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A TRAMP THROUGH THE FOREST OF FONTAINEBLEAU.
A solitary walking tour is not for the genial mind the most alluring of dissipations. It is all very well to proclaim oneself a vagabond, and hobnob with roadside rascals, village innkeepers, slouching peasants and women loaded with baskets by way of social converse. A walking tour is best enjoyed à deur. It is some time now since I have projected a prolonged tramp through the forest of Fontainebleau, but have never been able to carry out my plan, for lack of a comrade. Women may bicycle, but alas! the tramp's vocation is rarely revealed in them. They do not like idle exercise through miles of wood, though they will gladly wear shoe-leather for hours at a stretch on pavements lined with shops. Their general understanding of Fontainebleau is a "Murray" or “Badeker" superintended visit to the Palace, edifying reflections in the Allée of Madame de Maintenon, a drive at the coachman's will and pleasure to the accepted point of admiration, and an unusually long hotel bill. For the hotels of Fontainebleau are famed purse-unloaders, With this conventional experience I was familiar, and had no mind to renew it. What I yearned for was the experiment of sleep beneath the trees, hours of idle gazing; to break away from the high roads of the forest and, if possible, in spite of blue arrows and rigid instructions on all sides for the wanderer's guidance, to lose myself among the diverse aisles and naves of that cheerful cathedral.
Chance one evening led to my door the ideal comrade: a youth, not so young as to fill me with alarm of spirits and enthusiasm pitched too high for my own more cynical and more sober hour; not so old as to cause misgivings on the score of scandal, propriety
or sentiment. Not in the least literary, though fond of books, and capable of talking of them; nothing of the Bohemian or artist, which I devoutly abhor; able to keep his demeanor of nice and well-mannered young fellow while drowsily lolling under benignant foliage at an African temperature, with hat tilted over eyes, in abandoned shirt-sleeves. In a word, an admirable travelling companion, with temper well in training and courtesy ever on the surface; neither effaced nor aggressive in character; to whose judgment I found it extremely fresh and diverting to relinquish all the details of our ex. excursion. Alexandre, my pleasant young comradė, said at the end that the experiment was very chic. I more poetically recalled the wanderings of Consuelo and Joseph Haydn. But Alexandre had not read “Consuelo, and, though he will not admit it, that is his loss. He professes to despise George Sand. You see, he is so young! His god is Wagner, and he would persist of an evening, when the stars were out, and a youth of an earlier genera. tion would have recited poetry and mused upon his lost love, in humming different choruses from "Parsifal" and "Tristan," till exasperated nerves could no longer stand the test, and I threatened to plant him there and seek refuge in solitude. But no outbreak of mine could ruffle the placidity of his genial temper. He imperturbably regretted my ina lity to rise to the grandeur of Wagner's choruses as interpreted by him in the forest of Fontainebleau. It is doubtful if Wagner himself would have appreciated the interpretation any more than I did.
Our start was anything but felicitous. A dense tropical downpour fell as if through a million waterspouts. We
were to meet at the Gare de Lyon, but instead encountered outside my house, whither Alexandre rushed dripping to propose adjournment of the escapade. An adjourned escapade is an egg without salt. We should reach Fontainebleau by noon, when probably the sun would be shining, and what did it matter if the heaven threatened deluge meanwhile? Like the late Jules Favre, Alexandre did not mind being shot but he disliked being wet; nevertheless, like the urbane and gallant lad he is, he yielded to my wish, and we began our tramp by the modest train. I proved in the right. By the time we got to Brunoy the rain-clouds were clearing off, and we found the town on the edge of the forest radiant in the tempered brilliance of a restored sun. Here the thing was to find a cheap and clean little inn, where men in blouses were content to feed, for we had settled to pay no
more than even eight francs a day each for food and shelter. “At the Burgundy Sign” in the Rue de France accomplished our dream. It exceeded it even, for, deeming us illustrious foreigners in disguise, owing to my Britannic metal countenance and Alexandre's gray felt and tan shoes, it awarded us a little dining-room all to our two selves.
We may have been taken for bride and bridegroom for anything I know. Anyhow, the cabinet particulier (not so very hidden that servants and proprietors could not refresh their sight by constant vision of us, through the glass wall which separated us from kitchen and corridor) was not charged in the bill nor
was light upstairs or down. stairs. If the woman was rather glum, the man, a jolly Burgundian, made up for it in civility. I wish you could find in any village at home sheets so white, beds so comfortable, rooms so clean as those which Alexandre and I enjoyed “At the Burgundy Sign" for two francs a night. And how we needed those
beds with a much more liberal supply of water and larger basins when night found us shut within bedroom walls from the murmuring forest after our twenty-five or thirty kilometres on foot. True we spread out these kilometres over twelve hours, starting at eight A.M. and ending at eight P.M., by several prolonged visits and siesta. We usually came out somewhere at half-past twelve where there was a restaurant, an inn of some kind, and here we lunched for two-and-a-half or three francs. Then at five parched throats clamored for a bock, and eight o'clock found us restored to rest, ablutions, dinner, cigarettes and coffee, with feet on chairs, reduced to helpless imbecility by the excessive intoxication of "the great air."
As an interim in intellectual labor I know of none so refreshing and complete. Your eye is sufficiently exercised by the glowing and varied charms of the forest, whose murmuring fascination is ever new and restful. There is no call on big adjectives, æsthetic attitudes or exhausting reveries. You take your treat in a quiet mood, and are quiescently grateful. Everywhere you are pleased, nowhere surprised. It is a delicate enchantment that seizes you, an idle artistic sense of satisfaction.
The Fontainebleau of tradition, the theatrical environment of the gentleman of the paint-box and white umbrella seems to be a thing of the past, or else to hide itself discreetly from the vagabonds' scrutiny. Not a white umbrella did Alexandre and I encounter, not a velvet jacket or blouse, and no slouched felt but his own. Even at Barbizon there was no atmosphere of Bohemia, or midnight revelry, or rustic impropriety. Siron's is quite a refined institution, where you pay eight franes a day for the privilege of sleeping in a tidy brand-new bedroom and where you may gaze at a few daubs on the
dining-room walls understood to be so many strokes of homage to the ancient resort and shelter of art. The landlady assured us, with a look of relief, that the painters had all forsaken Barbizon, and only Marlotte had the misfortune to harbor a stray animal from time to time. The foundations of the artistic colony lie alas! in ruins.
“We,” she said arrogantly, “only receive bourgeoises families.” Opposite us sat at lunch a lady Alexandre was quick to qualify as anything but that ассе) ed article. She and the waiter seemed to be on intimate terms, if that were sufficient indication of her sphere, and she afterwards jingled atrociously on an atrocious piano.
I had approached Barbizon in a Aut. ter, remembering Stevenson's charming sketch of the place. I own I was grievously disappointed, and, instead of lingering there a week as I had projected, I nowise regretted to make that same afternoon for Chailly. The sun was dipping westward and a deep scarlet glow lay broadly over Millet's famous plain. One unconsciously listened for the Angelus bell and looked to see the peasants take their immortal attitude. True there were two peasants cutting corn that gleamed like wisps of gold in the ruddy light, and a Philistine was photographing them with barbarous complacency; but they wore too much the self-conscious air of the drama, they were too ostensibly on view to fulfil the requisites of the pic. turesque. Still the scene was beautiful and impressive; a prolonged panorama of sunset effects and such quie. tude as belongs to the great plain and the enlarged solemnity of evening.
The long, breezy high road, and the ever varying, ever satisfying charms of woodland besiege the senses with their insidious mirth. Not content with green splendor, the tall trees have swathed their barks in red glamour, and gleam in the softened rays like bur
nished pillars, and when you wish for a change from the interminable perspective of the columned aisle and sunflecked shadow, you have the naked gray of rocks and stretches of broad white stone to stumble over or recline against at will. You may, as we did, play at losing your way; but even if you have taken a first prize as imbecile you will not succeed in doing so for half an hour-thanks to the remorseless blue arrows. And then, when tired of nature, you may stretch yourself under the friendly trees and fall asleep. Nobody will heed you, for the artists have vanished, and their successors, the cyclists, will not perceive you.
It is surprising how easily books may be dispensed with when you take to vagabondage. On the other hand, food and liquid refreshment assume quite a disproportionate importance. Alexandre and I, lounging under a tree, miles away from a restaurant, took a gruesome satisfaction in bringing the water of envy to our mouths by talking of the ices and iced drinks we yearned for, and food we should have swallowed uncomplainingly in Paris here seemed to us of intolerable mediocrity. I brought several books with me, and read, I believe, a couple of pages of one without in the least knowing what I read. Tobacco was our chief delight, and it was a melancholy moment when we discovered in the very heart of the forest that we had come to the end of our double supply of cigarettes. It was no consolation, but the reverse, to reflect that the bag I had despatched that morning on to Paris from the inn contained a packet of Havana cigarettes smuggled a little while before
the Spanish frontier.
We had arranged to follow the long, long Melun road and there catch the night train to Paris. That Melun road I never can forget. The more we ad
vanced the longer it seemed to grow. I walk almost unconsciously, for nearly had imagined a kilometre to be a small four kilometres. But the fifth needel affair and began to regard it as a an effort beyond my force, and I began league. I had tramped that morning to fear tetanus. I had no notion what since eight, and nine at night still the mere projecting of one foot beyond found me trudging senselessly and din- the
mean, how much nerless alongside of my unfortunate numbed pain it may contain. MOTE comrade, whose business it soon be- ment became a sort of nightmare, came to drag me like baggage sus- against which I was not even able to pended from his arm. There was no
Every power of the body diligence, no carriage, and the last seemed to come to a standstill, speech train for Paris stopped at Melun at as well as sight, and I was imperfectly half-past ten. A quaint old peasant conscious of being alive. What all this woman, 'holding two hideous little girls implied for poor Alexandre may easily by the hand, passed us as I lay half be guessed, but he bore himself as a dead on an edge of grass-plot to the hero, neither impatient nor complainstupefaction of Alexandre, who saw no ing, though mightily vexed with himway out of the dilemma, since it was self for encouraging me to neglect the physically impossible to carry me the diligence of Barbizon; the result of my remaining five kilometres. Alexandre defective knowledge of the length of a is a genial and courteous lad, and be- kilometre. Were ever eyes more grati. gan to compliment madame her fied than ours by sight of the lights of charming children. This led to talk, Melun? Was ever the ugly protection and the old woman, smiling delight- of railway bridge and arch more comfully, was strong in her dissuasion fortable assurance in the breathing against the continued tramp. It was fragrance of night than those of that tempting Providence, she vowed, and station, as we limpingly approached it? we were welcome to a rest in her house Dinner was out of the question, but and a bowl of bouillon. But I was there was time for Alexandre to dart bound to reach Paris that night, and up the town, as soon as he had left me made a gallant, I may say superhuman reposing railway cushions, for effort. By shutting my eyes and cling. bread and ham, which we devoured in ing to my companion's arm with both the train, and midnight found us rehands clasped as a stay, I was able to stored to lamplit and noisy Paris,
Hannah Lynch. Good Words.
MIDNIGHT BY THE SEA.
Waves of the wild North Sea,
How sweet within the loosened arms of sleep
Tb lie in silence deep,
Along the caverned shore