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THE FIRST COMMUNION. (FROM THE PAINTING BY BASTIEN LEPAGE, BY PERMISSION OF A. BRAUN & CO.)
land, as far as the eye can see, lies ripening | are swept by the winds into long slants, in the summer sun, one wide sweep of which often make an outline, as of some green and yellow and olive and tawny. huge, dark monster resting on the warm Does my reader know Normandy? The fields. The trees look very old and mossy; farm-houses and buildings are inclosed to- many are almost bare of leaves. What will gether by lines of trees, in spaces varying they do when these really die? Will they according to the wealth and extent of the plant new ones, and wait long years while owner's possessions. These spaces have no they grow in the sea-wind? Or will the spirit walls or fences, or rarely so, and these only of change lead them to try something new, in parts, but trees grow on high, mossy and probably ugly? Meanwhile, they stop banks, making a defense both from intrusion the gaps with sheaves of the colza plant, and the weather. Sometimes there are after the seeds have been beaten out in the several rows, and among them valuable fields, and these gray masses among the timber is cut and replaced, as carefully as trees are in themselves beautiful patches of in a German forest. Within the inclosures color. the farm-yard scenes are admirable-everywhere the most artistic coloring and disorder, which first delights your eye and then throws you into a sort of sympathetic despair at the misery of living in it, which would of course much puzzle the owners. There is no end to the pictures that may be made in such a place. Long yellow barns with mossy roofs lie here and there, and piles of straw, and duck-ponds. Women draw water at stone wells with arched iron-work over them; the grandmother spins in the sun; many-colored cocks and hens are pecking under a bright blue wagon, and little pink pigs nose jerkily in the grass. Calves are tethered under the apple-trees, loaded wagons are coming in from the harvest through the gate-way, and there is a view of It was in that one that we made the friendly acquaintance of an old woman as picturesque as her surroundings. She was bent as nearly double as an old fairy, —with rheumatism, I suppose, and no wonder, considering the dampness of all about her, but she was very lively and intelligent, and we were struck by the aptness of her remarks about the picture in progress. She appreciated its good points with evident pleasure. She was much interested when we told her we were Americans: "That country is pretty far off, isn't it?"
One longs to take one of these farm-yards in hand, and, with taste and neatness, make it into a little paradise, with all the beasts around. The farm we most liked to visit lies on the heights to the east. Near it is the ugly chapel, which so cruelly fails to be the pretty Norman structure it ought to be, in such a situation. Though very old, it might, belfry and all, have come out of any New England builder's brain, and so far as one's eyes allow-one leaves it out of the view. It seemed to be especially the haunt of sailors, as such high chapels looking over the sea usually are; and it is fitting that the first sight they have of home should be the church where candles are burning and prayers being said for their safety. There were always these little lights twinkling on the altar-railing, and many offerings at the feet of the statues, and one or two pictures of ships in the last stages of storm, which yet, no doubt, did come to shore, and men who were in them, and knew what they had been through, drew these, which told the story in a way not to be scorned, though everything in form and color was wrong.
The farm belonged to a rich lady of Rouen, and the tall farmer hired and enriched it at his own expense. His wife told me that it had been much run down, and I spoke of the pleasure of making things better. "Yes, we were put into the world for that," was her answer. She always had something good to say, though she had no teeth to say it with. She was, perhaps, not more than thirty-five. This was one of the most thrifty farms of the neighborhood, and the interior of the cottage looked really clean, which is rare here. The arrangement of the kitchen recalled what I had read of those in the East. A low platform, covered with blue-and-white tiles, ran the length of the room, and the pots and pans rested on the coals in a hollow in the middle. All the
rest of the space seemed to be useless. It was pleasant to sit in the shade and see the farm-work going on in such a picturesque place, to watch the calves browsing under the apple-trees, and the ducks careering over their pond. Though it gave a startling turn to one's thoughts to see a farm-boy come in, and first wash his face in this greenand-brown puddle, and then proceed to fill his jug for luncheon with the same! They often suffer much, on these downs, for want of water to drink, even out of duckponds.
ive representation of the power of the law. We were told there was very little smuggling, and again, that there was a great deal; so perhaps they might have some exciting stories to tell. Their lairs on the cliff-edges do not seem to imply a perfectly quiet life. It is a curious fact about these cliffs that, when the sun shines long on them, they crack with the sound of musketry.
The manners of the people among themselves are very polite. No matter how poor, how ragged, or dirty, they are always " Monsieur" and "Madame." They seem very kind to the children, using the prettiest names, "Ma belle," "Ma bonne," "Ma petite fille." They use the second person singu lar to them, and to animals, too, and it had a very gentle sound. Even the rough boys were capable of politeness, though they consider artists fair game, and would crowd and gaze with an intimate persistency which made a sensitive nose a burden. A joke was the best weapon of defense. The beach is the play-ground of the town; the children wandered about and played their games in the midst of the fine company. The artist of the party had some political talks with the farmers and fishermen, some of whom commented shrewdly on men and affairs; but in general they seemed quite indifferent as to Those unwise enough to be energetic in the form of government-they wanted stasummer can find numerous expeditions. bility. He was much impressed by the conPeople were always going off on long tramps, stant reference to the value of work. "Bon and coming back quite red. There is the courage!" was often their greeting, as they Fontaine de Mousse, where a stream trick-passed him at early hours under his umbrella: ling out of the face of the cliff covers it green with pendent moss, in lovely contrast to the yellows and creamy tints of the stone. Then there are two chaudrons, where the waves boil into superb spray; and Yport, a little fishing-village, worse than Cologne with the smell of dead fish at low tide, yet wonderfully pretty. Most famous of all is the trip to San Juan, to see "La Belle Ernestine," now an old woman, keeping a restaurant whose walls are covered with verses and sketches by famous people. There are villages with pretty church-towers everywhere among the fields, but none in ruins, and no abbeys nor castles. Only the gables of a fort built by Napoleon when he was threatening England, and now used as a coastguard station, I believe. These coast-guards, who have their places as a reward for merit, are a very fine set of men. Their faces were keen and intelligent, and singularly pleasant. I liked to meet them dropping down the hill, heavily armed, their guns slung ready at their shoulders; they were a most attract
Best of all was to lie on the grass in the fields, or on the edges of the cliffs, and listen to the larks and the rustling grain-no other sounds near. There are but few of those dark, rapid creatures which crowd our grass and absorb one's thoughts. Here one can lie in it in peace-even sleep there; and there was nothing two of us liked better than this form of doing nothing. Etretat is certainly a lovely place; but perhaps its greatest merit is the air, fresh and full of life, yet so fine and soft. To New-Englanders, accustomed to shrivel up when the wind comes from the east, it was a constant surprise to feel the north-west wind come in from the broad ocean as a soft, attractive guest, that added a pleasure to life.
"all the world must toil."
The casino is like all other casinos, I suppose. To us, it seemed the abode of chattering dullness, in spite of plays and concerts and "petits chevaux." To one thing-fresh air-every one there, except English and Americans, had great objection. Leaving the door open on a crack as you entered was a trick that was vain; some one immediately shut it, and darted a look of defiance at the barbarian who had put them in such danger. The dressing was extremely simple; gowns were short, and hardly a silk one was seen. Fragile elegancies trailing in the dust were unknown. But all wore heels of the highest; even the excessively fat women-of whom there were more than I ever before encountered-tottered about on these heels. Perhaps they were Wallachs. Sometimes they seemed to be in the majority, so much was one occupied in considering their vastness. I was told that, at some of the watering-places on the sandy shores, it had become the fashion to go barefoot. Human nature
had rebelled against slavery, I suppose; and then how piquant to see a pretty pink foot peering in and out under a soft summer dress!
We found several parties-French, English, German, and American-with whom we had delightful intercourse; but, as a whole, the company seemed commonplace, without even external elegance. There were some exceptions, of course; one a thin, dark woman, without any beauty of figure or face other than her smile, and that it would need a poet to justly describe. It made her instantly beautiful; and, strange to say, the pleasure was not lessened by the conviction that it was an art she possessed, and that the bright, sweet light which filled her face was a matter of intention. There was another woman, looking extremely like her, who tried the smile, too-but! as a Frenchman would say. We noticed much charming familylife led, in all simplicity, before the world; the parents were proud, the children loving, there were mutual confidence and reasonable ideas. As everywhere in France, the connection of the stupid face with the red ribbon in the button-hole made one ponder as to why they should so often go together; politics explains it, I suppose. One of the décorés, a polite old invalid, bewailing himself that he was forbidden to smoke and did not care for eating, appeared not to think of any other way of filling the hours. Seeing the artist going out to his work, he exclaimed: "What, you paint? Would to God I did!"
Etretat is much the haunt of French artists; some prominent ones have ateliers there, and there, as elsewhere, they show that lively interest in all serious effort, and that encouraging spirit of comradeship, which marks the French artist.
They say the English come over in greater and greater numbers each year. They have an unerring instinct for natural beauty and comfort. They have made ease of living into an art, and know the proportionate value of each item of it. Who other than an Englishman, for instance, would have decided to come to Etretat because it faces just to the point where you have beautiful effects of light on the sea, but no glare? As usual, we found among them some of the most delightful possible_companions, though here, as always, one has to distinguish between Britons and English. Of the first, one wishes to see as little as possible; among the second, one can find everything that is worthy of admiration.
English women always make me envious of their practical scientific knowledge. They know the flowers and fishes and birds and butterflies. Even the children have little hammers, and knock knowingly at the rocks. Almost without exception they have pleasant voices; even those who otherwise were not attractive spoke in sweet and interesting intonations. I was sorry to find that they did not seem as strong as we thin and nervous American women have been taught to think. They all walked, to be sure, and seemed to have a sense of merit in going on long expeditions, from which they would come back red in the face, with draggled flounces. They have their own fashions of dress, and one could tell them at a glance by their hats, or, if without them, by their noses. I do not know what it is which makes an English woman's nose so distinctive. They are usually handsome ones, and full of character. It was delightful to see how afraid they are of each other. One stormy day, when the artist was making a sketch of the waves, an English girl came near and politely asked, in British French, permission to look. When answered in her native tongue, she cried, aghast: "What! are you English?” and ran away! The third member of our party found great favor among them, even to the point of being occasionally picked up and carried over places hard for his short legs. They fully appreciated his dignity and sweetness, and the admirable blackness of the inside of his mouth. A nice boy of sixteen considered me a kindred spirit, and poured out long eulogies on the charms of a hideous bull-dog he had left howling for him at home in England.
Some of the Americans-there were but few were handsome and intelligent people, and danced better than any one else. But there was one American such as Europeans sometimes think typical-rich, boastful, illbred, self-satisfied, ignorant, and presuming. He wished to be universally intimate, and "treated" constantly. He appeared to know nothing of French, but talked loudly of its absurdities, and declared that the "American language" was the only one fit to speak. He had traveled much, apparently. "Oh, yes," he said, "he knew all about Hungary, he had been three days in Prague"!
September, they say, is usually a month of clear, delicious weather, but August is apt to be cold, even to the wearing of sealskin coats and the warming of dinner