Зображення сторінки

peas, carrots—or by a dish of maccaroni, or perhaps an omelet of the homely substantial kind that finds favour in French households of the more unpretending sort, and which is far removed as may be from the delicate egg puff supplied to you under the same name in the restaurants of the Palais-Royal. The repast invariably ends, according to foreign custom, with dessert, the principal dish at this final course being usually a pile of purple grapes, when in season, or of hot chestnuts gathered from the neighbouring woods, eked out with a few almonds, pears, or other fruit, and cheese from the rich pastures of Rochefort in southern Rouergue.

During the meal a book was read aloud by one of six or seven chorister boys, who, dressed in white cassock and hood, uniform with the monks, occupy a table at the lower end of the hall. The book in use at the present time was a Life of Napoleon the First, which a junior member of the society thought hardly made allowance enough for what he considered the difficulties of the Emperor's position. Then followed, immediately before rising from table, a few sentences out of the Imitation of Christ. Towards the close of the repast, however, the public reader-the Frère Lecteur--was often relieved by Père Pierre, one of the seniors, who, taking up the reading, declaimed (generally in a humorous vein) miscellaneous excerpts from a provincial newspaper of leanings decidedly Conservative. Supper at a quarter after seven is almost a duplicate of dinner at noon ; while at breakfast (which, as already noted, each person takes independently) there is a considerable variety of viands, the brotherhood being apparently served, at this comparatively informal meal, with whatever their peculiar taste or condition of health may require. Thus one will have a small basin of milk; another, a bowl of chocolate prepared with water; a third, a cup of coffee with an egg ; a fourth, a tiny dish of fish, with a hunch of bread washed down perhaps by a draught of ruddy claret pressed from grapes grown on the broad vineyards which the goodwill of pious modern benefactors has bestowed on this historical house of the Carlovingians.



The Knight of La Mancha and his Dish of Hotchpotch.—The Sung Requiem.—The Evening Anthem.—The Tapestried Corridor.The Terraced Walk. –The Cloister Fountain.-A Stroll in the Flower Garden.

The above fanciful title was suggested by the dish of hotchpotch made famous in the opening page of the History of the Knight of la Mancha. And in naming that ideal hero of chivalry, the tracer of these lines is reminded that the circumstances amid which he found himself—including place, persons, and associations—were not untinged with something of the romantic hue that characterised the life and times of the poor, proud, high-bred scion of the Spanish squirearchy of the sixteenth century. To match the 'certain corner of La Mancha' where. dwelt the hero of Cervantes, but which his biographer chooses not to remember,' you have a secluded bit of the rarely visited highland county of Rouergue, hedged in betwixt Auvergne on the north and Languedoc on the south. As a counterpart to the Knight's Castle, such as it was, you have a Monastery of moderate extent, indeed, yet nestling beside a Norman minster that rises, stately, from the midst of an irregular, old-fashioned little town, itself a bequest to our own day from the middle ages. For this townlet, perched on a ledge of rock projecting out of the mountain side, is inhabited by peasants whose ways and belongings are only less primitive and picturesque than those of their neighbours across the Pyrenees. And, to complete the picture, in lieu of the mailed bachelor Knight-armed cap-à-pie, ready to tilt or joust with any soe that might present himself—you have the white serge frock and hood of the Premonstrant monk, equipped with spiritual weapons to do battle with the world, the flesh, and the devil ; carrying back your fancy to the days when chivalry and monachism flourished side by side, like twin sisters, the two most typical institutions of the age.

In adopting, however, the title at the head of the chapter, the Ollapodrida or hotchpotch we had in view was no mere culinary dish, more or less savoury, like the meagre fare of Don Quixote ; but a medley of incidents which, though noteworthy, do not readily fit in to any other place. A few such,

[ocr errors]

culled from a sufficiently ample store, may be jotted down here.

As characteristic an incident perhaps as any that can be named in connection with Ste.-Foy de Conques, is presented not unfrequently in the northern transept of the minster at early dawn. The soaring Romanesque arcade, with its triforium gallery above, echoes to the plaintive, lugubrious dirge of a white-frocked Brother, who, from behind a column that may have stood there these eight hundred years, chants alone the vocal score of a Requiem mass which another of the brethren in priest's orders is celebrating before an altar at the transept end. To diversify the picture, a group of nuns from an uncloistered nunnery overlooking the town are telling their beads or otherwise performing their orisons as the rite proceeds; and, with their black serge hoods and gowns, impart tone and colour to the scene. Meanwhile the first rays of an October sun, as it peers in from the eastern windows on your right, shed a halo of light around. Frère Raphael, seated by the tall pillar and with open book resting on his knee, continues to sing, if not merrily, at least steadily on, Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison.' Then follow the Sanctus and Agnus Dei in a chant, monotonous indeed, but yet not ineffective ; and when, at the close of this 'celebration,' the officiating priest gives place to another

« НазадПродовжити »