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- A LITTLE TOUR IN FRANCE - 42/42 -


day (that of the dinner of the nuns; the picture is in their refectory) during which the treasure could not be shown. The purpose of the musical chimes to which I had so artlessly listened was to usher in this fruitless interval. The regulation was absolute, and my disappointment relative, as I have been happy to reflect since I "looked up" the picture. Crowe and Cavalcaselle assign it without hesitation to Roger van der Weyden, and give a weak little drawing of it in their "Flemish Painters." I learn from them also - what I was ignorant of - that Nicholas Ronin, Chan- cellor of Burgundy and founder of the establishment at Beaune, was the original of the worthy kneeling before the Virgin, in the magnificent John van Eyck of the Salon Carre. All I could see was the court of the hospital and two or three rooms. The court, with its tall roofs, its pointed gables and spires, its wooden galleries, its ancient well, with an elaborate superstruc- ture of wrought iron, is one of those places into which a sketcher ought to be let loose. It looked Flemish or English rather than French, and a splendid tidiness pervaded it. The porter took me into two rooms on the ground-floor, into which the sketcher should also be allowed to penetrate; for they made irresistible pictures. One of them, of great proportions, painted in elaborate "subjects," like a ball-room of the seven- teenth century, was filled with the beds of patients, all draped in curtains of dark red cloth, the tradi- tional uniform of these, eleemosynary couches. Among them the sisters moved about, in their robes of white flannel, with big white linen hoods. The other room was a strange, immense apartment, lately restored with much splendor. It was of great length and height, had a painted and gilded barrel-roof, and one end of it - the one I was introduced to - appeared to serve as a chapel, as two white-robed sisters were on their knees before an altar. This was divided by red curtains from the larger part; but the porter lifted one of the curtains, and showed me that the rest of it, a long, imposing vista, served as a ward, lined with little red-draped beds. "C'est l'heure de la lecture," remarked my guide; and a group of conva- lescents - all the patients I saw were women - were gathered in the centre around a nun, the points of whose white hood nodded a little above them, and whose gentle voice came to us faintly, with a little echo, down the high perspective. I know not what the good sister was reading, - a dull book, I am afraid, - but there was so much color, and such a fine, rich air of tradition about the whole place, that it seemed to me I would have risked listening to her. I turned away, however, with that sense of defeat which is always irritating to the appreciative tourist, and pot- tered about Beaune rather vaguely for the rest of my hour: looked at the statue of Gaspard Monge, the mathematician, in the little _place_ (there is no _place_ in France too little to contain an effigy to a glorious son); at the fine old porch - completely despoiled at the Revolution - of the principal church; and even at the meagre treasures of a courageous but melancholy little museum, which has been arranged - part of it being the gift of a local collector - in a small hotel de ville. I carried away from Beaune the impression of some- thing mildly autumnal, - something rusty yet kindly, like the taste of a sweet russet pear.

XL.

It was very well that my little tour was to termi- nate at Dijon; for I found, rather to my chagrin, that there was not a great deal, from the pictorial point of view, to be done with Dijon. It was no great matter, for I held my proposition to have been by this time abundantly demonstrated, - the proposition with which I started: that if Paris is France, France is by no means Paris. If Dijon was a good deal of a disap- pointment, I felt, therefore, that I could afford it. It was time for me to reflect, also, that for my disap- pointments, as a general thing, I had only myself to thank. They had too often been the consequence of arbitrary preconceptions, produced by influences of which I had lost the trace. At any rate, I will say plumply that the ancient capital of Burgundy is want- ing in character; it is not up to the mark. It is old and narrow and crooked, and it has been left pretty well to itself: but it is not high and overhanging; it is not, to the eye, what the Burgundian capital should be. It has some tortuous vistas, some mossy roofs, some bulging fronts, some gray-faced hotels, which look as if in former centuries - in the last, for instance, during the time of that delightful President de Brosses, whose Letters from Italy throw an interesting side-light on Dijon - they had witnessed a considerable amount of good living. But there is nothing else. I speak as a man who for some reason which he doesn't remem- ber now, did not pay a visit to the celebrated Puits de Moise, an ancient cistern, embellished with a sculp- tured figure of the Hebrew lawgiver.

The ancient palace of the Dukes of Burgundy, long since converted into an hotel de ville, presents to a wide, clean court, paved with washed-looking stones, and to a small semicircular _place_, opposite, which looks as if it had tried to be symmetrical and had failed, a facade and two wings, characterized by the stiffness, but not by the grand air, of the early part of the eighteenth century. It contains, however, a large and rich museum, - a museum really worthy of a capi- tal. The gem of this exhibition is the great banquet- ing-hall of the old palace, one of the few features of the place that has not been essentially altered. Of great height, roofed with the old beams and cornices, it contains, filling one end, a colossal Gothic chimney- piece, with a fireplace large enough to roast, not an ox, but a herd of oxen. In the middle of this striking hall, the walls of which. are covered with objects more or less precious, have been placed the tombs of Philippe- le-Hardi and Jean-sans-Peur. These monuments, very splendid in their general effect, have a limited interest. The limitation comes from the fact that we see them to-day in a transplanted and mutilated condition. Placed originally in a church which has disappeared from the face of the earth, demolished and dispersed at the Revolution, they have been reconstructed and restored out of fragments recovered and pieced to- gether. The piecing his been beautifully done; it is covered with gilt and with brilliant paint; the whole result is most artistic. But the spell of the old mor- tuary figures is broken, and it will never work again. Meanwhile the monuments are immensely decorative.

I think the thing that pleased me best at Dijon was the little old Parc, a charming public garden, about a mile from the town, to which I walked by a long, straight autumnal avenue. It is a _jardin fran- cais_ of the last century, - a dear old place, with little blue-green perspectives and alleys and _rondpoints_, in which everything balances. I went there late in the afternoon, without meeting a creature, though I had hoped I should meet the President de Brosses. At the end of it was a little river that looked like a canal, and on the further bank was an old-fashioned villa, close to the water, with a little French garden of its own. On the hither side was a bench, on which I seated myself, lingering a good while; for this was just the sort of place I like. It was the furthermost point of my little tour. I thought that over, as I sat there, on the eve of taking the express to Paris; and as the light faded in the Parc the vision of some of the things I had seen became more distinct.


A LITTLE TOUR IN FRANCE - 42/42

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