenth century, "before we Americans were discovered," as Miss Cassandra says. Early in the sixteenth century, one Raoul Hurault built a château here, of which little or nothing is left. The present château was built by a later Hurault, in 1634, and, after passing through several hands, it was bought, in 1825, by the Marchioness Hurault de Vibraye, and being thus re-turned to the family of the original owners, is still in their possession. A wonderful tale was this for American ears!
Cheverny, with its well wooded park, and its avenue six kilometres in length, is a noble domain; but the outside of the château, although its architecture has been highly praised, did not impress us particularly. This may be because the mansion is situated on a level sweep of lawn, laid out after the English style, instead of crowning a great bluff like Blois, Amboise and Chaumont. The interior of Cheverny leaves nothing to be desired. It is elegant, aristocratic, and yet most delight-fully homelike, with its spacious hall, richly decorated royal bedroom, and salon as livable as an English drawing room, with books, magazines and writing materials scattered over the centre table. On the panelled walls are gathered together a goodly and graceful company of noble lords and beautiful ladies, among them a fine full-length portrait of Philippe Hurault, Count de Cheverny, Chancellor of Finance under Henry IV, and opposite him his beautiful and stately wife, Anne de Thou, Dame de Cheverny, in a gown of black velvet garnished with rich lace. This noble lady was related, in some way, to the gallant young De Thou who perished on the scaffold with his friend Cinq Mars. Over the chimney-place is a charming portrait by Mignard of the daughter, or daughter-in-law, of Anne de Thou, Marie Johanne de Saumery, Marquise de. Montglat, Countess de Cheverny. The subject of this lovely portrait bears with distinction her long array of cumbersome titles, while the airy grace of the figure and the innocent sweetness of the rounded girlish face are irresistibly attractive. Above the chimney-place, in which this portrait is set in the white wainscot, is the monogram (11V) which one finds all over the château, a proof that this ancient family is légitimiste to the core, and devoutly loyal to whatever is left of the ancient line of the Bourbons. In the salle à manger, the monogram of the last Henry of this royal house is especially conspicuous. We were puzzling over the name of the pretender of to-day when the guide informed our ignorance, with a most superior manner of knowing it all and wondering that we did not know it also. From what he gave forth in rapid French with many gestures, we gathered that on the death of the Comte de Paris his eldest son, Philippe Robert, Duc d'Orléans, became heir to the house of Bourbon, founded in 886 by Robert le Fort, with the title Philippe VII. The Duc de Bourdeaux, always known as the Comte de Chambord after he became owner of the château of the same name, was heir to the throne, through the elder branch of the house, that is, as the grandson and eldest descendant of Charles X, the last of the elder branch that reigned in France. Some little time before his death, the Comte de Cham-bord was reconciled to the younger or Orleans branch, which had usurped the throne after the expulsion of Charles X. By this act the Comte de Paris was recognized as the legitimate successor to the throne. The present Duke of Orleans, should the monarchy be restored, would rule as Philippe VII. The Comte de Chambord took the title Henri V, as the next Henri after the king of Navarre, Henri IV. The Comte de Chambord bequeathed the Château of Chambord, which was his personal property, to his kinsman, the Duke de Parme, who was a Bourbon of the Spanish line, being the descendant of the grandson of Louis XIV, who was elected to the Spanish throne in 1700. From the pride with which this information was communicated we realized that this very superior gardien was, like the noble master and mistress of Cheverny, legitimist to the ends of his fingers.
While listening to this genealogical disquisition our eyes turned to a most attractive looking tea table which was set forth with superb silver, and thin slices of bread and butter and cake. With appetites sharpened by our long ride through the fresh air, I fear that we all gazed longingly at that tempting regale, and for Miss Cassandra, Lydia and I positively trembled. Wither strong feeling that the world was made for herself and those, whom she loves, it would not have surprised us to see the good lady sit down at this hospitable looking table and invite the rest of the party to join her. Lydia adroitly led the conversation toward Chambord and the afternoon tea which our chauffeur had promised us there, adding, grace-fully, "It is very kind of the Marquise to allow us to go through her beautiful château while the family is in residence." "Yes," assented Miss Cassandra, "but how much more hospitable if she would invite us to drink tea with her!" After admiring the beautifully decorated ceiling and the handsome leather hangings, we left the dining room and its temptations for what was a much greater attraction to the men of the party, the fine suits of armor in the Salle des Gardes.
Although Cheverny cherishes its Bourbon traditions, like the proverbially happy nation and happy woman it has no history to speak of, having even escaped the rigors of the French Revolution. In the past, as to-day, this château seems to have been a homelike and peaceful abode, its long façade and pavilions having looked down through many centuries upon a smiling garden and a vast lawn, which shut it in from the world beyond even more effectually than its great gates.
From Cheverny our way lay across a stretch of open, level country and then through the forest of Chambord, which includes 11,000 acres of woodland. By the time we reached the château, we were, as Miss Cassandra expresses it in classic phrase, "faint yet pursuing" for lack of the refreshment to which we were not made welcome at Cheverny. Our chauffeur, being accustomed to famished pilgrims, conducted us at once to a garden café quite near the chàteau, from whence we could study its long façade while enjoying our tea and pâtisserie. And what a huge monument is this chàteau of Chambord to the effete monarchy of France, built up from the life-blood and toil of thousands ! It impressed us as more brutally rich and splendid than any of the palaces that we had seen, rising as it does in its great bulk so unexpectedly from the dead level of the sandy plain, with no especial reason for its existence except the will of a powerful sovereign. It is not strange that the salamander of Francis I appears upon so many of the châteaux of France, for to this art-loving, luxurious, and débonnaire King she owes Chambord, Fontainebleau, St. Germain and the smaller châteaux of Azay-le-Rideau, Anet and Villers-Cotterets. Although Francis I brought from Italy, to beautify his palaces, Leonardo Da Vinci, Primaticcio, Benvenuto Cellini, Florentin Rosso and other foreign artists, it has been decided by those who know more about the matter than we do, that Chambord owes more to its first architect, Maître Pierre le Nepvue, dit Trinqueau, than to anyone else. It seemed to us that this master hand was happier in the construction of Chenonceaux, Blois and some of the other châteaux of France, than here at Chambord, but this is a matter of individual taste. Vast, palatial, magnificent Chambord certainly is, and much more attractive on the north façade, where the château is reflected in the waters of the Cosson, than from the café where we were seated. The long line of buildings in the south front is somewhat monotonous, even broken as it is by the several towers, and the great central lantern, which appears to the best advantage from this side. Rich as is all the ornamentation of Chambord, it is skyward that it breaks forth into the greatest exuberance of Renaissance decoration. We reached the central lantern, with the single fleur-de-lis atop, by one of the remarkable staircases for which the palaces of Francis I are so famous. This staircase, which is formed by two spirals starting from different points, and winding about the same. hollow shaft in the centre, is so constructed that persons can go up and down without meeting. Mr. Henry James considered this double staircase "a truly majestic joke," but in days when courts lived and moved and had their being in intrigues, schemes and plots, it doubtless had its uses.
Mademoiselle de Montpensier gives in her diary an amusing account of her first acquaintance with this double stairway. She came, when a child, to Chambord to visit her father, Gaston, Duke of Orleans, who stood at the top of the stairs to receive her, and called to her to come to him. As she flew up one flight her agile parent ran down the other; upon which the little girl gave chase, only to find that when she had gained the bottom he was at the top. "Monsieur," she said, "laughed heartily to see me run so fast in the hope of catching him, and I was glad to see Monsieur so well amused."
Having reached the central lantern we found ourselves upon a flat roof, surrounded by a perfectly bewildering maze of peaks, pinnacles, lanterns, chimneys and spires, which constitute what our guide is pleased to call the ensemble de la toiture. This vast terrace, which covers the main building of the palace, is one of the architectural marvels of France. Here it seems as if the architect had allowed himself unlimited freedom in decoration, in which he was aided by such artists as Jean Goujon and Cousin, who zealously worked upon the ornamentation of these bell turrets, balconies and towers, as if to prove the sincerity and beauty of French art. This luxuriant flowing forth, in stone carving, of foliage, flower, boss and emblem, has resulted in an ensemble of indescribable charm, the dazzling light stone of Bourré, of which the château is built, lending itself harmoniously to the elaborate Renaissance decoration.
It was of Jean Goujon, whose exquisite work we see now and again in these châteaux, that some writer has said, that the muse of Ronsard whispered in the ear of the French sculptor, and thus Goujon's masterpieces were poems of Ronsard translated in marble. It is a rather pretty fancy, but Lydia and I cannot remember its author. Walter says that he can under-stand why the Counts of Blois built their castle here, as this place seems to have formed part of a system of fortresses which guarded the Loire, making it possible, in the time of Charles VII, for Joan of Are to move her army up the river to Orleans ; but why Francis should have transformed this old castle into a palace is not so easy to understand. When so many more attractive sites were to be found, it seems strange that he should have chosen this sandy flat upon the border of what was then the sad and barren Solange. One reason given is that the country about Chambord was rich in game, and we know that Francis was an inveterate hunter; another theory is that a charming woman, the Comtesse de Thoury, one of the early loves of the King, had a manor in the neighborhood.
"Both excellent reasons!" exclaimed Archie, "Dame Quickly is evidently an apt student of human nature."
These various surmises and bits of information were poured into our ears by the guide, a plump and merry soul, whom Archie at once dubbed Dame Quickly. As she conducted us from room to room, she turned to me and, with a flash of her black eyes, exclaimed, "If these walls could speak, what tales they could tell!" adding that, for her part, she believed that the King came here for the hunting, the Comtesse de Thoury having been a love of his youth, and, with a knowing shake of her head, "You know, Mesdames, how short is the memory of man for an early love, especially a king's memory, when another is always to be found to take the vacant place." When we explained this philosophic reflection upon their sex to the men of the party, they declared that an unfair advantage was being taken by this facetious dame, simply because they were not able to answer back and vindicate the eternal fidelity of man. Then, as if divining what was being said, through her quick woman's instinct, she drew us toward a window in the study of Francis I and showed us these lines scratched upon one of the panes:
Souvent femme varie;
Some discredit is thrown upon the authenticity of these lines, and if Francis wrote them in his old age, his point of view must have greatly changed since his earlier days, when he so gaily and gallantly said that a court without ladies was a year without spring and a spring without roses. Francis spent much of his time in his later years at Chambord, his chief solace being the companionship of his lovely sister, Marguerite, Queen of Navarre, the author of the Heptameron, whose beauty and intellect were the inspiration of many French poets.
One of the pleasing sides of the character of the King was his devoted affection for this sister, with whom he had spent a happy youth at Amboise, and she, loving him beyond any other being, wrote verses to express her grief when they were separated. A varied, many-sided, personality was Francis I, and with all his faults possessed of a charm of his own, and a taste in the fine arts that added much to the beauty of his kingdom. Something of this we said to Dame Quickly, who replied, with another wise shake of her head, "The history of Francis is a wonderful history, Mesdames, made up of many things. There is always state policy, and religion, et un peu les femmes," the knowing look and shrug with which this bit of wisdom was communicated is simply untranslatable.
Only a few of the 365 rooms of Cham-bord are furnished; we were shown the bed-room of the late Comte de Chambord, a ghostly apartment, it seemed to us in the fading day-light, the bed hung with elaborate tapestries, the work of the loyal hands of the ladies of Poitou. Miss Cassandra asked the guide if she would not be afraid to sleep in this dismal chamber. "No," she answered, "there are no revenants here, the great people who lived here do not walk, they had such an active life with their hunting and fêtes that they are content to rest quietly in their beds."
We passed through the council chamber of the château, where there are more tapestries, these presented by the loyal inhabitants of Blois and the Limousin districts, and here also is a quite useless throne donated by some devoted legitimists. In the chapel, we were shown some tapestry worked by Madame Royale, during her imprisonment in the Temple, that daughter of Marie Antoinette who alone survived her unfortunate family and as Duchesse d'Angoulême lived to quite an advanced age.
The fast-fading daylight made it impossible to see many of the portraits in the great reception room; among them we noticed two portraits of Anne of Austria, and a Van Loo of the beautiful unloved Queen of Louis XV, Marie Leczinska. In this picture she appears so graceful and charming that one wonders how the King could have been insensible to her attractions; but one need never be surprised at the vagaries of royalty, and it is not to be expected that diplomatic alliances should be happy.
What interested the men of the party especially, was the little light wagon in which, we were told, the owner of Chambord, the Due de Parme, went a hunting with that good legitimist, the Master of Cheverny.
I am glad," said Walter, "that the noble Duke has a neighbor of the same stripe to go a hunting with him, the grandeur of this great palace without a friendly neighbor to come in and take a hand at cards or crack a joke with him, would be simply appalling."
"The idea of jokes in this vast mausoleum of departed grandeur!" exclaimed Miss Cassandra. "It would be like dancing in a cemetery. Do ask that lively black-eyed dame how many there are in family when the owners are at home."
"Monsieur le Duo has twenty-two children," was the reply. "He lives in Italy, but comes here sometimes for the hunting."'
"And does he bring his family with him?"
"Pas tout le monde at the same time, Madame, although we have enough rooms for them all."
Laughing over this ready rejoinder, we parted from our merry cicerone with exchanges of compliments and a clink of silver. I am quite sure that Walter and Archie gave her the fee twice over because of her beaux yeux and her merry wit.
It is late, and I am tired after the grande tournée, as they call our afternoon trip here, and Walter reminds me
"That the best of all ways