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- A LITTLE TOUR IN FRANCE - 10/42 -


revenges with which the name of Catherine de' Medici is associated, and turned her out-of-doors. Diana was not in want of refuges, and Catherine went through the form of giving her Chaumont in exchange; but there was only one Chenonceaux. Catherine devoted herself to making the place more completely unique. The feature that renders it sole of its kind is not ap- preciated till you wander round to either side of the house. If a certain springing lightness is the charac- teristic of Chenonceaux, if it bears in every line the aspect of a place of recreation, - a place intended for delicate, chosen pleasures, - nothing can confirm this expression better than the strange, unexpected move- ment with which, from behind, it carries itself across the river. The earlier building stands in the water; it had inherited the foundations of the mill destroyed by Thomas Bohier. The first step, therefore, had been taken upon solid piles of masonry; and the ingenious Catherine - she was a _raffinee_ - simply proceeded to take the others. She continued the piles to the op- posite bank of the Cher, and over them she threw a long, straight gallery of two stories. This part of the chateau, which looks simply like a house built upon a bridge and occupying its entire length, is of course the great curiosity of Chenonceaux. It forms on each floor a charming corridor, which, within, is illuminated from either side by the flickering river-light. The architecture of these galleries, seen from without, is less elegant than that of the main building, but the aspect of the whole thing is delightful. I have spoken of Chenonceaux as a "villa," using the word ad- visedly, for the place is neither a castle nor a palace. It is a very exceptional villa, but it has the villa- quality, - the look of being intended for life in com- mon. This look is not at all contradicted by the wing across the Cher, which only suggests intimate pleasures, as the French say, - walks in pairs, on rainy days; games and dances on autumn nights; together with as much as may be of moonlighted dialogue (or silence) in the course, of evenings more genial still, in the well- marked recesses of windows.

It is safe to say that such things took place there in the last century, during the kindly reign of Mon- sieur and Madame Dupin. This period presents itself as the happiest in the annals of Chenonceaux. I know not what festive train the great Diana may have led, and my imagination, I am afraid, is only feebly kindled by the records of the luxurious pastimes organized on the banks of the Cher by the terrible daughter of the Medici, whose appreciation of the good things of life was perfectly consistent with a failure to perceive why others should live to enjoy, them. The best society that ever assembled there was collected at Chenon- ceaux during the middle of the eighteenth century. This was surely, in France at least, the age of good society, the period when it was well for appreciative people to have been born. Such people should of course have belonged to the fortunate few, and not to the miserable many; for the prime condition of a society being good is that it be not too large. The sixty years that preceded the French Revolution were the golden age of fireside talk and of those pleasures which proceed from the presence of women in whom the social art is both instinctive and acquired. The women of that period were, above all, good company; the fact is attested by a thousand documents. Chenon- ceaux offered a perfect setting to free conversation; and infinite joyous discourse must have mingled with the liquid murmur of the Cher. Claude Dupin was not only a great man of business, but a man of honor and a patron of knowledge; and his wife was gracious, clever, and wise. They had acquired this famous pro- perty by purchase (from one of the Bourbons; for Chenonceaux, for two centuries after the death of Catherine de' Medici, remained constantly in princely hands), and it was transmitted to their son, Dupin de Francueil, grandfather of Madame George Sand. This lady, in her Correspondence, lately published, describes a visit that she paid, more than thirty years ago, to those members of her family who were still in posses- sion. The owner of Chenonceaux to-day is the daughter of an Englishman naturalized in France. But I have wandered far from my story, which is simply a sketch of the surface of the place. Seen obliquely, from either side, in combination with its bridge and gallery, the chateau is singular and fantastic, a striking example of a wilful and capricious conception. Unfortunately, all caprices are not so graceful and successful, and I grudge the honor of this one to the false and blood- polluted Catherine. (To be exact, I believe the arches of the bridge were laid by the elderly Diana. It was Catherine, however, who completed the monument.) Within, the house has been, as usual, restored. The staircases and ceilings, in all the old royal residences of this part of France, are the parts that have suffered least; many of them have still much of the life of the old time about them. Some of the chambers of Che- nonceaux, however, encumbered as they are with mo- dern detail, derive a sufficiently haunted and suggestive look from the deep setting of their beautiful windows, which thickens the shadows and makes dark, corners. There is a charming little Gothic chapel, with its apse hanging over the water, fastened to the left flank of the house. Some of the upper balconies, which look along the outer face of the gallery, and either up or down the river, are delightful protected nooks. We walked through the lower gallery to the other bank of the Cher; this fine apartment appeared to be for the moment a purgatory of ancient furniture. It terminates rather abruptly; it simply stops, with a blank wall. There ought, of course, to have been a pavilion here, though I prefer very much the old defect to any mo- dern remedy. The wall is not so blank, however, but that it contains a door which opens on a rusty draw- bridge. This drawbridge traverses the small gap which divides the end of the gallery from the bank of the stream. The house, therefore, does not literally rest on opposite edges of the Cher, but rests on one and just fails to rest on the other. The pavilion would have made that up; but after a moment we ceased to miss this imaginary feature. We passed the little drawbridge, and wandered awhile beside the river. From this opposite bank the mass of the chateau looked more charming than ever; and the little peaceful, lazy Cher, where two or three men were fishing in the eventide, flowed under the clear arches and between the solid pedestals of the part that spanned it, with the softest, vaguest light on its bosom. This was the right perspective; we were looking across the river of time. The whole scene was deliciously mild. The moon came up; we passed back through the gallery and strolled about a little longer in the gardens. It was very still. I met my old gondolier in the twilight. He showed me his gondola; but I hated, somehow, to see it there. I don't like, as the French say, to _meler les genres_. A gondola in a little flat French river? The image was not less irritating, if less injurious, than the spectacle of a steamer in the Grand Canal, which had driven me away from Venice a year and a half before. We took our way back to the Grand Monarque, and waited in the little inn-parlor for a late train to Tours. We were not impatient, for we had an ex- cellent dinner to occupy us; and even after we had dined we were still content to sit awhile and exchange remarks upon, the superior civilization of France. Where else, at a village inn, should we have fared so well? Where else should we have sat down to our refreshment without condescension? There were two or three countries in which it would not have been happy for us to arrive hungry, on a Sunday evening, at so modest an hostelry. At the little inn at Chenon- ceaux the _cuisine_ was not only excellent, but the ser- vice was graceful. We were waited on by mademoiselle and her mamma; it was so that mademoiselle alluded to the elder lady, as she uncorked for us a bottle of Vouvray mousseux. We were very comfortable, very genial; we even went so far as to say to each other that Vouvray mousseux was a delightful wine. From this opinion, indeed, one of our trio differed; but this member of the party had already exposed herself to the charge of being too fastidious, by declining to de- scend from the carriage at Chaumont and take that back-stairs view of the castle.

VIII.

Without fastidiousness, it was fair to declare, on the other hand, that the little inn at Azay-le-Rideau was very bad. It was terribly dirty, and it was in charge of a fat _megere_ whom the appearance of four trustful travellers - we were four, with an illustrious fourth, on that occasion - roused apparently to fury. I attached great importance to this incongruous hostess, for she uttered the only uncivil words I heard spoken (in connection with any business of my own) during a tour of some six weeks in France. Breakfast not at Azay-le-Rideau, therefore, too trustful traveller; or if you do so, be either very meek or very bold. Breakfast not, save under stress of circumstance; but let no circumstance whatever prevent you from going to see the admirable chateau, which is almost a rival of Chenonceaux. The village lies close to the gates, though after you pass these gates you leave it well behind. A little avenue, as at Chenonceaux, leads to the house, making a pretty vista as you approach the sculptured doorway. Azay is a most perfect and beautiful thing; I should place it third in any list of the great houses of this part of France in which these houses should be ranked according to charm. For beauty of detail it comes after Blois and Chenon- ceaux; but it comes before Amboise and Chambord. On the other hand, of course, it is inferior in majesty to either of these vast structures. Like Chenonceaux, it is a watery place, though it is more meagrely moated than the little chateau on the Cher. It consists of a large square _corps de logis_, with a round tower at each angle, rising out of a somewhat too slumberous


A LITTLE TOUR IN FRANCE - 10/42

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