Bagnéres De Luchcn
Sunday, July 29, 1883.
DEAR WILLIAM, —We have had a splendid Pyrenean week. Great mountains with snowy sides, beautiful rich valleys, wild ravines, quaint villages, a handsome, happy people, and bright skies, — anybody ought to look back with pleasure on a whole week of these. It is not exactly like any other country which I know. Perhaps it is more like some parts of the Tyrol than anything else. It reminds me at times of some parts of the road up the valley of the Inn, which you and I drove up together once. There is a luxuriance about these valleys, of which I hardly ever saw the like. The way they overrun with water is delicious. You are never away from the sound of a brook or a waterfall. Streams run by the side of every road. There are fountains in every man's back yard, every bank has a small cascade tumbling over it, and all the rocks look as if Moses had been about here with his rod, striking out right and left. Last night the abundance of waters culminated in a drenching rain, and we reached here in the midst of floods. This morning all is bright as Paradise. It is a garden of a place, way up in the hills, and the Frenchmen have made a pretty summer resort of it. I am still a little lame, and am lying by to get well. The week's traveling has not given me much chance to repair my leg, and I hope my conversation has been better than my walk. Taking pity on my imprisonment, the band came this morning and played under my window, and the Frenchmen and Frenchwomen strolled up and down, and the sun shone, and it was like a sort of Class Day up in the Pyrenees on Sunday. It is as pretty as a picture.
There was a great deal grander place which we saw the other day at Gavarnie, where a wild valley pierces into the hills until it brings up against a tremendous wall of rock in a great amphitheatre, and has to stop because it can get no farther. It is like a splendid end of the world. You can only guess what lies on the other side of the rocks, heaven or hell. Really, it is Spain, which is a little of both. Out of the side of the high wall leaps a cascade, 1300 feet high, and tumbles down into a caldron of mist and foam. It is a wonderful place.
Last Wednesday morning we were at Lourdes, one of the strangest places in the world, and suggestive of all sorts of thoughts and questions. It was here that al-most thirty years ago a little girl saw the Virgin Mary standing in a grotto, and a spring burst out which since that has been curing hosts of sick people, who have come from the ends of the earth. Now there is a gorgeous church there, crowds of worshipers, a hundred thousand pilgrims yearly, and a heap of disused crutches and camp stools, which the cured have left behind them. The street through the town is one long market of crosses, and pictures, and rosaries, and statuettes of Mary. The whole was wonderfully like the street which leads down to the Ganges at Benares, with its booths full of brass images of Vishnu, Siva, Ganesha, and Kali.
Tomorrow we shall be off to Toulouse, and then by the Grande Chartreuse to Geneva, where we spend next Sunday.
Ever affectionately, P.