OF LAMPS AND CANDLES
ON June 22nd, 1932, Renter's agent in Rome telegraphed to the Morning Post, "An order forbidding the burning of candles before statues or sacred images in churches in the Diocese of Rome has been issued by Cardinal Marchetti Salvaggiani, Vicar-General of the Pope." I need hardly say that this "order," like the similar ones abolishing all music except Plainsong and all statues without historic interest, has not yet produced an effect visible to the ordinary traveller. I wish the Pope had elected to forbid the substitution of kerosene lamps for votive-candles and, still more, the burning of paraffin lamps before the Blessed Sacrament. I was horrified in August 1920 to find a paraffin lamp with a glass chimney doing duty as a Sanctuary Lamp at S. Marie, de Campan in the French Pyrenees: but in June 1932 I found a whole collection of "block-tin" kerosene lamps replacing votive candles all round the famous old church of S. Sernin at Toulouse. It was the faint but penetrating odour that drew my attention to them. The practice is nowadays common in the south of France, and in July 1932 I found such lamps hanging before the Blessed Sacrament also at Millau-sur-Tarn, at S. Michel in Limoges, and in the Cathedrals of Orleans and Blois: alas, I found one also on my return home (in the Church of England) at Bournemouth. It is a poor substitute for the old lamp with vegetable oil and a floating wick. In April 1929 I came across another substitute for votive candles in the Italian diocese of Monza, near Milan: an array of huge "night-lights" set in straight rows of blue, red and green glass vases: inodorous and picturesque at any rate, even if a defiance of long tradition.
During a journey across Russia in 1913, I observed that in every church the gardien, usually an ecclesiastic in a vestment of rich brocade, carefully watched the moment at which the donor of a votive candle left the church, and promptly removed the candle from its pricket to the box of candles exposed for sale. At Lourdes, as you may read in Zola's novel (p. 224, tr. Vizetelly) one buys one's votive candle and lays it in a huge box before the Grotto. When all the prickets have a candle each, the surplus are either wheeled away in barrows to the store-room for future issue or, as Mr. Gibbons delightfully describes in Tramping to Lourdes (p. 201), they are flung, some two hundred at a time, on a huge bonfire near the Grotto, by a man with a pitchfork. It was at Lourdes in 1903 that I first heard the sound of burning candles: hundreds of great candles as thick as my arm were set up in rows in a field by the river Gave, and as they burned peacefully in the open air they made a crackling sound like a little bonfire. But the tallest candle I have seen was the Paschal Candle at S. Etienne (the Abbaye-aux-Hommes) at Caen in Easter Week, 1926: the flame stood in the point of the Triforium Arch, and the candle cannot have been less than twenty-five feet long. During my journey across Russia I was often surprised to see what looked like six tall candles on the altar. It was really a seven-branched candlestick on the floor behind the altar, each socket carrying a tall china stock, with a cup of oil and a floating wick at its upper end.
Adrian Fortescue says cheerfully, "The High Altar of a church will normally have six larger candlesticks with candles" (Ceremonies of the Roman Rite, p. 7).
On July 17th, 1926, there were no candles at all on the High Altar, or any other altar, of the Cathedral of Huesca in Spain. On December 30th, 1913, there were no candles at all on the High Altar of the Cathedral of Chartres in France, but six fine candlesticks were arrayed, three north and three south of the altar, on the altar steps. At the famous Cathedral of Milan the High Altar is adorned with only two great lights, with a crucifix but no Tabernacle. At the noble church of San Petronio in Bologna you may find four candles on the High Altar, or you may find two: you will not find six. At the High Mass at the High Altar of Seville Cathedral on July 7th, 1912, there were only four lighted candles throughout the service. In the Cathedral of Huesca in Spain and in both the Cathedrals of Zaragoza you will find only two very small candles on any High Altar, and those set on the mensa at the extreme western edge. They are chained to the Table (as at S. Saviour's Cathedral in Southwark) and a lavabo towel is tied with tape to the Epistle Candle: but they are taken away directly after the Blessing and only replaced in time for the next Mass. But in both these dioceses the scarcity of candles is compensated for by the presence of a huge glazed circular recess, full of Sanctuary Lamps, high on the east wall above the altar: a thing I have found nowhere else in all Europe.
I am sorry to say that the six lights on many a French and Italian altar are nowadays often crowned with an electric light bulb instead of a wick, but there are usually two actual candles lighted as well for Mass, although I should not like to inquire too closely how much beeswax they contain. But the two candles always lighted for Mass are by no means always either upon or above the altar. For example, for the 9 o'clock Mass at Poitiers Cathedral on March I5th, 1908, the only two lights were placed in revolving brackets screwed to the east wall, north and south of the altar: and I have often found the same practice elsewhere. Candle practice is indeed vague and various. In Seville Cathedral on July 7th, 1912, processional candles were carried in the Sanctuary like maces, that is, slantwise across the shoulder: and the cascade of wax that flowed down the backs of the embroidered tunicles must have cost some hours of labour to remove after the service.
Mortuary candles are no less various. On September 8th, 1919, I saw twenty-four small candles standing round a coffin in the Cathedral of Sees in France: they were of white wax, with black bands painted round them. But on September 3rd, 1923, at Forli Cathedral in Italy, there were only four candles round the coffin. They were large white candles, and each of them had three separate wicks: which I have not seen elsewhere.
Lengthy preachers, like myself, will appreciate this: on July 28th, 1907, I attended the 9 a.m. Mass in the Liebfraukirche at Zurich, ready to start for a long tramp as soon as it ended. A Capuchin in a brown habit mounted the pulpit and when the three ministers descended to the banc d'oeuvre, the celebrant sent the server to put out the six lights on the altar, presumably for economy's sake. After thirty minutes of the Capuchin, the celebrant sent the server back to light the six candles once more, presumably as a gentle hint. The Capuchin waited in a stony silence until the sixth was lighted, and then he gave us another twenty minutes more! When I hear how preferable to a cast-iron uniformity is "diversity in unity" I sometimes wonder if the speaker is really intending to praise the practices of the Roman Catholic Church on the continent of Europe!
IF I tell you of churches filled with high-backed pews, with hinged and locked doors, of chancels blocked up with faculty pews and flanked with comfortable family pews complete with carpets, easy chairs, mirrors and a fireplace; of sanctuaries adorned with the Ten Commandments, displayed in golden letters on a black background; and of altar frontals decorated solely with Bible texts, each tagged with its own chapter and verse, you will surely think I am describing some of the unrestored eighteenth century English parish churches, of which plenty exist within twenty miles of my little home in Bournemouth. But you will be wrong. These things are quite as common in any Catholic country in Europe, if you only know where to look for them. And, if I give you details, please note the peculiar interest of the dates, as well as the places mentioned. You will find the high-backed pews, with hinged and locked doors, in France at Arques-la-Bataille, near Dieppe; at Richelieu, near Chinon; at Troyes, Coudray, Coutances, Parthenay, Thouars, and a hundred other places. The "faculty pews" and family pews, with comfortable fittings, you will find in Italy at Piacenza, in Spain at Vitoria, in Germany at Goslar, in France at Beaugency and Libarreux; and superb examples at Ravenna, Turin, Berlin, Pisa and Handschuheim, near Heidelberg. The chancel of this last church is quite blocked up with faculty pews, some dated 1670, and adorned with the names of the owners of that year painted on the back. Here, too, is a lovely old family pew next to the pulpit, shut in with wainscoting, with doors and windows (with curtains and blinds to them) and with a nice looking-glass attached to the east wall. At Burgos in Spain, in the Church of S. Nicolas, next to the Cathedral, you should visit the east end of the south aisle. Here is a splendid "faculty pew," dated 1911. It is built of excellent carved stone, wood and iron, and contains two glorious and ostentatious gilded thrones, each surmounted by a golden crown. Here the Marquis and Marchioness of Murga assist at Mass, and over their heads you may read the delightful legend, "Decet nobilem Humilitas" The Ten Commandments in golden letters on a black background you will find in the Cathedral of Auch in southeastern France, by the superb choir stalls and panelling of 1529 (François Ier). But it should be noted that they are "balanced" by a similar panel on the other side, bearing the "Decalogue of the New Testament": Thou shalt hear Mass every Sunday; Thou shalt confess every Easter; Thou shalt always communicate fasting; and so forth! At Rodez, in the south of France (where you will also find the "Cafe de 1'Abattoir") you may visit the Church of S. Cyrice, which the populace call the "Sacre Coeur." It is a lofty and pleasant church, and under a nice baldacchino of marble at the east end stands the High Altar, with a new mosaic frontal, adorned with three Bible texts, and each followed by its chapter and its verse. I don't think even an Anglican Diocesan Advisory Committee would dare to do a thing like this: and it is comparatively recent --"post-war," I should think.
A small alabaster font at the entrance of the chancel is also usually considered a feature of eighteenth century Anglicanism: but you will find one in many a Roman Catholic church abroad, e.g. at Lugano, Alpnacht, Heidelberg, etc. Locked churches, of course, are common everywhere, particularly in Spain and in Belgium, as well as in the Adriatic cities. A credence table and sedilia on the north of the sanctuary are usually supposed to be due to our forefathers' misinterpretation of the Prayer Book rubric about beginning the Lord's Supper at the north end of the Holy Table. But you will find the credence on the north of the sanctuary in Italy at Pavia, and in France at Troyes. The sedilia on the north of the sanctuary you will find in Spain at Santander: do not ask me why--but I am quite sure it has nothing to do with the 1662 Book at all.
Anglican Bishops are often considered to be too ready to give dispensations from fasting. But in July 1924 I read many placards in Arcachon telling how all Catholics in that place, even if only temporarily resident there, are ipso facto dispensed from all fasting or abstinence throughout the year by the Archbishop of Bordeaux--"for the year of grace 1921 and for the future"--"for reasons of Health." It seemed to me a poor advertisement for a fashionable watering-place. I do not honestly know whether the habit of turning to the east for the Gloria at the end of every psalm can claim Catholic antiquity or merely Tractarian tradition; anyhow, it is done in the Cathedral of Marseilles. I should certainly protest to the bishop if I found an Anglican Incumbent always reserved the Blessed Sacrament over an altar at the west end of his church, so that the congregation had to sit with its backs to the Sanctissimum. But it is the practice at Ronda in Andalusia, as I discovered in 1933. Nor do I like to see women teaching in church; but I saw many noisy women holding classes and lecturing vigorously in the north transept of Milan Cathedral on April i4th, 1929, "in Septimo Aevo Lictorii," which I take to mean "The Seventh Year of Fascist Rule." They were wearing black mantillas and instructing large classes of women. A priest in a biretta lectured the men simultaneously from a green wooden pulpit in the south transept. It is indeed hard to say what is, and what is not, permitted in the Catholic Church. I always understood that Pope Zephyrinus (A.D. 199-217) forbade the use of glass chalices. But I saw a glass chalice and a glass paten at the Cathedral of Sens in May 1924: and five years later, in May 1929, I saw in the Tresor of the Cathedral at Monza a chalice carved from a single sapphire. I admit this does sound like a "traveller's tale," but it is literally true. Let me end up these remarks by drawing your attention to the Great Cathedral ("La Seo") at Zaragoza in Spain. Here, in July 1926, I found to my horror that many of the altars were in regular use as cupboards and "glory holes." The frontals were of painted wood, adorned with arabesques; they had a key-hole in the middle, and the whole front opened on hinges each side, as two doors. I went across at once to the other Cathedral of Zaragoza ("El Pilar"), but could not find the like use there. One may use all kinds of excellent adjectives to condemn practices one dislikes and abhors, but one has to be very careful before one says it is "not Catholic."
"THE ONLY ONE IN THE WORLD"
Rarities not absolutely unique!
THE enthusiastic native, displaying the local rarity as unique in all the world, is apt to be annoyed if the sophisticated traveller adduces chapter and verse for parallel examples. I have even heard the well in Durham Cathedral declared unique, and the twisted spire at Chesterfield, that you can see from the railway, as well as the hanging pyx in Amiens Cathedral, still in use, or at any rate still in working order. But deep wells in Cathedrals are comparatively common: you will find one, for example, at Coutances, and there are twisted spires at Blainville and at St. Come. Hanging pyxes much like that at Amiens exist also at Reims, at St. Pol de Leon and at Gournay-Ferrieres. The paper rosettes and wreaths at Abbots Ann I found paralleled in August 1919 at Montsoreau, near Saumur, and in July 1932 at La Malene on the river Tarn. The great vats of "Eau Benite pour les Maisons" which I saw at the Cathedral of Bourges in June 1928, I found again--only they were huge red tins with brass taps--at S. Sulpice in Paris in April 1934. The "Black Madonnas" that English folk find so queer and often unedifying are to be found all over Europe, notably at Dijon, Marseilles, Einsiedeln, Moulins, Toulouse, Ypres, Mende, Loreto and Le Puy-en-Velay. Fonts for the baptism of adults by immersion, like that at S. Mary's, Southampton, you may see in Italy at Lucca and Parma and in France in S. Jean's Church at Poitiers.
But neither the Quo Vadis footprint at Rome, nor the Pas de Roland at Itxassou in the Labourde, may fitly be compared with the Pas de Dieu shown at S. Rhadegund's in Poitiers. Nor do I know where else you will find such vesting tables as those in the sacristy of S. Ulrich's Church at Augsburg, where the bishop has to vest himself before the actual skeleton of one of his predecessors, clad in vestments of the same colour as those laid out on the table below for his own immediate use. It is conducive to a pious meditation on the transitory glories of the Episcopalia, and on weekdays the actual skeletons are hidden behind painted planks displaying a mere representation of what still stands unseen behind them. Altar rails made entirely of glass I have not seen except at Santander in Spain. Nor have I found the Blessed Sacrament (in a ciborium) reserved, without a light, in a vestry cupboard among surplices and choir books, except at Sisteron in the valley of the Durance. This was on July 7th, 1928, and I sent a postcard at once to Bishop Woods of Winchester, informing him of the fact, as it was a fortnight since I had assured him that in the Roman Catholic Church such things were never done!
The separation of sexes in church is by no means an uncommon custom, and goes back, I believe, to primitive ages of the Church: but I have not seen separate benitiers at the church door, labelled "For Men" and "For Women," except at Santiago de Compostela, nor do I quite see the reason for such a curious differentiation. I do not think any church in the world can rival the baptistery at Parma in the age of its church registers. They go back in an unbroken series to the baptisms of 1503--a marvellous great library of bound volumes. And I hope that no other Cathedral in the world utilizes its altars as cupboards, like "La Seo" at Zaragoza, mentioned previously. But surely nothing in the world is quite so unique as the Cathedral at Rimini, which even that very broad-minded Pope, Pius II, (Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini) said was more like a heathen temple than a Christian church. It is most delightfully adorned with paintings, bas-reliefs, marbles, statuary, bronzes and silver-work--objets d'art of all kinds: only from end to end of the building there is no notice nor mention of Jesus Christ at all! Even the sacred monogram IHS is not to be found: it is replaced everywhere by I and S intertwined, symbolizing Sigismundo Malatesta who built and adorned the place, regardless of expense, and Isotta degli Atti, his famous and admittedly wonderful mistress, whom he ultimately married. Her motto over her tomb fits the Cathedral as aptly as it does her own history: "Tempus loquendi: Tempus tacendi."
Most Cathedrals provide some opportunity for hearing Confessions in an alien tongue, but Meaux is, I fancy, the only one where they hang up a list of twenty languages in which you may tell your sins and provide a separate confessional for each. And Leyden in Holland is the only place where I have seen confessionals of which the priest's compartment is a small room containing a chair and a table, fitted up with pens and ink and paper: there is a slit under the grille on either side, through which either priest or penitent may pass papers and books to the other. It is a horribly serious and business-like arrangement and would not suit the Spaniards, where men do not kneel at a grille at all, but stalk straight up to the front of the confessional, lift the curtain before the priest's face, and tell their sins standing, face to face with the sitting priest. So many lands, so many customs. It is good to walk about Europe at one's leisure, and learn the overwhelming variety of ways in which the Catholic religion is presented and practised! But it makes one smile at the simple folk in England who get distressed with Anglican aberrations, and are assured that the Roman Catholic Church is "always exactly the same wherever you go." I was myself taught better as long ago as 1901, when a priest of the Oratory took me to a convent near Rome where all the monks wore moustaches. Yet I still get little shocks at times when my fixed ideas of what is Catholic and what is not have to be suddenly rearranged--as on July 9th, 1919, at S. Gervaise de Corbeis, when I admired the statue of our Lady clad in red and black: "For Red and Black, they be the Foul Fiend's Colours" was the well-known medieval saying, as you may read in the Cloister and the Hearth. But if my memory serves me aright (for I cannot find my written note on the subject) I think you will also find a painting of our Lady clad in red and black in the Prado Gallery at Madrid.
A TRAMPING PARSON'S FOOD
In "all the Countries of Europe"
READERS who have profited by the ecclesiastical notes I made while tramping all round Europe may perhaps like to hear a little about my nourishment en route. The most luscious meals were in pre-war Russia: the most copious food was in post-war Spain. The worst food by far was in Holland. Each luncheon or dinner always included bread, cheese, fruit, and a pint of red wine. At St. Sernin by Oust on August 24th, 1921, it included little else, except cold meat and pickles--but that was the cheapest meal I ever ate; it cost seventy-five centimes. A noble luncheon in the back garden of a little inn at St. Inglevert by Calais on September 12th, 1911, cost six sous. But I had hardly found the money when another guest rose up in wrath and told the hostess it was sheer robbery; everyone knew that the fixed price for dejeuner was five sous! At Vicdessos in the French Pyrenees on August 25th, 1921, I paid seven francs for a meal when the franc was worth about twopence: but the soup was followed by trout, and the trout by quails on toast. One gets queer food at times. At Tarbes on August 18th, 1921, I had mussels stewed with mushrooms, and on September 27th, 1909, at Le Conquet in Brittany I paid two francs for my luncheon--fried sardines were followed by seven courses of shell-fish, including lobsters, crabs, oysters and shrimps. I did not eat them all! The Spanish "national dish" is called "olla" and contains about twenty ingredients, including garbanzos (chick-peas), rice, sardines, oysters, olives, wings of chickens, etc. On September 5th, 1906, I paid three marks for an eight-course dinner at Hannover; one of the courses included beefsteak, toast, carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, mushrooms, sardines, horse-radish, pickled onions, olives, gherkins and boiled cabbage. All this was arranged in separate little piles of each ingredient on one large dish, each sardine being neatly plaited round a mushroom. As for unusual food, I have found escargots (snails) nice enough, but usually tough: grenouilles (frogs) are most delicate and delightful food, and often rather expensive. Cuttlefish or "squids" (calamari) are common food all over Spain and Italy--I prefer them fried. Calamari en su tinta ("cooked in their own ink") make an uninviting black concoction, but are palatable when one has the courage to attack them. Izard, which is chamois-flesh, is common throughout the Pyrenees, and although it looks much like goat, it is nice instead of nasty and does not give me the days of agony I always endure after eating chevre. At Domodossola in Italy you should ask for Fegato alla Veneta, a noble and highly seasoned dish of calves' liver. But most of these meats need a little garlic for their due appreciation, nor could you flavour your food with anything more wholesome, but unfortunately English people seem to dislike garlic almost as much as the French dislike blackberries. Each nation seems to have its own unreasonable prejudices. As for fruits and vegetables, you should try the excellent celeri-rave they cook at Lannemezan. Blette should be eaten at Aries. It is the stems of a kind of large beetroot or small cabbage boiled or braised, and is quite excellent. Aubergines are common in France, and should be farcies. Berenjenes (pronounced "bennahenna") is a similar gourd I have only met with in Spain. Finocchio, or fennel root, I have eaten cooked both in Rome and Milan: but in Spain, where it is called hinojo, it commonly appears with the fruits at dessert and is eaten raw, but the flavour is rather overpowering. At Messina, and throughout Sicily, Fighi d'Indi (the fruit of the cactus we call "prickly pear") is freely eaten; but it needs very careful handling, for the glochids, or tiny spines, are liable to set up nasty sores in one's fingers, and it is almost impossible to avoid them entirely.
Bouillabaisse is popular at Marseilles and at Toulon. I have no great affection for it. More than a dozen kinds of fish and crustaceans are boiled in a cauldron together and flavoured with herbs and saffron. As for drinks, it is only at Parma in Italy that I have found foaming red wine with a head on it like a pot of beer. Purple wine that looks like violet ink is common throughout Auvergne and in some parts of Spain. It tastes all right, anyhow. Goudron, which is a liqueur derived from coal-tar, and tasting of it, I have sampled only at Teulet. Tisane de tilleul and tisane de camomille are popular French drinks rather like weak tea. The former is a pleasant soporific made from the bracts of the lime tree: the latter is aromatic. Since 1922 neither spirits nor liqueurs have been obtainable in Belgium.
To conclude, as I began, with a note of prices, here you have what was called a two franc dinner on June 20th, 1905, at the "Ancien Petit Cygne " in the Rue de 1'Etuve at Brussels: Potage, six huitres, entree, deux plats de viande, trois legumes, poulet roti, salade, entremets, fruits, dessert. One is tempted to say that those days will not come back, but on July 10th, 1926, I promised to pay four pesetas if they would make me "some kind of luncheon" at the humble little posada at Orgaña in the Spanish Pyrenees. After soup and a splendid tortilla (omelette) came a mutton chop, followed by stewed kidneys, and a promise that the next course would be a roast fowl. I said I wanted no more but fruit and coffee, so the bitterly disappointed waitresses went and fetched the proprietor, who insisted on spreading the table with various kinds of cheese, biscuits and dessert. But I was adamant, for I had many miles yet to walk under a Spanish July sun. And again, as late as July 12th, 1932, at Tournemire near Millau, where they make the cheese called "Roquefort," I promised to pay thirteen francs, worth about twopence each, for a luncheon at the Hotel Alric, which should be mentioned honourably by name. They produced a meal superbly cooked: soupe au chou, hors d'oeuvres varies, cervelles frites, langue braisee, rognons sautes, champignons, haricots panaches, poulet roti, fromages, fraises, gaieties, vin (comme toujours) compris--and when I handed them fifteen francs they returned me the five franc note with the remark that ten francs would more than pay for all I had eaten, and wine and service as well. On three occasions I have eaten an excellent meal entirely free of charge. On March 3rd, 1908, which was a Sunday, I lunched with two old peasant-farmers at a farmhouse near Poitiers, including meat and wine. Madame flatly refused to take any money from me, and went out to the fields to bring Monsieur back again, that he might endorse her obstinacy. On August 28th, 1918, at a small village not so far from Ulverston, a blacksmith and his wife made me a tea so "high" as to be a very monument, and all for nothing. And on July 18th, 1930, in an appalling cloudburst at a village between Glasgow and Edinburgh, a railway servant and his wife would not only take no money for a most welcome hot luncheon, but insisted also on keeping me there for tea in the late afternoon as well.
Now on all these three occasions, the Frenchman, the Englishman and the Scot said the same identical thing in their several tongues: "We have enjoyed your conversation so much, we could not possibly take your money: before we die we may meet again, and then you shall give us a meal in return." But time would fail me to tell you of all the French and Spanish innkeepers who have supplied me gratis with cigars and liqueurs before I left their inns. One finds a great deal of human kindness in tramping about the world, so long as one keeps away from the hotels that cater for the cosmopolitan automobilist.
A TRAMPING PARSON'S BED
A Night at a Pyrenean Presbytere
ON Friday, August 19th, 1921, I ate my luncheon chez Poupounet, in Bagneres-de-Bigorre, and was out on the mountains again before two o'clock. At half past four I came through a wild ravine to a very scattered and squalid hill-village, where ox-sleds on wooden runners were being used for farm work, and no wheeled vehicles were to be found. Here, in a filthy little auberge, full of farmyard manure, I drank a glass of red wine because they had no coffee. Nor had they a bed to hire, and there was no other auberge in the neighbourhood; but they set me on my way towards another village "which had many auberges." So I tramped along cheerfully by rough tracks through the woods, and over a high col till I came down a dried-up watercourse into the village they had told me of. Here I did find two auberges, but only one of them had a bed to hire, and at that one they were suspicious of me and refused to put me up. They asked what I was, and when I told them said sarcastically that in that case I had better call on M. le Cure and get him to provide me with a molle gite.
At this inauspicious moment an old woman passed the door and someone said, "There goes M. le Cure's bonne." With little hope in my heart I asked her where was the presbytere, and she agreed to guide me herself to the house, where M. le Cure (M. l'Abbe Honore D. ----) heard my tale politely and replied at once, "Ca s'arrangera," which proved to mean that he would give me a bed for the night, and that I should share his evening meal at 7 p.m. We adjourned at once to his sitting-room and drank a glass of wine together. He was a rough, sad man, fifty years old, he told me, wearing a filthy dirty old cassock and hat, indoors as well as out; but obviously an educated man, with good manners and a friendly gift of humour. The presbytere was one of the largest houses in the hamlet, clean whitewashed outside, but terribly dirty within. There were a dozen different patterns of wall-paper on the walls of the sitting-room, all dirty and flyblown, as was also the humble furniture, but upstairs the rooms were freshly whitewashed and spotless. I soon grew quite fond of the Cure: he talked so sensibly and simply, and when we began to compare professional notes, we found a very great deal in common in the trials and troubles of managing a parish, vastly as our parishes and circumstances differed. His own stipend made me feel much ashamed--it was distinctly less than I was paying my cook--and when he heard the figure of my stipend (in francs) he went out and called in his bonne to hear the incredible amount. In fact, he kept repeating like a refrain, "More than the Cure of Lannemezan--think of it--more than the Cure of Lannemezan." I heard in later days from many sources in the Pyrenees that the income of the incumbent of Lannemezan was so fabulously great that it had become an actual legend of the countryside, but need hardly add that no English curate would look at it!
I had perforce to lead the conversation away from this delicate subject, and got him to tell me details about his parish. His population was four hundred souls, of whom about a hundred received the Holy Communion on great festivals. He usually had nine or ten present at his daily Mass. All the inhabitants of the commune were professing Catholics. His dilapidations were done by the Commune. When he wanted repairs done he had to inform M. le Maire. The old woman did not produce the supper till 8 p.m., by which time I was painfully hungry. When it arrived, it consisted of cafe au lait, with bread, in basins, followed by an omelette, and then by gooseberry jelly. There was red wine to drink and a cup of coffee afterwards. Then he and I sat on at the same table and chatted happily about parochial and diocesan ways until 10 p.m. We did not differ much in our outlook on life and manners, and his neighbouring incumbents in this wild mountain valley, remote enough from any kind of sophistication, did not seem remarkably different from my neighbours in the exceptionally civilized town of Bournemouth. He spoke frankly about them all, but I am sorry to say that his fiercest word of condemnation and dislike was exactly this, "Monsieur, c'est le vrai type d'un Chanoine Honoraire."
He knew the Bishop of Seo d'Urgell, whom he always called "the President of Andorra," quite well. They had been together at the seminary of Tarbes, and had actually been priested together at the same ordination--a mysterious business, which I failed to fathom, for Seo d'Urgell is in Spain and Tarbes is in France: but I was disinclined to press him about it. I do not think he was "romancing." He was not that kind of man. He kept his hat on all through dinner and until we went to bed: but he had excellent tact and good social instincts, as well as a severely practical outlook on life. He was unmistakably an educated gentleman in spite of his dirty cassock and unshaven face.
Next morning I was downstairs by 7 a.m. by my watch, an hour too early to be present, as I had intended, at his "seven o'clock" Mass: for in this valley they had not adopted "l'heure nouvelle"; and, indeed, throughout the Pyrenees, even where the New Hour is adopted, the church clocks to this day still strike the "Hour of the Bon Dieu" When M. le Cure came downstairs, he explained the business to me quite shrewdly, pointing out that in valleys the actual sunrise is of no account whatever. It is the moment when the sun appears above the hilltops that makes the working day begin; and it is no use at all to play about with clocks, when the working day is always short, and is definitely fixed by the appearance and disappearance of the sun over the mountains. We breakfasted on bread and black coffee, for they had no milk, and more of the excellent gooseberry jelly. But I could not make the Cure take any money at all, and when I became insistent he crushed me with the remark that he would prefer the merit of exercising the virtue of hospitality.
However, I induced him at last to accept five francs for church purposes, and then embarked on the all but impossible task of bestowing a franc on the bonne, who, like all her class in the French Pyrenees, was of course named Therese. (On the Spanish side they are all called Maria, or its popular synonyms of Pilar or Dolores.)