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to the high road. It's very muddy down there, and will take you longer."

When our adviser saw that we did not stop, he raised his voice and
called, "There are no signposts and you may get lost."

"You take the high road and we'll take the low," sang back the Artist.

He who had meant well disappeared, shaking his head. No doubt, as he
shuffled along, he was muttering to himself over the inexplicable actions
of _ces drôles d'Anglais_.

The miles passed coolly and pleasantly. Trees and bushes did not allow
many glimpses of the outside world. The dogs that barked were behind
farmhouse gates, and we had use for our stones only at an occasional
jackrabbit. "At" is a convenient preposition. It gives one latitude.
Jackrabbits on the Riviera are not like human products of the south.
They jump quickly. They jump, too, in directions that cannot be
foretold. After one particularly bad throw, the Artist explained that he
did not enjoy inflicting pain. His boyish instincts had long ago been
controlled by reading S. P. C. A. literature. I told him that I thought
he had given up baseball too early in life. So had I. The jackrabbits
escaped.

I am rarely oblivious to the duty of the noon hour. Although I knew the
Artist's habit of stopping suddenly, and the hopelessness of budging him
by plea or argument as long as the reason for stopping remained, it had
not occurred to me that there would be a risk in taking the low road. We
had started in plenty of time, and as we were out for a medieval town, I
thought he would not be tempted until we reached the vicinity of a
restaurant. But about a mile below Saint-Paul-du-Var the low road
brought us to a view of the city that would have held me at any other
time than twelve noon. I tried the old expedient of walking faster, and
calling attention to something in the distance. When the Artist halted,
moved uncertainly a few yards, and stopped again, we were lost. He did
not need to pronounce the inevitable words, "I'll just get this little
bit." The Artist's "just" means anything from twenty to ninety minutes.

Food without companionship is not enjoyable, least of all on a holiday.
There was no use suggesting that we could come back this way, and
advancing that the light would be so much better later. The Artist had
started in. I cast around for some way of escape from an impossible
situation. The only farmhouse in sight was at the end of a long lane,
and did not look as if it could produce the makings of a meal. The
poorest providers and preparers of foodstuffs are their producers. Who
has not eaten salt pork on a cattle ranch and longed for cream on a dairy
farm? What city boarder has not discovered the woeful lack of connection
between the cackling of hens and the certitude of fresh eggs on the table
at the next meal? What muncher of Maine doughnuts in a Boston restaurant
has not thought of the "sinkers" offered to him when he was on his last
summer's vacation?

A bridge crossed a stream just ahead of us. On the other side was a
thick clump of trees. I walked forward with the thought that a drink of
water at least might not be bad. When I got to the bridge I heard
plaintive barking and a man's voice. The man was explaining to the dog
why he ought not to be impatient. He would have his good bone, with
plenty of meat on it, in a little quarter of an hour. A house-wagon was
standing back from the side of the road. The owner was shaking a
casserole over a fire, and the dog was sniffing as near as he dared. The
dog gave me his attention, and the man turned. It was a favorite waiter
of a favorite Montparnasse café.

"Pierre," I cried, "where did you drop from? What luck!"

Pierre put the casserole on the window ledge, out of the dog's reach, and
greeted me. You never could surprise Pierre. He was always master of
the situation. One has to be in a Montparnasse café. I noted with
approval the precaution that Pierre had taken. Either the dog was very
hungry or there was something particularly tempting in the casserole.

Pierre had gone to join his regiment on the second day of the war. I had
not seen him or heard of him since then. He told me that he had been
unable to shake off a _bronchite_, caught in the trenches. It was the
old story. When he left the hospital, the medical board declared him
unfit for further service and warned him against returning soon to city
life. The hope of recovery lay in open air and sunshine.

"I determined to get well, Monsieur," he said. "I had money saved up. I
bought this wagon and a cinematograph outfit. I go to the little towns
in the Midi. One can take only four sous - two from the children - but I
get along. Now, when I am well, I shall not go back to Paris. Have you
ever lived in a wagon, Monsieur? No? Well, never do it, if you do not
want to realize that it is the only life worth living."

Pierre was interested in the gossip of the Quarter. A frequent "_c'est
vrai_" and "_dîtes donc_" punctuated my news of American artists who had
gone home at last. When I told him of the few who had sold pictures in
America, his comment was "_épatant_," which he meant in no
uncomplimentary sense. The Artist was an old favorite of Pierre's. I
restrained his impulse to go right out to greet the Artist. Pierre
entered into my idea with alacrity. The dog was given a bone and
chained. The coal box was brought out from the wagon, and turned upside
down for a table beside a fallen tree. When all was ready, I watched
Pierre surprise the Artist. He put a napkin over his arm, and froze his
face. Then he tip-toed up to the Artist's elbow, and announced,
"_Monsieur est servi._" For once I was able to get the Artist away from
his work.

What a meal we did have there beside that little stream! There were
bottles in Pierre's wagon, and he insisted upon opening more than one.
When we finally left Pierre to his dishes, we were well fortified for the
climb to Saint-Paul-du-Var, and in the mood to appreciate
enthusiastically all that was before us.

Above on the left we could see the high road that we had deserted at
Villeneuve-Loubet. It did not come out of its way for Saint-Paul-du-Var,
but went straight on inland Vence-wards. A side road, on the level, came
over towards the gate of Saint-Paul-du-Var. To this road ours mounted,
and joined it just outside the town. In climbing we had the opportunity,
denied to the conventional, of seeing that Saint-Paul-du-Var was really
on the top of a hill. The walls rose sheer, and only the outer houses,
directly behind the ramparts, were in our line of vision. Nearly up to
the entrance to the city we passed between a tiny stone chapel and a
mill, whose wheel was a curious combination of metal and wood. The
Artist exclaimed that it would make a bully sketch. He saw its
picturesque possibilities. I wondered, on the other hand, whether it
would work and how it worked. Moss and grass on a millwheel in the Midi
are no surer signs of abandonment and disuse than a dry millrace. Where
things die fast they grow fast. A little water brings forth vegetable
life in a single day. Southern streams are not perennial. On the
Riviera, they are fed from nearby mountains, and are intermittent even in
their season. When the water ceases, the sun quickly bakes a crust of
silt and dries the stones of the river-beds gray-brown.

A dwarf could hardly have said mass in the chapel. Its rear wall was the
rising ground, and there seemed to be a garden on the roof. Burial space
extending no farther than the roots of a sentinel cypress told the tale
of one man's vanity or devotion. The situation of the chapel prompted us
to look over the ground for traces of a lunette bastion on the
counterscarp. We found that the chapel was built upon an earlier
foundation of stone taken from a fortification wall, and that later
builders had made over the chapel into a belvedere. Steps on the side of
the slope led to the roof, upon which two benches had been placed. What
past generations have left us we use for purposes of our own. We talk
sentimentally of our traditions, but we test them by their utility.

Saint-Paul-du-Var fails to satisfy twentieth-century standards. It is
not a thriving, bustling city. It is not a tourist center. The walls
are as they were five centuries ago. The space inside is sufficient for
the population, and one gate serves all needs. The medieval aspect is
not destroyed by buildings outside the walls, and the medieval atmosphere
is undisturbed by hotel touts and postcard vendors. When we presented
ourselves before the gate, not a soul was in sight. A bronze cannon of
Charles-Quint's time stuck its nose out of the ground by the portcullis.
We had to pull off grass and dirt to find the inscription. While we were
examining the towers that flanked the gate, a wagon rattled slowly by.
The driver did not look at us. A woman with a basket of vegetables on
her head met us under the arch. She did not look at us. We found the
same indifference in the town. Even the small boys refrained from
staring or grinning or yelling or asking for pennies. None volunteered
to show us around.

"The interest in our arrival at Saint-Paul-du-Var," commented the Artist,
"is all on our side."

Human nature is full of contradictions. We should have been annoyed if
people had bothered us. We were as much annoyed when they paid no
attention to us.

We went up in one of the towers to reach the ramparts. Keeping on the
walls all the way around the town involved an occasional bit of climbing.
We had to forget our clothes. That was easy, however, for every step of
the way was of compelling interest _extra et intra muros_. Outside, the
panorama of the Riviera, sea and mountains, towns and valleys, lay before
us to the four points of the compass. Inside, houses of different
centuries but none post-Bourbon, each crowding its neighbor but none
without individuality of its own, faced us and curved with us. For once,
the Artist failed to single out a subject.

Seaward, beyond the valley through which we had come, were
Villeneuve-Loubet and Cagnes. On the right we could see to the Antibes
lighthouse, and on the left, across the Var, to the point between Nice
and Villefranche. Landward were Vence and the wall of the Alpes
Maritimes. The afternoon sun fell full on the snow and darkened the
upper valleys of the numerous confluents of the Var and Loup rivers.

Sketching was tomorrow's task. There was time only for exploration of
the city before sunset. We came down at the tower opposite the one from
which we had started on our round. On the road to the electric tram, we
saw the _restaurant-hôtel_, a cube of whitewash, but we were far from the
temptation of banalities. Tea or something, and a place to spend the
night, could be found within the walls.

Saint-Paul-du-Var caught us in its fascinating maze. We forgot that we
were thirsty. There was just one street. It zigzagged its way across
the town from the gate. You lost the points of the compass and hardly
realized that you were going over the top of a hill. The street curved
every hundred yards, and frequently turned around three sides of a single
building. Fountains were at the bends. One of them, opposite the
market, fed a square pool that was the city laundry. Women, kneeling on
the edge, were at the eternal task. We passed the centers of municipal
life, post-office, _mairie_, _gendarmerie_, school and church.

Churches of Riviera towns, like the character and speech and features of
the people, are a reminder of the recency of the French occupation.
There is a replica of the church of Saint-Paul-du-Var in a thousand
Italian cities. When you enter the colorless building from the plain
curved porch, the chill strikes right into your bones. Windows do not
compete with candles. You have to grope your way toward the altar.
Unless you strain your eyes, or lamps are burning, side chapels pass
unnoticed. If you are looking for inscriptions or want to admire the old
master's picture, with which every church claims to be endowed, you must
get the verger with his taper. Altars are gaudily decorated and statues
bejeweled and be (artificial) flowered in Hispano-Italian fashion. The
_mairie_, reconstructed from an ancient palace or castle, was more
interesting. Beside the mairie a medieval square tower, which may have
been a donjon, was occupied on the ground floor by the _gendarmerie_.
Bars on the upper windows indicated that it was still the prison.

We tried the alleys that led off from the street, thinking each might be
a thoroughfare to take us back to the ramparts. They ended abruptly in a
_cul-de-sac_ or court. The _culs-de-sac_, uninviting to eye and nose,
were as Italian as the church. The houses in the courts were stables
downstairs. Man and beast lived together. Flowers and wee bushes grew
up around the wells in the center of the courts. Everything was built of
stone and red-tiled. But there was none of the dull gray-and-red
monotony of northern towns near the sea or of the sharp gray-and-red
monotony of towns of the Mediterranean peninsulas. Grass sprouted out
between the stones of the walls and the tiles of the roofs. From
window-ledges and eaves hung ferns. A blush of moss on the stones added
to the green of plant life, and softened the austerity of the gray.
Nature was successful in asserting herself against man and sun and sea.

[Illustration: "The houses in the courts were stables downstairs."]

We were expressing our enthusiasm in a court where the living green
combined with age to glorify the buildings. We did not see the
dilapidation, we did not smell the dirt, we did not feel the squalor. A
woman was lighting a fire in a brazier on her doorstep. She looked
hostilely at us. We beamed in counteraction. She looked more hostilely.
As the Artist wanted to sketch her house, some words seemed necessary. I
detailed our emotions. Was not her lot, cast in this picturesque spot,
most enviable?

"We want to take away with us," I said, "a tangible memory of this
beautiful, this picturesque, this verdant court in which you live."

"If you had to live here," she announced simply, "you'd want to go away
and forget it."

The fumes had burned from the charcoal. The woman picked up the brazier,
carried it inside without another word or look, and slammed the door
behind her with her foot.

The Artist was already in his sketch, but he paused to growl and
philosophize. "If she had waited a minute longer," he complained, "I
should have had her and the brazier. Funny how unappreciative people
are. You and I, _mon vieux_, would like nothing better than to stay
here. From the other side of her house that woman must have a great view
of the sea and the mountains. Is she going to watch the sunset? No, she
is going to make soup for her man on that brazier in a dark hole of a
room, and feel sorry for herself because she doesn't live in Paris where
she could go to the movies every night."

Our ardor for Saint-Paul-du-Var lasted splendidly through the sunset on
the ramparts. We had found the ideal spot. Hoi polloi could have their
Nice and their Cannes! But when night fell, there were few lights on the
street, and shopkeepers looked at us in stupid amazement when we inquired
about lodgings. We did not dare to ask in the drinking places, for fear
they might volunteer to put us up. In the _épiceries_, we were offered
bread and sardines. There was no butter. So we went rather less
reluctantly than we had thought possible an hour earlier out of the gate
towards the _hôtel-restaurant_. An old man was camped against the wall
in a wagon like Pierre's. He had been sharpening Saint-Paul-du-Var's
scissors and knives. We confided in him, and asked if he thought the
_hôtel-restaurant_ would give us a good dinner and a good bed. The
scissors-grinder wrinkled his nose and twinkled his eyes. "The last tram
from Vence to Cagnes stops over there at eight-ten," he said decisively.
"You have five minutes to catch it. Get off at Villeneuve-Loubet, and go
to the Hôtel Beau-Site. The proprietor is a _cordon bleu_ of a _chef_.
He has his own trout, and he knows just what tourists like to eat and
drink. Motorists stop there over night, so you need have no fear."

"But - " I started to remonstrate.

The Artist was already hurrying in the direction of the tram. I followed
him.

The next morning the Artist went back to Saint-Paul-du-Var for his
sketches. I did not accompany him. Saint-Paul-du-Var was a delightful
memory, and I wanted to keep it.




CHAPTER IV

VILLENEUVE-LOUBET

On a hill a mile or so back from the Cannes-Nice road, just before one
reaches Cagnes, a castle of unusual size and severity of outline rises
above the trees of a park. The roads from Cagnes to Grasse and Vence
bifurcate at the foot of the hill on which the castle is built. What one
thinks of the castle depends upon which road one takes. The traveler on
the Vence road sees a pretentious entrance, constructed for automobiles,
with a twentieth-century iron gate and a twentieth-century porter's
lodge. The park looks well groomed. The wall along the Vence side is as
new as the gate and the lodge. The stone of the castle is white and
fresh. One dismisses the castle as an imitation or a wholesale
restoration by an architect lacking in imagination and cleverness. But
if the left hand road toward Grasse is taken, one sees twelfth-century
fortifications coming down from the top of the hill to the roadside.
There are ruins of bastions and towers overgrown with bushes and ivy.
Farther along an old town is revealed climbing the hill to the castle.
There is nothing _nouveau riche_ about Villeneuve-Loubet. The only
touches of the modern are the motor road with kilometer stones, the iron
bridge over the Loup, and the huge sign informing you that the hotel is
near by.

Had we limited our inland exploration to the Vence side of the hill, the
Artist and I would not have discovered Villeneuve-Loubet. Had we been
hurrying through toward Grasse in automobile or tram, we would probably
have exclaimed "how picturesque" or "interesting, isn't it?" and
continued our way. Luck saved us.

A scissors-grinder at the gate of Saint-Paul-du-Var recommended the trout
and beds of the Villeneuve-Loubet hotel. Just as the moon was coming up
one April evening, we got off the Vence-Cagnes tram at the junction of
the Grasse tramway, and walked to the revelation of what the castle
really was. We decided to eat something in a hurry, and go around the
town that very evening.

When, helped by the sign, we reached the Hôtel Beau-Site, the proprietor
came forward with his best shuffle and bow. Trout? Of course there were
trout, plenty of them. Alas, in these days when business was very, very
bad, when people had no money to travel, and visitors accordingly were
scarce, there were too many trout. But that was to the advantage of
_messieurs_. He, Jean Alphonse, could give a large choice, and the
dinner would have all his attention. It was his pride and rule to give
personal attention always to every dish that left his kitchen, but with
the _monde_ of a regular season, he could not take every fish out of the
pan himself, and see that the slices of lemon were cut, and the parsley
put, just as he had always done when he was the _chef_ of Monsieur Blanc.
We knew Monsieur Blanc. Monsieur Blanc died eight years ago, but that
was the way of the world. Now messieurs could go right along with him
and pick out their own fish. The net was down by the pool, and he would
get a lamp in just one little minute. For that would be best. The moon
was coming up, true. But one could not trust the moonlight in choosing
fish.

The garden of the Hôtel Beau-Site contains a curious succession of bowers
made by training bamboo trees for partitions and ceilings. As we went
through them, Jean Alphonse explained that these natural _salons
particuliers_, where parties could have luncheon out-of-doors and yet
remain sheltered from the sun and in privacy, combined with the trout to
give his hotel a wonderful vogue in tourist season. We, of course,
insisted that the reputation of the chef must be the third and
controlling attraction. The pool was full, and the trout had no chance.
It was not a sporting proposition; but just before dinner one does not
think of that. Even our choice out of the net was gently guided by Jean
Alphonse. Since human nature is the same the world over, is it
surprising that the tricks calculated to captivate and deceive are the
same? I recalled a famous restaurant in Moscow, where one went to the
fountain with a white-robed Tartar waiter and thought he picked his fish.
I have no doubt that Jean Alphonse believed that his idea was original,
and that we were experiencing a new sensation.

Jean Alphonse did not boast idly of his cuisine. He possessed, too, the
genius of the successful boniface for knowing what would please his
guests. He sensed our lack of interest in the wines of the Midi, and,
helped by the Artist's checked knickers and slender cane, set forth a
bottle of old Scotch. We refused to allow him to open the dining-room
for us, and had our dinner in a corner of the café. Villeneuve-Loubet's
_élite_ gathered to see us eat. The _garde-champêtre_, the veteran of
1870, the chatelain's bailiff, the local representative in the Legion of
Honor (rosette, not ribbon, if you please), and two _chasseurs alpins_,
home from the maneuvers on sick leave, ordered their coffee or liqueur at
other tables, but were glad to join us when we said the word. Soon we
had a dozen around us. The history of the war - and past and future
wars - and of Villeneuve-Loubet was set forth in detail.

Had it not been for the moon, we should certainly have gone from the
table to our rooms. But the full moon on the Riviera makes a more
fascinating fairyland than one can find in dreams. We did not hesitate,
when the last of our friends left, to follow them out-of-doors.
Villeneuve-Loubet might prove to be a modest town tomorrow, old, of
course, and interesting: but we were going to see it tonight under the
spell of the moon. We were going to wander where we willed, with all the
town to ourselves. We were going to live for an hour in the Middle Ages.
For if there was anything modern in Villeneuve-Loubet, the moonlight
would hide it or gloss it over; if there was anything ancient, the
moonlight would enable us to see it as we wanted to see it. I pity the
limited souls who do not believe in moonshine, and use the word
contemptuously. One is illogical who contends that moonshine gives a
false idea of things; for he is testing the moonshine impression by
sunshine. It would be as illogical to say that sunshine gives a false
idea of things on the ground that moonshine is the standard. If sunshine
is reality, so is moonshine. The difference is that we are more
accustomed to see things by sunlight than by moonlight. Our test of
reality is familiarity, and of truth repetition.

Villeneuve-Loubet is built against a cliff. The houses rise on tiers of
stone terraces. They are made of stone quarried on the spot. Red tiles,
the conspicuous feature of Mediterranean cities, are lacking in
Villeneuve-Loubet. The roofs are slabs of stone. The streets are the
surface of the cliff. We climbed toward the castle through a ghost-city.
The moon enhanced the gray-whiteness that was the common color of ground,
walls and roofs. The shadows, sharp and black, were needed to set forth
the lines of the buildings.

The picture called for a witch. The silence was broken by the tapping of
a cane. Around the corner the witch hobbled into the scene, testing each
step before her. She was dressed in black, of course, and bent over with
just the curve of the back the Artist loves to give to his old women.
She was a friendly soul, and did not seem amazed to find strangers
strolling late at night in her town. We were "_Anglais_," and that was
explanation enough to one who had seen three generations of tourists.
She stopped to talk with us. When had we arrived at Villeneuve-Loubet?
Had we come up from Nice that afternoon and did we plan to stay for a day
or two with Jean Alphonse at the Hôtel Beau-Site? Did we not agree that
Villeneuve-Loubet was superb? Perhaps we were artists? So many artists
came here to paint and sketch the old houses. What was our impression of
her country? We knew that she meant by "country" not France but


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