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- The Golden Lion of Granpere - 1/36 -


THE GOLDEN LION OF GRANPERE, BY ANTHONY TROLLOPE.

CHAPTER I.

Up among the Vosges mountains in Lorraine, but just outside the old half-German province of Alsace, about thirty miles distant from the new and thoroughly French baths of Plombieres, there lies the village of Granpere. Whatever may be said or thought here in England of the late imperial rule in France, it must at any rate be admitted that good roads were made under the Empire. Alsace, which twenty years ago seems to have been somewhat behindhand in this respect, received her full share of Napoleon's attention, and Granpere is now placed on an excellent road which runs from the town of Remiremont on one line of railway, to Colmar on another. The inhabitants of the Alsatian Ballon hills and the open valleys among them seem to think that the civilisation of great cities has been brought near enough to them, as there is already a diligence running daily from Granpere to Remiremont;--and at Remiremont you are on the railway, and, of course, in the middle of everything.

And indeed an observant traveller will be led to think that a great deal of what may most truly be called civilisation has found its way in among the Ballons, whether it travelled thither by the new- fangled railways and imperial routes, or found its passage along the valley streams before imperial favours had been showered upon the district. We are told that when Pastor Oberlin was appointed to his cure as Protestant clergyman in the Ban de la Roche a little more than one hundred years ago,--that was, in 1767,--this region was densely dark and far behind in the world's running as regards all progress. The people were ignorant, poor, half-starved, almost savage, destitute of communication, and unable to produce from their own soil enough food for their own sustenance. Of manufacturing enterprise they understood nothing, and were only just far enough advanced in knowledge for the Protestants to hate the Catholics, and the Catholics to hate the Protestants. Then came that wonderful clergyman, Pastor Oberlin,--he was indeed a wonderful clergyman,-- and made a great change. Since that there have been the two empires, and Alsace has looked up in the world. Whether the thanks of the people are more honestly due to Oberlin or to the late Emperor, the author of this little story will not pretend to say; but he will venture to express his opinion that at present the rural Alsatians are a happy, prosperous people, with the burden on their shoulders of but few paupers, and fewer gentlemen,--apparently a contented people, not ambitious, given but little to politics. Protestants and Catholics mingled without hatred or fanaticism, educated though not learned, industrious though not energetic, quiet and peaceful, making linen and cheese, growing potatoes, importing corn, coming into the world, marrying, begetting children, and dying in the wholesome homespun fashion which is so sweet to us in that mood of philosophy which teaches us to love the country and to despise the town. Whether it be better for a people to achieve an even level of prosperity, which is shared by all, but which makes none eminent, or to encounter those rough, ambitious, competitive strengths which produce both palaces and poor-houses, shall not be matter of argument here; but the teller of this story is disposed to think that the chance traveller, as long as he tarries at Granpere, will insensibly and perhaps unconsciously become an advocate of the former doctrine; he will be struck by the comfort which he sees around him, and for a while will dispense with wealth, luxury, scholarships, and fashion. Whether the inhabitants of these hills and valleys will advance to farther progress now that they are again to become German, is another question, which the writer will not attempt to answer here.

Granpere in itself is a very pleasing village. Though the amount of population and number of houses do not suffice to make it more than a village, it covers so large a space of ground as almost to give it a claim to town honours. It is perhaps a full mile in length; and though it has but one street, there are buildings standing here and there, back from the line, which make it seem to stretch beyond the narrow confines of a single thoroughfare. In most French villages some of the houses are high and spacious, but here they seem almost all to be so. And many of them have been constructed after that independent fashion which always gives to a house in a street a character and importance of its own. They do not stand in a simple line, each supported by the strength of its neighbour, but occupy their own ground, facing this way or that as each may please, presenting here a corner to the main street, and there an end. There are little gardens, and big stables, and commodious barns; and periodical paint with annual whitewash is not wanting. The unstinted slates shine copiously under the sun, and over almost every other door there is a large lettered board which indicates that the resident within is a dealer in the linen which is produced throughout the country. All these things together give to Granpere an air of prosperity and comfort which is not at all checked by the fact that there is in the place no mansion which we Englishmen would call the gentleman's house, nothing approaching to the ascendancy of a parish squire, no baron's castle, no manorial hall,--not even a chateau to overshadow the modest roofs of the dealers in the linen of the Vosges.

And the scenery round Granpere is very pleasant, though the neighbouring hills never rise to the magnificence of mountains or produce that grandeur which tourists desire when they travel in search of the beauties of Nature. It is a spot to love if you know it well, rather than to visit with hopes raised high, and to leave with vivid impressions. There is water in abundance; a pretty lake lying at the feet of sloping hills, rivulets running down from the high upper lands and turning many a modest wheel in their course, a waterfall or two here and there, and a so-called mountain summit within an easy distance, from whence the sun may be seen to rise among the Swiss mountains;--and distant perhaps three miles from the village the main river which runs down the valley makes for itself a wild ravine, just where the bridge on the new road to Munster crosses the water, and helps to excuse the people of Granpere for claiming for themselves a great object of natural attraction. The bridge and the river and the ravine are very pretty, and perhaps justify all that the villagers say of them when they sing to travellers the praises of their country.

Whether it be the sale of linen that has produced the large inn at Granpere, or the delicious air of the place, or the ravine and the bridge, matters little to our story; but the fact of the inn matters very much. There it is,--a roomy, commodious building, not easily intelligible to a stranger, with its widely distributed parts, standing like an inverted V, with its open side towards the main road. On the ground-floor on one side are the large stables and coach-house, with a billiard-room and cafe over them, and a long balcony which runs round the building; and on the other side there are kitchens and drinking-rooms, and over these the chamber for meals and the bedrooms. All large, airy, and clean, though, perhaps, not excellently well finished in their construction, and furnished with but little pretence to French luxury. And behind the inn there are gardens, by no means trim, and a dusty summer-house, which serves, however, for the smoking of a cigar; and there is generally space and plenty and goodwill. Either the linen, or the air, or the ravine, or, as is more probable, the three combined, have produced a business, so that the landlord of the Lion d'Or at Granpere is a thriving man.

The reader shall at once be introduced to the landlord, and informed at the same time that, in so far as he may be interested in this story, he will have to take up his abode at the Lion d'Or till it be concluded; not as a guest staying loosely at his inn, but as one who is concerned with all the innermost affairs of the household. He will not simply eat his plate of soup, and drink his glass of wine, and pass on, knowing and caring more for the servant than for the servant's master, but he must content himself to sit at the landlord's table, to converse very frequently with the landlord's wife, to become very intimate with the landlord's son--whether on loving or on unloving terms shall be left entirely to himself--and to throw himself, with the sympathy of old friendship, into all the troubles and all the joys of the landlord's niece. If the reader be one who cannot take such a journey, and pass a month or two without the society of persons whom he would define as ladies and gentlemen, he had better be warned at once, and move on, not setting foot within the Lion d'Or at Granpere.

Michel Voss, the landlord, in person was at this time a tall, stout, active, and very handsome man, about fifty years of age. As his son was already twenty-five--and was known to be so throughout the commune--people were sure that Michel Voss was fifty or thereabouts; but there was very little in his appearance to indicate so many years. He was fat and burly to be sure; but then he was not fat to lethargy, or burly with any sign of slowness. There was still the spring of youth in his footstep, and when there was some weight to be lifted, some heavy timber to be thrust here or there, some huge lumbering vehicle to be hoisted in or out, there was no arm about the place so strong as that of the master. His short, dark, curly hair--that was always kept clipped round his head--was beginning to show a tinge of gray, but the huge moustache on his upper lip was still of a thorough brown, as was also the small morsel of beard which he wore upon his chin. He had bright sharp brown eyes, a nose slightly beaked, and a large mouth. He was on the whole a man of good temper, just withal, and one who loved those who belonged to him; but he chose to be master in his own house, and was apt to think that his superior years enabled him to know what younger people wanted better than they would know themselves. He was loved in his house and respected in his village; but there was something in the beak of his nose and the brightness of his eye which was apt to make those around him afraid of him. And indeed Michel Voss could lose his temper and become an angry man.

Our landlord had been twice married. By his first wife he had now living a single son, George Voss, who at the time of our tale had already reached his twenty-fifth year. George, however, did not at this time live under his father's roof, having taken service for a time with the landlady of another inn at Colmar. George Voss was known to be a clever young man; many in those parts declared that he was much more so than his father; and when he became clerk at the Poste in Colmar, and after a year or two had taken into his hands almost the entire management of that house--so that people began to say that old-fashioned and wretched as it was, money might still be made there--people began to say also that Michel Voss had been wrong to allow his son to leave Granpere. But in truth there had been a few words between the father and the son; and the two were so like each other that the father found it difficult to rule, and the son found it difficult to be ruled.

George Voss was very like his father, with this difference, as he was often told by the old folk about Granpere, that he would never fill his father's shoes. He was a smaller man, less tall by a couple of inches, less broad in proportion across the shoulders, whose arm would never be so strong, whose leg would never grace a tight stocking with so full a development. But he had the same eye,


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