Home Life in France II.

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CHAPTER VI.

THE BOY


A FEW years ago the lycée or public school was drastically arraigned by that popular novelist M. Jean Aicard.  Again and again through the picturesque and moving pages of "L'Ame d'un Enfant," we come upon Sully Prudhomme's line—


"Oh, mètes, coupables absentes!"


    "Oh, mothers, guilty absentees!" he writes, "fain would I have these lines engraved on the portal of every lycée.  For why play with words?  The lycée is a prison, substantially a prison, the horrors of which are aggravated by the innocence and helplessness of the prisoners.  Children are therein subjected to penal servitude, a system based, not upon love, but upon compulsion and routine."

    If M. Jean Aicard indicts the feminine rather than the paternal head of a house, we must remember that in the home a Frenchwoman's rule is autocratic.  A child's education is entirely in the hands of its mother, and—so writes our author—as soon as little Pierre or Paul begin to be noisy, to damage furniture, and need the discipline their fathers have not been permitted to exercise at home, off they are bundled to a lycée.  Of the seven or eight hundred boarders in any one of these barrack-like buildings, many, he asserts, belong to families living in the same town.

    Throwing what reads like personal experiences into narrative form, our author describes the life of a little boarder.  Oliver Twist seems hardly more to be pitied than this nine-year-old victim of militarism in education, but no mere autobiography is here, a child's soul is laid bare.  From beginning to end the book is a condemnation of scholastic methods in France.

    In his little read but deeply interesting memoirs, Philarète Chasles tells us of George Sand's dismay when visiting her son in a lycée.  The bare yard doing duty as a recreation ground, the prison-like uniformity of the class-rooms, the military discipline shocked the novelist, and, adds the narrator, "I am entirely at one with George Sand, Montaigne, and H. Fröbel, I protest against those dismal jails for schoolboys."

    Montaigne's great predecessor in Gargantua sketched an ideal plan of education.  Rabelais would have a collegiate life "so easy and delectable as rather to resemble royal pastime than scholastic drudgery."

    But Rabelais and Montaigne were voices preaching in the wilderness.  That arch centralizer Napoleon worsened instead of bettering matters.  Under his régime the lycée became half monastery, half barracks, an apprenticeship to military life.  Professors, principals, and managers were bachelors; a semi-military uniform was obligatory even in the case of nine-year-old boys, like soldiers, pupils were summoned to meals, lessons, and exercise by the drum.

    The Restoration only altered matters extrinsically.  The name of collège royal supplemented that of lycée, bells replaced the perpetual drumming so offensive to George Sand, and the Napoleonic three-cornered hat was exchanged for one of less military kind.

    Some valuable reforms and many important changes were introduced under the second Empire by M. Duruy the historian, then minister of public instruction.  Lycées were henceforth divided into two categories, those intended for the learnèd professions, and those about to devote themselves to commerce and agriculture.  The first followed the usual curriculum; the second studied modern languages, technical science, agriculture, chemistry, and the like.  Certain lycées were set apart for the new course of study called l'enseignment spécial.

    The third Republic not only revolutionized primary education throughout France, carrying out the magnificent scheme of the Convention and founding state schools for girls, but introduced a new spirit into the lycée generally.  The Ferry laws of 1881 considerably reduced the time hitherto devoted to dead languages; German, English, and elementary science were now taught in the lower classes.  The so-called enseignment spécial was also modified.

    How far were such changes from satisfying public opinion the Government commission of inquiry of 1899 makes clear.  Five enormous volumes contained the reports of savants, professors, delegates of agricultural and industrial associations, and others.

    Here is an extract from that of M. Lavisse, the historian—

    "The uniformity of school routine is ludicrous.  How inconsistent, for instance, that the hours of recreation should be timed in different climates at precisely the same time!  From one to two o'clock in the south of France, the heat of summer quite prevents pupils from taking exercise, but the same rules are in force for Marseilles and Dunkirk."

    One result of the five enormous volumes has been the introduction of athletic sports into the lycée.  Cricket, football, and other games are fast supplanting the "walk and talk" of former days.

    "How do you amuse yourselves during recreation hours?" I once asked the inmate of a large lycée.

    "We walk up and down and talk," was the reply.

    Whilst approving a certain amount of physical development, the President of the Commission, M. Ribot, deprecated the wholesale adoption of English methods.

    "We do not want," he wrote, "to turn our lads into English boys.  Rough sports do not suit our race, more refined in its elegant vigour (vigueur élégance) than that of the Anglo-Saxon."

    Hygienic conditions have also improved.  We even hear that the much-hated pion, or superintendent of tasks and recreation yard, is to be suppressed.  The herding together of enormous numbers, the complete absence of any approach to home life and of feminine influence, the deadening military routine, are time-honoured abuses not easily combated.  I must, however, say that my first visit to one of these great colleges gave me a very pleasant impression.

    It was on a beautiful Thursday in September that I drove with friends from the heart of Paris to the lycée of Vanves, half a dozen miles off.

    As we passed through the porter's gate into the magnificent park, now an animated scene, I said to myself, "How happy must young Parisians be with such a playground, acres upon acres of undulating woodland, almost another Bois de Boulogne, at their service in play hours!"

    I was soon undeceived.  When I congratulated my young friend Edmund upon such a privilege, he smiled at my naïvete.

    "We are never allowed here except once a month, when our parents and friends come to see us," he replied.  "Our recreation ground is the yard (cour) yonder."

    The said cour was, however, invisible, being on the other side of the lycée, formerly a seigneurial château.

    To-day the beautiful grounds presented the appearance of a vast picnic.  Fond mothers and fathers had brought baskets of cakes, fruit, and sweets, and everywhere bivouacked happy groups.

    Little wonder that these boys clung so tenaciously to mothers, sisters, any feminine relation.  The lycée as absolutely excludes womankind as the monastery and the barracks.  Except on the Thursday half-holiday, a lycéen never sees a woman's face or hears a woman's voice.  Tiny boys of nine and upwards are straightway committed to masculine governance and care.

    The following illustration of a little lycéen's life is from M. Aicard's book:—

    "One half-holiday, I had brought back a rose, and wishing to keep it as long as possible, I put it in a glass of water inside my desk.

    "I could not help from time to time looking at my treasure—a crime, I admit.  For roses speak, but not in Latin; they say all sorts of forbidden things, they invite little boys to run about in country lanes, they incite to rebellion.  You never see a lyceen censeur (overseer or supervisor of studies) sniff a flower.  Flowers do not bloom on the schoolmaster's ruler.  Well, I harboured my rose, just as an anarchist harbours his bomb.  When I opened my desk to give the poor flower air, a ray of sunshine bathed it, seemed to kiss it;—a dark shadow suddenly blotted out the beam.  A big hand seized my splendid rose, in another second it lay in the courtyard below.  Justice was satisfied!"

    A state system of education is not easily changed, but outside the French University and its dependencies, voluntaryism is actively at work.

    Our good friend, M. Demolins, author of "La Supériorité des Anglo-Saxons," does not share M. Ribot's misgivings.  He is not aghast at the notion of French boys losing their vigueur élégante—in other words, becoming too English.

    Aided by a valiant band of co-operators, this indefatigable Anglophile has boldly seized the bull by the horns.  From the École des Roches, Verneuil (Eure), every vestige of the lycée is banished.  Here are no enormous dormitories with spy-holes in the doors, no prison-like routine, no walks and talks up and down bare yards.  Outdoor sports, occupations, and excursions in summer, social evenings in winter, vary the scholastic year, whilst an element of family life enters both into upper and preparatory schools.  Little wonder that when the boys separated after the first term, i.e. Christmas 1899, they gave three cheers for M. Demolins, and exclaimed how delighted they should all be to return.

    Whilst the primary object of this great educational reformer and his colleagues is a sound physical, moral, and mental training, equally important is their secondary aim, namely, to make each pupil not only a good citizen, but a citizen of the world—in the best sense of the word, to de-nationalize him.  M. Demolins' scheme and organization tend to nothing more surly than the uprooting of national prejudice.  One feature of his school is the six months' stagure, or residence abroad.  The youths are sent into English or German families, or to schools, not only for linguistic opportunities, but in order to familiarize them with modes of life among other nations.  Here indeed the originator of the École Nouvelle shows an insight and political prescience that entitle him to universal gratitude.  English and German professors are also engaged in contradistinction to the lycéen system.  After the Franco-German war, a regulation was made totally excluding foreigners from the public teaching staff.  Hence lycéens could only learn foreign languages at second hand, an immense disadvantage.  In the Jesuit colleges, on the contrary, M. Demolins' arrangement has been generally followed.  On the subject of language Michelet wrote eloquently, "How many unhappy beings lost their lives during the Hundred Years' War simply because they could not cry 'Mercy' in the tongue of the foe!  In later times, how many European conflicts, especially between near neighbours, might have been averted but for common prejudices and ill-founded antipathies!"

    A first step to destroy these is the internationalization of school life, and M. Demolins' experiment so far has proved strikingly successful.  Take, by way of example, the following extracts from French boys in England: "Chère Madame," writes a thirteen-year-old to the founder's wife, "I write to thank you and M. D― for having sent me to Dulwich, for every one is most kind to me, and I am not at all sad."  Another boy aged twelve writes, "My brother and I are quite well.  We are four in one bedroom; one boy is an Australian, who is very nice (très gentil), the other English and very amusing."  A third aged eleven, who had evidently crossed the Manche in fear and trembling, wrote, "The English boys here are not at all what I expected to find them, noisy and rough; one of them especially I am very fond of."

    And so on and so throughout the collection included in the half-yearly report ending October, 1900.

    "Only think," M. Demolins observed to me when lunching at Verneuil, "my boy has become so English that he did not want to come home at all, and actually relishes porridge for breakfast!"

    Delightful indeed is a day spent amid such surroundings, on every side evidence of Utopian dreams put into practice.

    "My master whipt me very well," quoth Dr. Johnson to his friend Langton; "without that, sir, I should have done nothing."  Wiser far is the Rabelaisian theory of a scholastic training dour, légier et délectable, a theory carried out in particular at Les Roches.

    M. Demolins has, of course, driven a very thin edge of the wedge only into the colossal educational machinery put together by the Jesuits and elaborated by Napoleon.

    Expenses are necessarily higher.  A hundred or two boys located after English fashion with married professors cost more per head than four or five times as many herded together in barracks.

Again, there is the prejudice against innovation to combat, the mistrust of novelty and of foreign methods.  Doubtless many parents do not share M. Demolins' enthusiasm for the cold bath; some with M. Ribot would fear lest football overmuch might rob their sons of native vigueur élégante; others, again, would consider the discipline insufficient.

    Be this as it may, the École nouvelle alike as a theory and a fact flourishes amazingly.  Since my visit to Verneuil just six years ago, a congeries of handsome buildings has sprung up around the original schoolhouse, many acres of recreation ground have been added to the former area, and every year pupils are refused for want of accommodation.

    In my account of the Lycée Fénelon for girls, I animadvert on the absence of foreign teachers for their respective languages.  This protective system is happily doomed.  The papers recently announced that our Board of Education has been approached by the French Government on the subject of voting English schoolmasters who would give two hours' daily conversation in return for board and lodging in the lycées or other institutions receiving them.  Doubtless the same innovation will ere long be introduced into the lycée for girls.

    I will now say something about the French schoolboy as I have found him.  One marked characteristic distinguishes him from his English compeer.  The French boy is a conversationalist, the other is not.

    A facile tongue is encouraged in France from the cradle upwards.  The one child or the only son, invariably present at the family board, will naturally have more opportunities of expressing his opinions than one of six or seven.  At an age when our own boys and girls are set down to nursery or schoolroom meals with nurse or governess, French children join their parents in the dining-room.  Thus social habits are prematurely formed; the walks and talks of the lycée further develop conversational powers.  At the age of eighteen, often earlier, a well-educated French youth can intelligently discuss widely divergent subjects; he has become a more sociable being, more generally companionable, than an English stripling, is more addicted to books and indoor life, above all, to reflection.

    National systems of education have contributed to this result.  By the time Etonians go to Oxford or Cambridge many young Frenchmen are already bachelors of art, science, or letters.  Minors before the law, from an intellectual point of view they have attained their majority.  Excellent company are often these youthful students, love of conversation, relish of society and domesticities, accentuated by the barrack-like lycée and the hated barrack life in earnest to come.

    Serviceableness and a desire to oblige I should set down as characteristics of the French boy.

    I well remember several instances in point.

    Upon one occasion I was staying with Burgundian friends at the pretty little inland spa of St. Honoré les Bains.  Among my casual acquaintances was a family belonging to the humbler middle classes, consisting of parents and three children, a girl and two boys, whose ages ranged from eleven to fourteen or thereabouts.  We often took walks together, and one day I asked my friend Paul, the elder boy, to tell us a story.  Without hesitation, and in clear, well-put-together sentences, he epitomized Hector Malot's popular novel, "Sans Famille."

    Upon another occasion I spent the best part of a very wet week with friends near Is-sur-Tille, in the Côte d'Or.  My hosts were not reading people, but the eighteen-year-old son of the house had lately brought some new novels from Dijon, and very good naturedly volunteered to read them aloud.  From morning till night the rain poured down.  It was quite impossible for his grandmother and myself to stir abroad, but never for a moment did he relax his efforts on our behalf.  And when the stories were got through, he took me upstairs, where I found an excellent library of French classics, not a volume of which apparently had been touched for years.  As the rain continued the reading went on, Gresset's inimitable "Vert-Vert," among other favourite pieces, being given with the same untiring alacrity.

    Such incidents may appear trifling, but they are none the less indicative of character.  The French boy has his faults as well as any other.  His virtues are eminently social, the fostering of inherited inclinations and aptitudes.  And his mentalité—to use here a French word hardly translatable—his intellectual attitude, is what we should naturally expect; that is to say, eclectic, critical, analytic, addicted, perhaps overmuch, to logic and reasoning.

    "My boy" (the child in question was between ten and eleven) "must always reason about everything," I once heard a French mother say.  "Whatever he has to do must first be reasoned about."

    A habit, of course, checked at the lycée and in the barracks, but which, nevertheless, remains a habit through life.


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CHAPTER VII.

CONSCRIPTS


SOME time since I was leaving a country house near Troyes, in Champagne, when my hostess observed, "I should have insisted on keeping you longer, but for the next twenty- eight days we shall be without coachman and butler, both having to serve in the manoeuvres."  With a smile she added, "The pair travel to Dijon by the same train as yourself, and a substitute will drive us to the station, a man formerly in our employ.  I was much amused just now by his request that he might retain his moustaches; he should not like, he said, to have to take them off.  Naturally, I humoured him."

    It may seem odd that sumptuary laws should exist in a republic.  So it is, and, as I shall show elsewhere, in many respects our neighbours are far more aristocratic than ourselves.

    I was awaited by a friend at Dijon, so, finding that they could be of no use to me, the two middle-aged conscripts took leave, looking anything but elate.  Both were married men, fathers of families, and occupying places of trust.  This recurring interference with daily life, the indescribable fatigues and discomforts of manœuvres under a burning August sun, the physical and mental risks daily involved, might well sober their usually cheerful countenances.  How many a man in his prime and in splendid health sets off for his vingt-huit jours never to return alive!  Sunstroke, dysentery, accidents, excessive fatigue, exact an annual toll.  From his majority until the attainment of his forty-fifth year, a is Frenchman is subject to this quadrennial ordeal.

    No one, indeed, who has not lived in France and among French people can have the faintest idea of what conscription really means alike to the individual, the family, and the home.  Nor do we here fully realize the import of that fell term "armed peace."  It may not be generally known that the high-stepper of the rich and the carthorse of the poor in France are only up to a certain point the property of their owners.  Every year possessors of horses have to furnish the Ministry of War with a list of their animals, one and all being liable to requisition in case of war.  Indemnification would be made, but what payment could compensate for the loss of much-prized favourites?  Chevaline conscription was regulated by laws of July, 1873, and of August, 1874.  Mules and vehicles are also in this sense subject to the State.

    As I shall show further on, even under the modified military code of the Third Republic, the blood-tax falls heaviest on those least able to bear it—namely, on the artisan, the peasant farmer, and the labouring man.  Young men able to pass certain examinations are let off with one year's service, the result being that a very small proportion indeed of the better-off ranks spend three years in barracks.  But what twelve months of compulsory soldiering is like, in many cases hardships being mitigated by easy circumstances, the following pages will make clear.

    From the day of enrolment to that of his discharge the conscript finds himself a prisoner, the conviction being first brought home to him by the matter of clothes.  The enormous army stores, thousands—nay, tens, hundreds, thousands of thousands of képis, tunics, trousers, boots, warehoused in every garrison town are resorted to with due parsimony.  In every department of military administration the rule is one of strictest, the most rigid thrift.  Thus on entering the barracks a conscript is not rigged out with a new uniform.  He is often obliged to take a predecessor's leavings, pantaloons not being so much as relined for the next wearer.  Hence the excessive supervision of dress, the punishments inflicted for grease-stains, a rent, or the loss of a button!

    Next to the discomfort of ill-fitting, unsuitable, possibly left-off clothes, is that of sleeping accommodation.  Imagine the first night in barracks of a youth not luxuriously but comfortably, or we will say decently, brought up.  He shares a huge bare dormitory with fifty or more conscripts severally belonging to the lowest as well as the most favoured ranks of society.  The pallet next his own may be occupied by one of the unclassed, some rowdy or vagabond, on the other side he may have a hard-working but coarse-mannered countryman.  Absolute cleanliness is next to impossible in these military caravansaries; in winter the men suffer from cold, in summer from heat, flies, fleas, and worse nuisances.  Intense fatigue will at times fail to induce sleep under such circumstances.

    Next comes the question of diet.  Such minute attention is paid to cookery by all classes in France that here, perhaps, the artisan and the peasant suffer hardly less than the dandy.  "A soldier can eat anything," once observed a gentleman-conscript to me.  What he meant to say was, not that he could always relish barrack fare, but that he could satisfy his hunger with the first dish put in his way.  The gamelle, or mess partaken of after the manner of the loving-cup, was abolished some years since; each man now has a plate or bowl to himself.  It is the monotony that tries the healthiest appetite, a perpetual round of stewed meat and vegetables, no wine being allowed except during the manœuvres.

    But the crowning privation is that of liberty.  Unseemly clothes, crowded, malodorous, noisy sleeping-quarters, ragoût washed down with water from January to December, are bagatelles compared to the sense of moral degradation, the fact of being reduced to an automaton.  Let me here give a conscript's own views on the subject, the speaker, as I shall show later, having enjoyed many alleviations."

    "Well," I began, "my dear Émile"—I had known my informant from a boy—"now that your garrison experiences are over, tell me what you think of conscription.  And what I should much like to know is this: was the probation harder or more bearable than you had been led to expect?"

    "Harder, much harder," was the unhesitating reply.  "No one except those who have gone through it have the remotest idea of what conscription is like.  As I had passed certain examinations entitling me to a remission of two of the three years' obligatory service, and as I had money at my disposal, I consider myself exceptionally favoured.  For all that, barrack life to a civilian is a hideous nightmare.  There is no other name for it.  You feel as if you were shut up in prison to the end of your days.  Many young men cannot stand the confinement and run away.  This is a desperate step.  If they succeed in crossing the frontier, they remain outlaws till they have passed their forty-fifth year.  If they are caught or return voluntarily, they are most probably drafted into what is called the regiment of intractables, and despatched to Algeria.  The treatment they are there subjected to is very severe.  You see, commanding officers are apt to become hard and unsympathetic in spite of their better nature.  In the German army matters are much worse; here they are bad enough, goodness knows."

    "Then your experience is that conscription does not tend to make young men more patriotic, nor to imbue them with the military spirit?"

    "Patriotic, indeed!" he replied; "instead, conscription turns them into Socialists and Anarchists.  The German army, as you know, reeks with Socialism, and there is plenty of it in our own.  As to enforced military service inclining men to soldiering, on the contrary it makes them loathe it.  I, for one, am all for disarmament and arbitration.  Nothing on earth, for instance, would ever induce me to witness a review.  Outsiders have no notion of the sufferings thereby entailed on the men."

    "Anyhow, Émile, you must have learned a good deal during the past twelve months?" I asked.

    My young friend's answer was of the briefest.  I should here explain that he was no sybarite or victim of too soft bringing-up.  An accomplished horseman, an excellent shot, a skilled fencer, accustomed to the life of a country gentleman, in his case the elementary training of a soldier would be child's play, and physical hardships would be borne philosophically.  Yet it seemed strange that these experiences should have begun and ended with repugnance only, nothing being left to recall with satisfaction.  What he had really found intolerable was the loss of individuality, the derogation of manhood, the extinguisher put upon all that makes life inspiriting and elevating.  And again Émile reverted to the deterioration of character brought about by militarism.

    "Of course we are not cuffed, buffeted, and kicked as in Germany—no French officer is allowed to touch a man; nevertheless, conscription as a system both is brutalizing and demoralizing."  Then, he added, as we strolled along the Champs Elysées on the day following his discharge, "Am I really free?  Have I shaken off the fell dream?  I do not yet feel quite sure."

    On the subject of promiscuity my young friend spoke with less bitterness.

    "Poor fellows!" he said, alluding to the impecunious of his brothers-in-arms.  "How grateful they were when able to earn a few francs by brushing my clothes or rendering any other little service!  And one night in winter when I had a bad fit of coughing, my nearest neighbour, a Breton peasant lad, took the warm rug from his own bed, and without a word put it on my own.  These things one never forgets."

    Not all conscripts regard their probation in the same light.  Young men of refined tastes naturally resent many things that would not shock a herdsman or carter.  The cavalry regiment has often a fascination for city-bred youths, whose only experience of horsemanship has, perhaps, been a turn on the merry-go-round.  And many a stripling comes out of the ordeal sturdier, more of a man, than when he first shouldered a gun.  But of all the conscripts I have known, and several I have known very intimately indeed, not one ever expressed any enthusiasm for the system, or regarded barrack life as a school of patriotism.

    Here a few words on the existing laws relating to conscription will not be inopportune.  Irrespective of financial and material considerations, a modification is imperatively called for by conscientious reasons.  Two years' service obligatory on one and all will remove a grave injustice.  As I have pointed out, under existing rules, whilst the artisan, the peasant, and the day labourer give three best years of their lives to their country, the wealthy and professional classes get off with one, certain commercial and literary examinations procuring the deduction.  With the rural and trading-classes such a privilege is unattainable; hence, whilst young men compelled to work for a livelihood, and ofttimes the mainstay of a family, lose three years, those who could best afford such an interference with their avocations sacrifice one only.  Never by any chance do you hear of a young gentleman serving the entire term.  A more equable, more democratic measure is necessary to the very existence of the Republic.

    "Examinations have been made easier," writes M. Demolins (A-t-on intêrêt à s'emparer du pouvoir), "in order that a greater number of students may obtain the two years' remission."  Examiners have sons, and the paternal prevails over the military school.  In appearance the military regulations of 1889 were framed on strictly democratic principles.  As a friend wrote to me in 1890, himself being an officer retired on half-pay, "To sum up, the new law is as democratic as possible; the principle of equality has been guaranteed."  Had this good friend lived a few years longer he would have seen but too good reason to change his opinion.

    Until 1872 the organization of the French army was in accordance with that of 1832.  Lots were drawn yearly, the highest number entitling the drawer to total exemption, the lowest to seven years' service.  Certain exceptions were made in the case of only sons of widows, seminarists, professors, and teachers pledged to ten years' public service, and others.  In all cases, total exemption could be purchased, the agents transacting such substitutions being called marchands d'hommes ("dealers in men").  After the reverses of 1870-71 military organization in France was reconstructed upon the Prussian system.  Every Frenchman, with very few exceptions, then became a soldier, his obligation being that of five years' service and liability to being called up during fifteen years further in case of war.  Exemption was still accorded in times of peace to elder or only sons of widows, seminarists, and Protestant theological students.  Young men having passed certain examinations could purchase a four years' remission on payment of two thousand five hundred francs.  These so-called volontaires d'un an formed a special class; they might, indeed, be called the spoiled children of the army.  They were subject to a modified treatment in barracks, which provoked jealousy and the necessity for further reforms.

    The law of 1889 introduced, if not absolute, what at that time seemed the nearest approach possible to absolute equality.  Every French citizen was now nominally liable to three years' service, and to be called up for exercise or during war until his forty-fifth year.  No payment under any circumstances whatever can secure a substitute, the exceptions being as follows—young men under an engagement to serve ten years in educational or philanthropic institutions either in France or the colonies, students who have passed the higher examinations in art, science, or letters, who have received diplomas in national schools of agriculture and in technical schools, or who are preparing for the Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish ministry; lastly, a certain number of artisans selected by a jury of their respective departments, engravers, modellers, decorators, etc.  In all these cases the three years' service is reduced to one.

    Thus it will be seen that the new law—namely, an obligation of two years service on all citizens of age indiscriminately, is not only a matter of financial economy, it is a rectification of very grave abuses.

    There are also other and very grave reasons for a change.  It is found that the long term of three years' withdrawal from rural life and sojourn in towns is a great factor in the depopulation of agricultural regions.  Young countrymen, whether peasants or belonging to the middle classes, once this term of service is expired, have no desire to return to village life, hence the excessive competition for the humblest administrative posts and the dearth of hands for farm labour.  A recent writer in the Revue des deux Mondes (December, 1904) puts this point very forcibly.


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CHAPTER VIII.

BRIDES AND BRIDEGROOMS


"THE truth is, I have no time to get married," was the reply of a hard-worked French officer to an English friend rallying him on the subject of his old-bachelorhood.

    The retort was no mere pleasantry.  In England, alike from the humblest to the highest, the business of getting married may be reduced to a minimum of time, deliberation, and expense.  In the case of the wealthy, a few pencilled instructions to the family lawyer as to marriage settlements and a special licence are all the formularies absolutely necessary; in the case of the middle classes, the brief church service and an equally brief reception of friends and relatives afterwards entail comparatively little outlay, mental or material, on either side.

    In France wedlock is no mere individual, but a family matter, a kind of joint-stock affair.  An Englishman marries a wife.  A Frenchman takes not only his bride for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, but her entire kith and kin, fortunately a far less numerous contingent than with us.  A British matron, when informing acquaintances of her daughter's marriage, says, "We have lost our daughter."  A French mother, in similar case, frames her piece of news thus, "We have gained a son."  The former writes or speaks of "our daughter and her husband," or "our son and his wife," the latter in either case of "our children."  A son-in-law addresses his wife's mother as "my mother," or more familiarly "mamma."

    A still more striking instance of what may be called clanship in France is afforded by the black-bordered faire part, or announcement of decease.  This notification is made not only in the name of next of kin on both sides, but of every member of both families down to babies in arms.  With ourselves such a list would often fill a column of a newspaper.  French families are small, and one side of a page of letter-paper more than suffices.  The Roman gens was not a more compact and tightly knit body of society than the allied group in France, the bond having, like most things, an advantageous and a reverse side.  It is often taken for granted here that youths and maidens are paired for life on the other side of the Manche as unceremoniously as for a waltz or quadrille.  Nothing can be a greater mistake, and here, as in most intricacies of domestic life among our neighbours we must take the Code Civil into account.  Paternal authority is far from being a dead letter after majority, as with ourselves.  Since June, 1896, marriage laws have been modified with a considerable diminution of such authority.  At the present time sons and daughters aged respectively twenty-five and twenty-one, in case of parental refusal, need only make one what is called sommation respectueuse, or extra-judicial remonstrance instead of three as was formerly the case.  Should the parents prove obdurate, young people having obtained their majority and complied with this formality, are at liberty to marry whom they please.

    These modifications have had in view the facilitating of marriage generally.  The same may be said of the laws relating to natural children, noticed elsewhere.

    This power being placed in the hands of doting fathers and mothers, they are hardly likely to use it amiss.  Instead of marrying their children against their will, they contrive to prevent them from marrying against their own; so, at least, I should put it.  Match-making in France is a very delicate process of elimination.  Undesirable social elements are shut out.  The young girl emerging from her almost cloistered seclusion, the stripling having passed his baccalauréat and his military service, will be thrown in the way of desirable partners, and of desirable partners only.  Balzac, that encyclopaedic delineator of French life, has hit off this subject in a sentence.  "Love never entered into her calculations," he writes of a fond mother arranging her only son's marriage in "Béatrix."  But as at such susceptible age falling in love, or what takes the place of it, is excessively easy, betrothals ofttimes appear quite voluntary, an arrangement brought about, as in England, by the young people themselves.

    Nothing like the free-and-easy intercourse of boys and girls, young men and maidens, enjoyed by Anglo-Saxons, is permissible in France, in this respect the most eclectic, least democratic country existing.

    But dances in the winter, croquet and garden-parties, both of English introduction, in summer, afford opportunities of acquaintance.  The seaside or inland resort, too, is a fruitful field for maternal match-making.  Two mothers who have taken their first communion in company, often a lifelong tie with Frenchwomen, will arrange to spend the summer holidays by the seaside in order that their sons and daughters may be thrown together.  And when they return home the usual printed notice will be sent out on both sides: "Monsieur and Madame A— have the honour to inform Monsieur and Madame B— of the betrothal of their daughter Berthe with Monsieur Marcel C—," and so on.

    In cases where prior acquaintance has afforded no guarantee of a young man's character and habits, advances on his part will not be accepted till inquiry, or rather the most scrupulous investigation has proved satisfactory.  Bachelor emancipated from parental authority are often married through the friendly mediation of acquaintances.  I was one day at a picnic consisting of a dozen families near Besançon, the said families numbering husband, wife, and one child.

    "Do you see that young lady in pink, beside her wet nurse and baby?" my companion said to me.  "Her marriage to Professor T— was arranged by friends of mine.  After the first introduction he declared that no, nothing on earth would induce him to marry a girl with such a nose; she has a very long nose, certainly.  But on further knowledge he found her agreeable and accomplished, and now they are as happy as possible."

    This is a typical story.  But, of course, drawbacks more formidable than a nose à la Cyrano de Bergerac will sometimes confront a would-be suitor.

    The wisest and fondest parental foresight cannot prevent discord arising from unsuitability of temperament and character; by these precautions misunderstandings arising from pecuniary disillusions and disappointments can entirely be avoided.  Here every particular is minutely gone into before the trousseau and wedding day are so much as mooted.

    The word "courtship" has no equivalent in the French tongue, because the thing itself does not exist.  Stolen têtê-à-têtês, even furtive kisses, may, of course, be indulged in, but only under a modified chaperonage, the half-shut eye of parents or guardians.  No young French lay would be permitted, for instance, to undertake a cycling expedition with her future husband.  Still less could she take train with him for the purpose of visiting relations in the country, were the journey of half an hour's duration only.  Love-making begins with the honeymoon.

    The financial inquisition just alluded to is necessitated by the marriage contract.  For centuries, alike in the humblest as well as the highest ranks, matrimonial settlements have kept family possessions together in France—and enriched village notaries!

    No sooner was serfdom abolished than the peasants followed bourgeois example, dowering their daughters and securing the interests of their sons by law.  In provincial archives exist many of these documents, the rustic bride's portion consisting of furniture, clothes, money, and sometimes cattle or a bit of land.  The archives of the Aube contain the marriage contract of a skilled day labourer (manouvrier) and a widow whose property was double that of his own.  The deed secured him joint enjoyment and ownership.  I cannot here, of course, enter into the intricacies of the French marriage laws.  There is the régime dotal, which safeguards the dowry of the wife; there is the régime de la communauté, which makes wedlock strictly a partnership as far as income and earnings are concerned.  And there are minute regulations as to the provision for children and widows.  The latter are always sacrificed to the former.

    Twenty-five years ago an officer was not only obliged to secure a small dowry with his wife, about a thousand pounds rigidly tied down to her and her children; he was also under the necessity of furnishing the Minister of War with two authoritative attestations of the bride's respectability and, up to a certain point, social standing.  The moderate pay of French officers, and the Draconian edicts against the incurrence of debt in the French Army, quite prevent military men from taking portionless brides.  And, indeed, outside Bohemia, slumland, or the world of the déclassé, portionless brides in France are an anomaly.  No matter what her rank or condition, a girl brings her husband something, in modest hard-working circles often a little dowry of her own earning.  The notary is as indispensable an agent of matrimony as the mayor or even the priest.  Preliminaries of this kind comfortably settled, a bridegroom is in duty bound to make the acquaintance of his new family, and as the French character is eminently affectionate and sociable, this is frequently regarded as the pleasantest task possible.  Especially will a sisterless, brotherless bachelor find it delightful to be able to boast of newly acquired relations—ma belle-sœur, ma cousine, and so on.  But a round of formal visits necessitates leisure, hence one reason for my friend's plaint, "I have no time to get married."  The etiquette of betrothals is exceedingly strict, and upon every occasion love-making has to be sacrificed to conventionalities.  Thus, whenever an accepted suitor accompanies his future mother-in-law and fiancée on visits of ceremony, he must offer his arm to the former; on no occasion must he allow inclination to stand before punctilio.

    Trousseau and marriage ceremony quickly follow betrothals.  An engagement protracted throughout months and years, as is often the case in England, is unknown over the water.  When a young man is in a position to marry he seeks a wife, not before.  The fortune-hunters so scathingly dealt with in the brothers Margueritte's novel, "Femmes Nouvelles," I leave out of the question.  What I am here attempting to describe is the normal, the average, the standard, not exceptional phases of French society.  No self-respecting parents would have anything to do with the suitors described in the popular novel just named.

    A word or two about trousseaux before entering upon the long-drawn-out marriage ceremonial.

    A French friend never gives, always offers a gift: note the verbal nicety.  Our own rough and ready way of making wedding presents shocks our neighbours no little.  True that grandparents, uncles, and cousins may present a bride with an elegant purse containing money or notes; outsiders must never send cheques, as is so often done here.

    The corbeille formerly offered by the bridegroom consisted of rich velvets and silks, furs, old lace, family and modern jewels, a fan, and a missal, all packed in an elegant basket or straw box lined with satin.  Among more modest ranks these objects were replaced by dress pieces of less expensive material and trinkets.  Some years since the fashion was introduced of replacing the corbeille by a considerable sum of money enclosed in an envelope.  The custom, however, is not universal, and most often rings and jewellery, as in England, form a bridegroom's gifts.

    Bridal gifts of friends are selected with great care, no amount of thought or time being grudged upon the selection.  These preliminaries being satisfactorily arranged, the wedding day, or rather wedding days, quickly follow marriage contracts and the preparation of trousseaux.  I use the plural noun, for in the land pre-eminently of method, precision, and formulary, a single day does not suffice for the most important ceremonial in human life.  A Frenchman may not be twice wedded, but most often he is privileged with two wedding days: the civil, that is to say, the only legal marriage, preceding by twenty-four hours what is aptly called the nuptial benediction in church.

    The civil marriage is gratuitous.  On the arrival of the mayor, announced by officials, the wedding party rise.  The mayor then reads the articles of the Code Civil relating to conjugal duties.  The declaration of the fiancés and the permission of their parents being given, the pair are declared man and wife, and the register is handed to the lady for signature.  Having affixed her name, she offers the pen to her husband, who replies, "Merci, madame," the coveted title now heard by her for the first time.

    How, it may be asked, can municipal authorities find time to get through the work imposed by this obligation?  The answer is simple.  The mayor can always be represented by his deputy, or adjoint.  In small communes one of these suffices; in large cities several are necessary.  Thus, at Lyons the mayor is supported by no less than twelve adjoints, himself officiating only at the marriage of noteworthy personages.  Fashionable folks are beginning to simplify wedding festivities after English example, but the two days' programme still finds general favour, déjeuner, dinner, and ceremonies keeping bridegroom and best man, or garçon d'honneur, in their dress-coats from morning till night.

    If French girls were not trained to habits of self-possession from childhood upwards, the double ordeal would be trying indeed.  A mayor, especially if he happens to know the bride, will anticipate by a friendly little speech the solemn harangue of the priest to follow.  Thus, when some years ago an Orleanist princess married into the Danish royal family, the mayor of the arrondissement wished her well, adding a few touching words about such leave-takings of kinsfolk and country.

    Church ceremonials are very expensive affairs in France, weddings, like funerals, being charged for according to style.  Those of the first and second class entitle the procession to entry by the front door of cathedral or church, to more or less music of the full orchestra, and to carpets laid down from porch to altar.  Wedding parties of the third division go in by a side entrance, and without music or carpet traverse the aisle, the charges even so diminished being considerable.

    I must say that were I a French bride-elect I should bargain for a wedding of the first class at any sacrifice.  To have the portal of a cathedral thrown wide at the thrice repeated knock of the beadle's staff, to hear the wedding march from "Lohengrin" pealed from the great organ, to reach the altar preceded by that gorgeous figure in cocked hat, red sash, plush tights, pink silk stockings, and silver-buckled shoes, all the congregation a-titter with admiration—surely the intoxication of such a moment were unrivalled!  The strictest etiquette regulates every part of the proceedings.  Accommodated with velvet armchairs the bride's parents and relations are placed, according to degrees of consanguinity, immediately behind her prie-dieu; the bridegroom's family, arranged with similar punctiliousness, having seats on the other side of the nave.  I well remember, at the first-class wedding of an acquaintance in Nantes Cathedral, how a little girl belonging to the bride's party had somehow got seated between relations of the bridegroom.  Before the ceremony began the child was put in her proper place.  Such a breach of etiquette could not on any account be permitted.

    Churches in France are not always decorated with palms and flowers as with ourselves.  Any additional expense would indeed be the last straw breaking the camel's back, rendering weddings a veritable corvée.  But the high altar blazes with tapers, and floral gifts, natural and in paper or wax, adorn the chapels of the Virgin or patron saint.

    One feature of the long-drawn-out ceremonial is the charge before alluded to made respectively to bride and bridegroom, a tremendous ordeal, one would think.  Fortunately, French girls are equal to the occasion.  The theme of priestly admonition, the cynosure of all eyes, a young bride will listen downcast and demure, but not in the least discomposed or in need of smelling-salts.  Long training has fortified her against sentimentality or unbecoming show of emotion.

    "You, mademoiselle," I once heard a village curé address a parishioner, a young woman belonging to the middle ranks, "you have before you the example of a mother fulfilling in every respect the duties now before yourself, wifely, maternal, and Christian," and so on, and so on, the bride listening calmly to personalities, admonitions, and forecasts that seemed in the highest degree disconcerting.

    The wedding-rings, obligatory on both sides, received on a gold salver, blessed and adjusted, the plate is again proffered, this time for alms.  Bank-notes, and gold or silver pieces are given, naturally the two former when marriage's fall under the category of first and second class.

    But by far the most distinctive and pictorial function of a French wedding is la quête, or collection for the poor.  Next in interest to the bride herself is the demoiselle d'honneur, or bridesmaid, upon whom falls this conspicuous and graceful duty.  A bride, distractingly pretty although she may be, has no part to play.  All that is required of her is automatic collectedness and dignity.  But the demoiselle d'honneur is under the necessity of acting a rôle, and, as a rule, most beautifully is it acted.  The ceremony come to an end, the organist plays a prelude, and two figures detach themselves from the wedding party, both selected for personal charm, sprightliness, and savoir-faire—I am compelled to use a word for which we have no equivalent—both, also, perfectly dressed.  The garçon-d'honneur, or best man, wears dress-coat, white tie, waistcoat and gloves, his companion the newest, most elegant toilette de ville, or carriage costume.  She gives her left hand to her cavalier, in her right holding a velvet bag; then the pair step airily forth, the most engaging smile, the most finished bow soliciting and acknowledging donations.  It is the prettiest sight imaginable; and no wonder that the velvet bag rapidly fills, as, having made their way down the nave, lady and cavalier make the round of the church.  And the name of the charming quêteuse invariably figures in the society column of the Figaro or local paper, a testimony to spirit, grace, and beauty.

    A wedding gift in the form of a cheque shocks French susceptibilities.  But at bridal receptions English taste is equally offended by the exhibition of the entire trousseau.  In one of her essentially Parisian novels that delightful writer, Madame Bentzon, describes this feature, or rather animadverts upon such a display.  The author of "Tchevelek," however, has consorted so much with the Anglo-Saxon world that, although Parisian to the tips of her fingers, she sees certain things through English and Transatlantic spectacles.  The spreading before everybody's eyes of slips and stockings, no matter how elaborate, evoked delicate irony from her pen.

    It must not be supposed that, to use a homely simile, bride and bridegroom are yet out of the wood.  A ball often follows breakfast or reception, the newly married pair stealing away in the small hours of the night, like hunted hares compelled to covert flight.  This remark especially holds good with the middle and humbler ranks, and with provincial life.  Society, following English initiative in everything, as I have said, has everything, English simplifications.

    In one respect all unions resemble each other, and up to a certain point differ from our own.  Family life in France is a wheel within a wheel, a piece of closely implicated machinery, a well-welded-together agglomeration of social and material interests.  Marriage is not wholly a dual affair.  Willy-nilly, brides and bridegrooms enter a clan, become members of a patriarchal tribe.  Hence the parental inquisition on both sides, that minute investigation of character, circumstances, and family history so foreign to insular notions.  Hence the widespread, I am tempted to say incalculable, effects of worldly ruin, loss of reputation, or other misfortune.  A blow falls crushingly not only upon the immediate victim or culprit, but upon every one of their blood or bearing their name.

    A French writer who knew England well once remarked that "César Birotteau" could not have been written of English commercial life.  In that country a bankrupt ruins himself, not his entire family.

    And some years ago, when walking with an old friend in Dijon, he said to me―

    "Did you observe that nice-looking girl I saluted just now?  Poor thing! she can never marry her uncle having failed dishonourably in business."

    An untarnished record, a roof-tree at which none can point a finger; last, but far from least, an accession rather than a diminution of wellbeing—such is the ideal of a French Cœlebs in search of a wife.

    "Find me an English wife," a bachelor friend once said to me in all seriousness.  "Your recommendation will suffice.  Provided you consider the lady a suitable partner for me, I shall be entirely satisfied.  I place my fortune in your hands."

    A highly characteristic incident.


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER IX.

WIVES AND MOTHERS


IN most French households women reign with unchallenged sway; they wield "all the rule, one empire."  Let not such feminine headship be summarily attributed to uxoriousness on the one side or to a masterful spirit on the other.  The condition has been brought about by a combination of circumstances, moral and material, social and economic.  To begin with, the Frenchwoman possesses in a wholly unsurpassed degree the various aptitudes that shine in domestic and business management.  She is never at a loss, never muddle-headed, always more than able to hold her own.  The secret of this unrivalled capacity is concentration.  A Frenchwoman's mental and physical powers are not frittered away upon multifarious objects.  She is not at one and the same time a devotee of society, a member of a political association, an active crusader in some philanthropic cause, a champion golfer, tennis, or hockey player, or what is called a "Church worker."  Thus it comes about that the French feminine mind is freer than that of her Anglo-Saxon sister, her bodily powers are subject to much less wear and tear.  And, perhaps, owing to the fact of idolized, over-indulged childhood, the Frenchwoman's will is stronger.  She is less yielding, less given to compromise, and more authoritative.  Nor do weaknesses, sentimentalities, or vapours impair such strengthful character.

    Certainly here and there you may find a Frenchwoman who screams at a mouse or a spider, such whimsical timidity not in the least incapacitating her from the command of an army.  Authority is her native element; the faculty of organization is here an intuitive gift.  Hardly necessary is it to dilate upon personal magnetism, the beauty, as Michelet wrote, "made up of little nothings," the conversation ofttimes describable in similar terms—the acquired graces that strike us as natural endowments, Nature's partial liberality.  No wonder, therefore, that for good or for evil the Salic law has ever been set at naught in French society, that alike château and cottage bow to one-sided law—to feminine ukase.  And who can say—the great democracy of the Western world owes its name, perhaps its very existence, to a woman?  A quiet little bourgeoise, wife of an obscure journalist named Robert, we now learn, was the first to breathe the word "Republic" in conjunction with the name of France.  In her modest salon about the year 1790 first took form and cohesion the project of a democratic government on the American model.  Before her time one woman had saved France, and more than one had well-nigh wrought her downfall.  Jeanne d'Arc, Madame de Maintenon, the Pompadour, not to mention another nearer our own time, are instances of "all the rule, one empire" exercised—alas! not always for the public weal—by Frenchwomen.

    Financial conditions add immense weight to natural advantages.  Except among the Micawber class, represented in greater or less degree all the world over, a French wife is propertied; she brings an equal share to the setting up of a household and the founding of a family.  "With all my worldly goods I thee endow " is a formula applicable to bride as well as bridegroom, although in neither case is the endowment a free, unconditional gift.  Respective interests are strictly safeguarded by the notary, a personage no less necessary to the middle and working classes than to the rich.  No matter how inconsiderable a young woman's dowry, it is tied down to herself and her children with every legal formality.  Some years since I attended the wedding of a village schoolmaster and a gamekeeper's daughter in Champagne.  Each possessed money or land equivalent to about two hundred pounds, the two small fortunes, down to the minutest particular, being mentioned in the marriage contract.  A wedding without settlements, as I have said, is an anomaly in France.

    In one respect at least there is no sexual inequality among our neighbours.  My face is my fortune, was not the burden of peasant maidens even under the ancien régime.  Whilst this feminine supremacy, I should perhaps say suzerainty, has been an evolutionary process in accordance with the fitness of things, it will occasionally wear an inconsistent or autocratic look.  I well remember one instance in point, scenes that reminded me of Balzac.  Many and many a time have I sat down to the Friday table of my kind old friend Madame G— near Dijon (long since, alas! gone to her rest), the family party consisting of her son, a man of fifty, a widower, his boy, a stripling of eighteen, and her son-in-law, a widower also, and well past sixty.  The season being September, as soon as the early second déjeuner was over these men, with uncles and cousins living close by, would set off for a seven or eight hours' tramp in search of wild boars in the forest or quails on the plain.

    Eggs and potatoes at half-past ten or eleven o'clock, eggs and potatoes at the half-past six o'clock dinner reminded me of Mrs. Micawber's "heel of Dutch cheese, an unsuitable nutriment for a young family."  Madame G—'s bill of fare did not certainly seem adequate in the case of famished sportsmen footing it for seven or eight hours on a brisk September day.  The three men might covetly eye my own tiny slice of cold meat, the priestly ordinance not applying to Protestants, but they said nothing.  My hostess, indeed, could very well have passed for the mistress of a pension bourgeoise, son, son-in-law, and grandson being poorly paying or indebted boarders.  Once, indeed, rebellion broke out, taking a humorous turn.  A tempting dish of cold pasty, nicely sliced, on its way to myself, came within reach of my neighbour's fork.  The opportunity was not to be resisted.  "Ma foi! for once I'll be a Protestant too!" ejaculated madame's elderly son-in-law, as he spoke prodding a goodly morsel.  His companions chuckled, the maid tittered, and, seeing that her mistress did not take the joke amiss, after having served me she plumped down the dish before the three wistful men.

    Benignant, even-tempered, in other respects far from egotistical, my dear old friend regarded motherhood as a patent conferring undivided and ever-enduring authority.  When conferring son or son-in-law attempted to discuss any subject that menaced such authority, she would cut them short with the remark, "I am your mother, and must know best."  And so kindly and affectionate was the dear soul that the yoke was complacently borne.

    Here I anticipate an objection.  How, it may be asked, is the foregoing statement reconciled with the stability of the Third Republic?  Has it not been said, and indeed proved again and again, that the vast majority of Frenchmen have shaken off sacerdtotalism, whilst their wives and mothers for the most part remain wedded to priestly ordinance?  Where, then, some will ask, is the feminine influence you speak of, since it is evidently neutral in political affairs?

    My answer to these observations is short.  There is one point, and one only, on which a Frenchman, no matter how easy going, is unyielding, and that is his vote.  And the natural good sense of Frenchwomen stands them here in good stead.  No matter the force of their own convictions, they accept a compromise based on expediency.  Setting aside fireside relations and the principle of give and take, there is the question of family interest, the stability of the Republic from a domestic aspect.  How largely middle-class fortunes are bound up with the Government, the prevailing system of bureaucracy tells us.  Here is an instance in point.  The other day I received what is called a faire part, or printed notice of a friend's death, giving, according to fashion, the name and occupation of her male relations.  Of the ten specified two only belonged to professions, one was in the army, two were priests, the remaining five held Government appointments.  Roughly speaking, I should say this is typical, that in most bourgeois families the proportion of Government officials would be as five to five.  No wonder, then, that wives and mothers discreetly keep silent when elections come round.  The great minister Sully used to say that tillage and pasturage were the fountains of French wealth.  To a large section of society, it is the Government that now usurps these functions, playing the part of a Providence.  And, as I have shown elsewhere, bureaucracy, that is to say, an income moderate maybe but sure, suits French character, which is the very antipodes of American go-ahead wear and tear.  It is rare indeed in France that you find Gambetta's counterpart, "an old man of forty."  But when are Americans young?

I should not call the average Frenchwoman cosmopolitan. Parental adulation, exclusive surroundings, often conventual bringing-tip, unfit the average Frenchwoman for international or social give and take. Small indeed is the number who could say with Montaigne, " I am not guilty of the common error of judging another by myself; I easily believe what in another's humour is contrary to my own." The lady president of a philanthropic association confided to me the other day that this uncompromisingness greatly handicapped such movements. " Every woman here interested in works of benevolence or social progress," she said, " has her own scheme and will not fall in with the plans of others." Anything like the Primrose League or Women's Liberal Associations is out of the question in France. Hence it comes about that when an Englishman succumbs to French charms, for him the die is doubly cast. He must thenceforward forswear English speech, native land, and a career among his own people for his wife's sake. It is a case of love being lord of all with a vengeance. Many English wives of Frenchmen, especially among the Protestant community, spend their lives happily enough in France. French mistresses of English homes are rare indeed. When Madame de Staël pronounced exile to be worse than death, she voiced the convictions of her countrywomen.

I was lately lunching with an old friend in Paris, a country gentleman from the Indre much interested in the question of French colonization. "One great obstacle," he observed, "is the loathing of my countrywomen for any place out of France. The other day a young friend, a settler in one of your Australian countries, was here on a visit, and wrote back to his partner that he was looking about for a wife. 'For heaven's sake wait till you return, and marry an English girl,' wrote the other; 'Frenchwomen in a foreign colony are insupportable.'"

But la Française east avant tout mère, "the Frenchwoman is first and foremost a mother," our sisters over the water tell us. Filial, wifely, civic duty, each must give way to the maternal. Thus words are hardly strong enough in which to express a Frenchwoman's disapproval of Anglo-Indian wives who remain at their husbands' sides, sending home their young children to be educated. The secret of English colonization lies not so much in national energy as in the tremendous strength of the marriage tie. A celibate bureaucracy, however numerous or efficient, cannot compete with the family life characterizing Greater Britain societies, no matter under what sky, offering the conditions of home. This matter is now occupying politicians and philanthropists. A society has been lately formed for the purpose of forwarding the emigration of women, and the lady president, with whom I lately had a long conversation, spoke hopefully of its future. The Protestant pastor and missionary, she told me, are of the very greatest value in the movement, as, being fathers of families, they can offer temporary homes to young women awaiting situations; most of these, of course, eventually marry.

The Frenchwoman does not exaggerate. She is par excellence the mother. Why the first maternal duty should always be relegated to a wet nurse I have never been able to discover. In every other respect her devotion knows nobounds. Indeed, were I asked to state the ambition of Frenchwomen generally, I should say that it is neither to shine in art, literature, science, nor philanthropy, but to become a grandmother; the adored, over-fondled son or daughter revived in a second generation evokes devotion amounting to idolatry—an idolatry shared by the other sex. As we all know, one of the best Presidents of the Third Republic—that staunch Republican, splendid advocate, and true patriot, Jules Grévy —here found his pitfall. Poor President Grévy! Not that lie loved France less, but that he loved his little granddaughters more. With Victor Hugo, l'art d'être grandpère had become infatuation.

Nothing is ever done by halves in France. Of late years the disastrous effects of over-indulged childhood has become a public question. Could parents be prevented from spoiling their one boy or girl by law, there is little doubt that a Bill to that effect would be laid before the Chamber to-morrow. Other means of arousing general attention have been tried. In Paris just now the stage has usurped the functions of the pulpit. By turns, wet-nursing, alcoholism, and other social evils are treated dramatically, the success of 1902 being "La Course au Flambeau." This piece turns entirely upon the exaggerated and mischievous self-sacrifice of parents on behalf of their children. The heroine, a rôle superbly played by Madame Réjane, is a middle-aged lady belonging middle-age the upper middle class who has an only daughter, and who for this incarnation of selfishness, inanition, and lackadaisicalness, sacrifices not only her husband's and her own well-being, but her conscience. In fact, she becomes virtually the murderess of her aged mother. It was interesting to note the behaviour of the vast audience. No love-story, no intrigue, no humorous episode relieved the fireside tragedy. A piece of domestic realism, an everyday story, held every one spellbound. When you ask French folks if this or any other crying evil is likely to be lessened by sermonizing on the stage, however, they shake their heads. It happened that my companion at the theatre was a young French lady, earning her livelihood as secretary in a business house. The piece naturally interested her greatly, and here are her comments-

"It is the greatest possible unkindness of parents to wrap their children up in cotton-wool. Look at my own case. I was brought tip in the belief that life was to be one prolonged fairy tale; that I need only hold out my hand, and everything I wanted would drop into it. I well remember one birthday. Throughout the day my parents told me I should do as I liked; I might ask for anything and everything in their power to bestow. After déjeuner we went to the Jardin d'Acclimatation, where I rode in a goat-chaise, on the elephant's back, had ices, cakes, sweetmeats, and heaven knows what. Do you suppose I was satisfied? Not in the least. The day ended in tears and sulkiness. And at eighteen, in consequence of family losses, instead of being dowered and married, having fine toilettes, servants, and every luxury, I found myself compelled to turn out into the world to earn my bread." Which she had done, however, with the best grace imaginable.

One word in conclusion. If maternal devotion at times proves a snare, how often in France does it cast a halo around homely brows! The honoured President of the Third Republic does not here stand alone. Were the history of illustrious Frenchmen scanned from this point of view, we should find many a one, like M. Loubet, owing the opportunities of success to a peasant-born mother. And the well-known acknowledgment of the newly elected President, the halting on his triumphal entry into Montélimar in order to embrace that venerable mother, was an incident moistening every French eye, warming every French heart. M. Loubet's popularity was straightway assured.


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CHAPTER X.

THE SINGLE LADY


A FOREIGNER suddenly plunged into French society and quitting it without any chance of modifying first impressions would affirm that there were no single women in France—that the spinster, the old maid, did not exist.

Certainly there is no equivalent over the water to a considerable element in English social life. We might vainly search the eighty-six departments and the Territoire de Belfort for a Bath or a Clifton, towns or suburbs largely peopled by rich maiden ladies. Nor in the provinces is to be found a counterpart of the unmarried gentlewoman, with her handsome establishment, her grooms, gardeners, and equipages, all under first-rate management, all betokening the most complete independence and a wide outlook upon life, in many cases single life being a pure matter of choice. Spinsterhood must be looked for elsewhere in France. The feminine world of fashion generally hides grey hairs and lost illusions in the convent boarding-house. Here and there devotion and philanthropy outside such walls are resorted to, rarely social distractions or active life. In the upper ranks celibate womanhood effaces itself.

Before turning to the army of lady doctors, dentists, professors, artists, and authors, let us consider their ill-advised sisters, the tens of thousands who virtually retire from the world simply because they happen to be unmarried. Much is to be said for their own view of the case. I can, indeed, conceive no more mortify-position than that of a French girl growing elderly under her mother's 's wing. wing Take the matter of money, for instance. So long as her mother lives, an unmarried daughter, no matter her age, is treated like a child. Immediately an English girl leaves school she has her allowance for dress and personal expenses. In France it is the parent who pays for everything, New Year's gifts or étrennes taking the place of pocket-money. I well remember the astonishment of a French lady at seeing an English girl of twenty-five write out a cheque in her own name. Such a thing, she informed me, she had never heard of.

Such pecuniary dependence is not only galling; it stultifies and renders the individual unfit for future conduct of practical affairs. How much, moreover, may daily happiness often depend upon what look like trifles, among these the possession of a little money, and upon the unfettered use of that little! But French " old maids of thirty " or even more must have no innocent little secrets, no private generosities, no harmless mysteries. The demoiselle in the eyes of her family remains a perpetual minor. In a society hemmed round with ordinance and traditional etiquette, a young or even middle-aged woman of rank and position could not possibly set up housekeeping on her own account. She would be at once set down as eccentric, a kind of Bohemian, and be tabooed by society. And bringing tip has totally unfitted her for an independent life. Never accustomed to walk out or travel alone, always chaperoned when paying visits, her reading, amusements, friends chosen for her, her notions of etiquette in harmony with such restrictions, no wonder that she regards her life as a failure, that the convent or convent pension are regarded as harbours of refuge. Caprice, disappointments, a spirit of self-sacrifice, the belief in a vocation, will induce many a girl to take the veil before crossing the rubicon, the twenty-fifth birthday dubbing her as a spinster. And to the old maid of thirty or thirty-five whose dowry or personal attractions have not secured a partner, the convent offers the cheapest possible provision for life. Ten thousand francs, four hundred pounds paid down, and the recluse is housed, fed, clothed, and cared for till the end of her days. Seclusion, moreover, is a salvo to her own dignity. A nun is no longer regarded in the light of une vieille fillet her calling has not only sanctity about it, but good repute. The step is invariably approved of.

More especially is a recluse praised who buries herself alive from family considerations, giving up home, friends, individuality, for the sake perhaps of a younger sister, perhaps of a younger brother. We must bear in mind the fact that in the tipper ranks, in what is called la société, no girl has any chances whatever of marrying without a sufficient dowry. And let us not on this account set down all Frenchmen of this class as money-hunters. Official and professional incomes are a third lower than with us, the cost of living as certainly a third higher. Thus it comes about that officers of rank and men holding official positions cannot possibly set up housekeeping without additional means. From the money point of view wedlock must be essentially a partnership.

Realizing the absolute necessity of a dowry, then, an elder sister will sometimes betake herself to a convent in order that a younger may make a brilliant or suitable marriage. Quite possibly, also, she may act thus on a brother's behalf, enabling him by the same means to add to family wealth and prestige. No sacrifice is considered too great for la famille in France.

Four hundred pounds is the minimum sum accepted by religious houses as a dowry, which may, of course, reach any figure. The convent pension or boarding-house is also regarded as an unexceptionable retreat for single ladies of means and gentility. Expenses in such establishments are moderate, but vary according to style and accommodation.

Here and there devotional exercises and works of charity are made a career of by rich single women preferring to remain in the world. Except at charity bazaars and similar functions, these ladies—a small minority—are seldom met with. You may, indeed, go into French society for years and never encounter a single lady—that is to say, one who has grown, or is growing, old—without the wedding ring. To find out what becomes of the French demoiselle we must refer to statistics. In 1900 no less than sixty-four thousand women were immured for life within convent walls!

A very different train of thought is called up by a glance at the middle class and work-a-day world. The doctor's gown has long been worn by Frenchwomen. Not longsince a second Portia achieved a notable triumph at the assizes at Marseilles. Lady solicitors practise in Paris. In country towns, as well as in the capital, you may see the inscription on the door-plate, Mademoiselle So-and-so, chirurgien-dentiste ("surgeon-dentist"). In a little town I know, Balzac's favourite Nemours scene of "Ursule Mirouët," a young lady dentist and her sister have a flour-fishing practice. French peasants and working folks seldom indulge in the luxury of false teeth, but an aching tooth is soon got rid of, and for the modest fee of two francs mademoiselle adroitly manipulates the forceps. Lady occulists may now also be consulted. In the arena of education, primary and advanced, Frenchwomen run almost a neck and neck race with the other sex. Forty-three thousand women in 1900 occupied positions in State schools, numbering only twenty thousand less than male professors and teachers. By far the larger number of these women teachers are, of course, unmarried, and if such careers are neither brilliant nor a fulfilment of youthful dreams, they are dignified, useful, and doubtless often contented and even happy.

A recent novel by a new writer that I can warmly commend to all readers, "L'Un vers I'Autre," gives interesting glimpses of a girls' lycée, or high school, and a group of lady professors. In Madame Th. Bentzon's new story, "Au dessus de I'abîme," the same subject is treated from a different point of view. Both volumes are highly instructive. Unfortunately, few French novelists depict middle-class life as it is in reality. Were such a task taken in hand by competent writers, our neighbours, their ways and modes of thought, would not be so often grotesquely misconceived.

The youngish unmarried lady doctor, occulist, dentist, advocate, or professor naturally enjoys an amount of freedom vainly sighed for by her sisters in fashionable society. She reads what books she pleases, her theatre-going is not restricted to the Comédie Française and the Odeon, acquaintances of the other sex may pay their respects to her when she is at home to friends. But the freedom from restraint enjoyed by English and American spinsterhood wouldlook subversive, anarchical, Nihilistic in French eyes.

Some years since I was staying with friends at Nantes who often invited the lady principal of a technical school for girls to dinner. Upon one occasion another habitué of the house was present, a man upwards of sixty. On mademoiselle rising to say good night, Monsieur T― begged that he might escort her home, the house being a few minutes off. Drawing herself up haughtily, the lady replied (she was thirty-five at least), "I am greatly your debtor, monsieur, but my maid awaits me in the corridor." Imagine a middle-aged lady not being able to accept the arm of a fellow-guest for a few hundred yards! Another anecdote forcibly brings out the French mode of regarding these matters. An American lady journalist living in Paris told me that one day she received a visit from a French acquaintance, rather friend, of the other sex, a busy man, who had most kindly found time to help her in some literary transactions. The pair were both middle- aged, the lady being slightly older than her visitor. By the time the slightly in hand had been discussed dinner was ready, Miss S― keeping her own bonne, and occupying a pretty little flat.

"Why not stay and partake?" she asked, surely a very natural invitation under the circumstances!

For a moment the other hesitated, the invitation evidently tempted; then in a semi-paternal tone he asked her if she had ever entertained friends of the other sex before. On her reply in the negative, he shook her hand in the friendliest fashion, saying, " Then be advised by me and do not begin."

This gentleman had doubtless in his mind the ever-prying eye and ofttimes too ready tongue of the concierge or portress of Parisian blocks, an encroacher upon privacy fortunately unknown among ourselves. The janitrix of French doorways is not a popular personage, and youngish ladies living alone are especially subject to inquisitorial observation. As a rule the French single lady never does live alone. She boards with some other member of her family or with friends, the strictest etiquette guiding every action.

The Portias, Æsculapias, and lady graduates in letters and science naturally do not make the cloister their retreat in advancing years. For single women of very small means, the rentière or annuitant of a thousand or two francs, in certain country towns we find what is called Une Maison de Retraite, or associated home. One of these I visited some time since at Reims. This establishment, which is under municipal patronage, offers rooms, board, attendance, laundress, and even a small plot of garden, for sums varying from sixteen to twenty-four pounds per inmate, the second sum, of course, ensuring better rooms and more liberal fare. Special arrangements are made for unmarried ladies. Whether they like it or no, they are expected to take their meals in a separate dining-room. The advantages of such a system in France are very great, single women of small means being thus afforded protection and immunity from household cares. Except that the lodge gates are closed at ten o'clock p.m., personal liberty is notinterfered with. Needless to say that no breath of scandal must reach these precincts. Only immaculate respectability impression an Open Sesame. My impression was one of prevailing cheerfulness and content. But the plan would never answer in England. The insular character rebels against restrictions, however well-intentioned, and where could be found scores and scores of petites rentières, professional women and governesses, whose earnings and economy have ensured them an income in old age? Further, Englishwomen can live alone, Frenchwomen cannot do so. A series of delightful old maids have been rendered immortal by later English novelists. Our confrères of the other sex over the water, from Balzac downward, often seem to regard spinsterhood as a veritable crime.

It remains for some new writer to rehabilitate this section of the beau sexe, to portray those types of womanhood described by the late Lord Shaftesbury as " adorable old maids."


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CHAPTER XI.

THE DOMESTIC HELP


OUR neighbours have adopted the word "comfortable" without, at least in an insular sense, acclimatizing the thing. And here it may be as well to mention that whilst Gallicizing this adjective they were but borrowing what belonged to them. Confortable, naturalized by the French Academy in 1878, is a derivative of the English "comfortable," but "comfortable" in its turn is a derivative of the old French verb conforter—to comfort spiritually or morally, to impart courage. Thus Corneille wrote, "Dieu conforta cette âme desolée," "God comforted that desolate soul."

Le confortable, now so frequent on French lips, is used strictly in a material sense, implying the conveniences of life and the enjoyment of wellbeing generally. How widely standards of material comfort differ in the two countries is forcibly brought home to us b y the condition of the domestic help. In France both sexes betake themselves to household work much more readily than with us. The valet de chambre, or chamberman, is wholly unknown on this side of the water. That domestic service is popular, the enormous number of young Frenchwomen who seek situations here as nursemaids and ladies' maids abundantly proves. Expatriation is not only distasteful to the French mind, it is positively loathsome; yet the supply of French domestic servants must be considerably in excess of the demand. And it is by no means English comfort that attracts. Provided these reluctant strangers within our gates get good wages and good food, they are utterly indifferent to what are looked upon as absolute necessaries by their English fellows. Paradoxically enough, servants' comfort is the last thing thought of in democratic France. The cosy, curtained, carpeted sitting-room of our own cooks and housemaids, the sofa on which they can stretch weary limbs, the bedrooms furnished every whit as comfortably as their employers', the bathrooms at their disposal—all these are non-existent; and so ineradicable is force of habit that I doubt very much if the introduction of any would be much appreciated.

In private hotels and the more spacious flats of Paris servants sleep under the master's roof; they have also a room for meals called l'office, but in nowise answering to our servants' hall or sitting-room. The office is a bare, uncarpeted, uncurtained apartment, containing long table and upright chairs, against the walls being huge linen presses and cupboards containing china and cutlery. But the bonne, or maid-of-all-work, in even a fair-sized and expensive flat, lives tinder conditions that Miss Slowboy would have found intolerable. I speak with the authority of oft-renewed experience, having v staed in many boarding-houses and private flats in the eighth and seventeenth arrondissements, both handsome, modern, and récherché quarters. The kitchens could only be called mere slips; to dignify them by any other name were a misnomer. just room had been allowed for two chairs, on which the one Or two servants could sit down to meals, no more. But if comfort was out of the question downstairs, equally absent was it from the attic where they slept in the roof, stiflingly hot in summer, bitterly cold during winter, and, worse of all, tiny compartment of a thickly populated beehive. Not only are domestic servants, thus housed, but shop assistants and others, with what dire results we may imagine.

"Terrible indeed is the condition of country girls who come to Paris as maids-of-all-work," a Parisian friend observed to me the other day. "Drudging from morning till night, half a day's holiday once a month, no morning other holidays throughout the year; most often shut out of their employer's flat at night. This class is much to be pitied. But come to Paris these girls will, tempted by better wages."

And the daughter of this lady, being shown, on her visit to England, the comfortable bedroom and cosy, carpeted, curtained kitchen, with easy-chair of an English " general," could hardly believe her eyes. I have said elsewhere our neighbours of all classes are very indifferent to what in England is called comfort. Details regarded as strict necessaries here, over the water are luxuries, indulgences, often fads.

On the other band, domestic servants in France enjoy a laisser aller unknown with ourselves. Take the matter of uniform, for instance. The scrupulously neat black dress with speckless white apron and coquettish cap of our parlourmaids, the neat prints of our housemaids, the white dresses of our nursemaids, could never be attained by French housewives. If their domestic staff, according to insular notions, has a good deal to complain of as far as comfort goes, this comparative ease and unceremoniousness is doubtless an adequate compensation. A femme de chambre who helps the manservant in thehousework, and at the same time acts as ladies' maid, dresses precisely as she pleases. She may be very particular or the reverse; no notice is taken of her personal appearance. The scrupulosity exacted of our neat-handed Phyllises would drive Jeanne or Marie mad. Nor is nonchalance confined to dress and outward nicety. Accustomed as they are to make themselves at home, French servants must find the atmosphere of an English home somewhat chilling. The free and easy existence on the other side of the Channel ismuch dearer to them than the com- forts with which they are surrounded here. "Liberty, equality, fraternity" is a watchword that applies to the tongue as well as to laws and liberties in France. The privilege of making as much noise as one pleases is much more valued than that of spacious dining-rooms, easy-chairs, and comfortable sleeping accommodation.

In country houses I should say matters remain much as they were when Arthur Young made his wonderful tour of France a hundred and fifteen years ago. The woman servant's bed- room is often a mere niche in the kitchen. Dear old Justine of Burgundian memory! Many a time have I seen you perform your simple toilette for mass undisturbed by the passing to and fro of mistress, master, young master, and guest. Justine's bedroom was a little chamber in the kitchen wall, rather an alcove a trifle wider than the recess of recumbent statue in church or cathedral. Now, the kitchen led to the back door, and the back door opened on to the highroad a stone's throw from church and village. It was, indeed, the most frequented portion of the house. Here the gentlemen prepared for their day's chase in the forest, and here the household assembled on Sunday morning before starting in a body for church.

The midday meal would be left to cook itself, so, having carefully deposited her potatoes in the wood embers, and her potée or savoury mess of meat and vegetables on the hob, Justine would step on to her bed, and unceremoniously don her black stuff gown, clean mob cap and kerchief, exchange carpet slippers for well-blacked shoon, and even sometimes replace one pair of coarse white stockings by another. No one paid any attention whatever to the dear blue-eyed, rosy-cheeked, childishly simple old thing close upon seventy, whose life from childhood upwards had been spent in the family. For many years Justine's wages had been £6 yearly; this sum gradually increased to £10, I dare say New Year's gifts making up £5 more. But at £10 the wages stopped, and so well had Justine husbanded her resources that regularly as her employers she received her dividend in State rentes.

It would have been interesting to learn the sum-total of Justine's earnings during her long service. A few years ago the faithful old servant went to her rest, dying under her master's roof, her hard-earned savings going to a somewhat unsatis- factory daughter--alas! a much too common story in France. The mere fact of hoarding is often the only enjoyment of the hoarder. Justine belonged to a type fast disappearing. It may be said, indeed, that the faithful old servants Balzac delighted to portray—the Nanons, Gasselins, and Mariottes—are already obsolete. Even in Justine's days bonnets were fast superseding the traditionary coiffe, and in France, as in England, cooks and housemaids began to be agog for change. I do not know if such is still the case, but twenty-five years ago, in spacious flats of large provincial cities, the servant's bedroom was often the kitchen. Soon after theFranco-Prussian war I wintered at Nantes with the widow of a late préfet. Besides very large dining and drawing rooms, there were four or five good bedchambers in my hostess's handsome flat; yet our nice Bretonne, the cook, slept and performed her toilet in a recess of what was both cook-room and scullery.

As all travellers in France know, the peasants have often four-posters in their kit chens—these of enormous proportions, and placed in alcoves, two sometimes facing each other. The habit has doubtless arisen partly from the excessive cold of French winters, partly, in former days, from fear of marauders. But in the more progressive districts the custom is fast dying out. No rich peasant builds himself a house at the present time without adding good airy bedrooms. More particularly is pride taken in a sightly staircase, a feature of domestic architecture formerly represented by the outside ladder leading to hayloft or harness-room.

A good-natured indifference to what is called comfort in English eyes characterizes French country life generally. Folks so far from being fastidious about themselves are not likely to pamper their households. A stockman boarded by wealthy landowners I know, shares the sleeping accommodation of his beeves, having for bedstead a wooden shelf adjoining the neat-house: for bed, plenty of straw. Alike men and women servants kept in large farmhouses perform their ablutions at the pump—hardly, perhaps, with the thoroughness and gusto of Trooper George!

Once more, to recall the immortal picture-gallery, I may mention that even France the country above all others "rich in all-saving common sense" has its Mrs. Jellabys. One philanthropic lady I knew made over her considerable fortune to the town she inhabited, constituting herself a muncipal annuitant. The property was to be ultimately laid out in a training farm and dairy school for Protestant and Catholic orphan girls. It happened that a newly engaged lady companion and housekeeper suggested the desirability of water-jugs and hand-basins for the indoor servants—cook, housemaid, and man-of-all-work, who waited at table, drove the brougham, and made himself generally useful. The benevolent chatelaine at first laughed the notion to scorn. "Toilette services for domestics! Whoever heard of such a thing I" she cried, finally allowing herself to be inveigled into the startling innovation. This happened twenty years ago, but I have no doubt that in out-of-the-way country places the primitiveness of Madame G—'s arrangements might still be matched.

One side of this general laisser aller in France would be much appreciated by many housewives here. There is no punctilious differentiation of labour among French servants—at least, none to be compared with that prevailing in England. The scrupulosity of our ladylike Ethels and Mabels in black dresses and white streamers is wanting; but, on the other hand, Louise and Pauline are much less fussy, stand less upon their dignity, and in emergencies prove more useful, being generally able to turn their hands to anything. Again, Louise and Pauline are less ambitious, exacting, and flighty. They do not require fixed hours for pianoforte or mandoline lessons, cycling, or walks with young men. Indeed, etiquette is as strict among well-conducted women servants as among ladies moving in society. A respectable French girl occupying a good place would never dream????? of going to a music-hall or any other place of entertainment with her betrothed only; some member of her family or friend must accompanythem. And the lover of a well-conducted maidservant in France is invariably her betrothed—no mere hanger-on, changed on the slightest provocation. Sober of dress and behaviour, by no means wedded to routine, usually excessively obliging, the French bonne or femme de chambre often possesses qualities that compensate for English fastidiousness and attention to detail. But it is in the essential, the palmary characteristic of the nation that domestic servants shine. Not for pleasure's sake, not in order to dress according to the very latest fashion, not that the eyes of sonic amorous swain may be dazzled, does a Louise or a Pauline put tip with what is ofttimes excessively laborious service. One object, and one only, is ever before their eyes, those of a marksman no more intently fixed upon the target. These deft-handed, brisk French girls, fortunately for themselves, are utterly without sentimentality or false pride. Their dream is eminently practical, their life's aim, not the stockingful of their ancestors, but instead a respectable account with that universal banker of French folks—the State. Very likely, as in Justine's case, saving for saving's sake may be the only reward of lifelong drudgery. Between virtues and foibles the partition as often as not is a mere Japanese wall --a sheet of thread-paper. Frugality degenerates into avarice; the inestimable quality of thrift becomes sordidness.

Here is a telling instance in point. A few years ago the chatelaine of a fine chateau in northern France took me for a day or two to her winter residence in the provincial capital. A former woman servant, now elderly, acted as caretaker of the spacious hotel vacating it when the family returned in November. "You know France so well that you will easily believe what I am going to tell you," observed my hostess. "Yonder good woman has property bringing in two hundred pounds a year, yet for the sake of earning a little more to add to it she takes charge of our house throughout the winter, living absolutely alone and doing what work is necessary."

In England a superannuated cook or housekeeper so situated would, of course, settle down in a tiny semi-detached villa, keep a neat maid, and sit down to afternoon tea in a black silk gown. Other countries, other ideals! Although the Balzacian types have all but disappeared good servants here and there grow grey in good places. A stay of ten, fifteen, or even twenty years under the same roof is not unknown. And the criterion of a good place is the facility it affords for putting by; comfort, leisure, holidays count for very little. Wages, New Year's gifts, and perquisites stand before every other consideration. The lightening of M. Thiers' herculean task in paying off the Prussian war indemnity is generally attributed to the peasant. But the amount of money invested by domestic servants must be colossal. I should accredit cooks and housemaids, footmen and valets de chambre, with a large share of that astounding settlement. Many a Tilly Slowboy, even a Marchioness, doubtless had a hand in the patriotic scoring-off. Let us, then, not too harshly judge a weakness that English people, alas! are guileless of—namely, care over-much for the morrow.


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CHAPTER XII.

MESSIEURS LES DEPUTES


THE tricolour scarf of the French député confers privileges that may well make their brother legislators here green with envy. His services are remunerated almost as liberally as those of a general or a bishop; he travels first class free of charge on French railways; whenever a review is given in honour of imperial or royal guests, with senators and diplomats he enjoys the privilege of a special train, stand, and refreshment booth, his wife and daughter being included in the invitation. State functions, metropolitan and provincial celebrations, the entrée of the Elysée, are enjoyed by him, to say nothing of prestige and authority; last, but not least, the much-coveted advantage of une existence assurée, in other words, a fixed income. Is it any wonder that the Quai d'Orsay exercises magnetic influence, attracting recruits alike from learned, commercial, and rural ranks, and that Politics should indeed be regarded in the light of a profession?

"Have you professional politicians in England?" a Frenchman once asked me. I replied in the negative. Certainly we have no professional politicians as the terms are understood over the water.

A deputy's pay is nine thousand francs, just £360. The sum of ten francs (8s.) is deducted monthly, and in return he receives what is called une carte de circulation, by virtue of which he is franked on every railway line throughout France, the sums deducted being made over to the railway companies. This concession dates from 1882 only. The payment of members was regulated by Articles 96 and 97 of the Constitution, March, 1849, and confirmed in February, 1872.

A seat in the Chamber, therefore, secures the average income of a professional man or civil servant in France.

Politics do not involve any sacrifice of material interests, rather the reverse. Hence it comes about that active careers are frequently exchanged for the rôle of legislator, and that many don the tricolour scarf as the soldier his uniform and the advocate his gown. The former must work hard and wait long before attaining the grade that entitles him to similar emoluments, and the latter must take countless turns in the Salle des Pas Perdus before he is equally fortunate. Doctors, too, in country places, most of them begin to turn grey ere earning deputy's pay.

The heterogeneous composition of the French Chamber thus becomes explicable. We need no longer wonder at the fact that hardly a calling but is here represented.

In the sum-total of five hundred and ninety-one actual members we find soldiers, sailors, civil engineers, medical men, veterinary surgeons and chemists, priests, philosophers, mathematicians, professors and librarians, architects. archæologists, painters, etchers and engravers, academicians, historians, political economists, dramatists, men of letters and journalists, bankers, distillers, manufacturers, ironmasters, agriculturists and wine-growers, It sportsmen " thus categorized, explorers and merchant captains, shoemakers, village schoolmasters, stonemasons, potters, compositors, miners, mechanics, and lastly, cabaretiers, or publicans.

Nor is the variety of political groups hardly less noteworthy than that of rank or calling. Here are the different parties represented in the present Chamber: Republican, qualified by the following terms—radical, revolutionary, revisionist, nationalist, anti-ministerial, plebiscitaire, antisemite, moderate, socialist, progressive, liberal, independant, Catholic, conservative, radical-socialist, socialist-collectivist, Christian-revisionist, Blanquists, patriote-revolutionary, independent, parliamentary, and a further group under the head of action liberal.

Among the miscellaneous labels we find adherents of the Union démocratique and of the Appel au Peuple, royalist, Liberal Right Conservative, Conservative rallié, Nationalist plébiscitaire, anti-semite, and members of the Réforme ParUmentaire. Thus composed, it might seem matter for wonder, not that the Chamber of Deputies is so often a scene of wildly diverged opinion, rather that concord should ever reign within its walls. We must bear in mind Thiers' famous axiom. The Republic is the form of government that divides Frenchmen the least. The French temperament is naturally far too critical to be satisfied with anything. The critical faculty dominates every other.

It strikes an English observer oddly to discern tonsured heads and priestly robes on the legislator's bench at the Quai d'Orsay. In England our ecclesiastic must become to all intents and purposes a civilian before entering the House of Commons.

Not so in France. From the assemblage of the Tiers Rtat until our. own day ministers of religion have been elected as parliamentary representatives. In 1789 some of the leading spirits of the National Assembly were Protestant pastors. A priest, the celebrated Abbe Gregoire, voted for extension of civil rights to Jews and the abolition of slavery throughout the French dominions.

Ministers of the Reformed faith no longer seek election as parliamentary representatives; but Catholic priests have not as yet followed their example. The priest does not unfrock himself when he dons the tricolour badge; he retains his ecclesiastical character, but forfeits the stipend of abbé or vicaire. Candidates for the legislature are generally what is called prêtres libres, that is to say, men who have held no sacerdotal office paid for by the State.

Two priests sit in the present Chamber; the first of these, the Abbe Gayraud, who describes himself as a Rêpublicain Catholique, [p.136]  represents a constituency of Brest, was formerly professor of theology and scholastic philosophy at the Catholic University of Toulouse. The second, the Abbe Lemrie, represents an electoral division of Hazebrouch (Nord), and was also formerly a professor in the Institution St. François d'Assise of that town. A Christian Socialist, the abbe has written many works on the subject.

When it is considered that the fee of a country doctor is two francs, we need hardly wonder that, irrespective of other considerations, the practice of medicine is frequently exchanged for politics. No less than fifty-three doctors sit in the actual Chamber, many of these being former mayors of their town or commune, many also authors of medical works. One eccentric figure of the Chamber in 1897 was a certain Dr. Granier, member for Pontarlier. This gentleman had been converted to Mohammedanism in Algeria, and before entering the Palais, by performing the ablutions prescribed by ritual in the Seine. The doctor was somewhat ruthlessly unseated for preaching teetotalism. As an orthodox follower of Islam, probably also as an enlightened philanthropist, he began a veritable crusade against alcoholism. As the electorate of his arrondissement consisted largely of absinthe distillers and their work-people, the result might have been foreseen.

Chemists to the number of eight keep science in countenance; journalism is represented by forty-one members; the army by forty-two retired officers; and no less than a hundred and seventy-three avocats, avoués, and notaires represent the law. Surely in no other parliament are so many le gists got together!

If medicine and the law are occasionally renounced in favour of politics as a profession, it would seem that legal and medical parliamentarians are generally men of local distinction or prominence. Most often a long string of dignities and titles follows their name; they are, or have been, préfets, mayors, counseillers généraux, presidents of commerical associations and Societies, political, artistic, and philanthropic; many are also authors.

The same may be said of the numerous landed Proprietors sitting in the Chamber—one and all seem busiest of the busy, to have earned their seats by the performance of unremitting local services.

The Reformed Church, as I have said, is no longer represented in the Palais Bourbon. As in the little handbook before named denominations are 'lot given, I have no means of apportioning the sum-total under the heads of Catholic, Protestant, or Jew.

It may be asked, "Do French people uphold the payment of members?" My reply is, "Not all." On this subject a friend over the water lately expressed himself to me in somewhat strong terms. Politics, he averred, should not be regarded in the light of a profession, a livelihood. It may not be generally known that the senators are in receipt of deputy's pay, that is to say three hundred and sixty pounds a year.

In one respect certainly they manage these things better in France. A sitting of the Chamber can be as much enjoyed by ladies as by the other sex. Stuffiness on hot days within its walls reminds one of the House of Commons, but in this respect onlookers are no worse off than legislators. The accommodation for visitors, especially lady visitors, is generous in the extreme.

The interior of the Palais Bourbon is an amphitheatre, galleries for visitors and members' pens or boxes facing the orators' tribunes, President's chair and table above. The two galleries, running to right and left, are divided into loges, or boxes, each holding about a dozen people, and the two first rows are gallantly reserved for ladies. Seated at our ease we undoubtedly are, but as on especially interesting occasions gentlemen are freely admitted to standing room behind these loges, the atmosphere becomes stifling. But the discomfort is amply rewarded even on uneventful days. On the occasion of my own visit in 1900 it was M. Paul Deschanel, le beau Deschanel, as he was called, whose office it was to occupy the Presidential chair, constantly ring his big silver bell, and, failing that expedient, to hammer on the table with a ruler and shout, " Le silence, le silence, s'il vows plait."

Nothing of great interest or importance was going on, but the heat was torrid. Members very likely wanted to have their say and rush off to the Exhibition; anyhow, M. Paul Deschanel's silver bell and his ruler were perpetually in request. Below the Presidential table and the orator's tribune were grouped the ushers, tall, gentlemanly looking individuals in blue dress-coats, wearing silver chains of office and swords.

Votes are taken by members first holding up their hands affirmatively, next negatively, the voting-urns being only used when important measures are proposed. These urns are then handed round to the deputies by the ushers as they sit in their places, the results being afterwards made known by the President.

The handsome Palais Bourbon was begun by Girardini, an Italian, in 1722, for the Duchess of Bourbon, and completed and enlarged by French architects a century later. The interior is well worth visiting in detail.

The present Chamber, eighth legislative body of the Third Republic, was elected in April, 1902 and on June 1 was composed the so-called bureau d'âge, the President being the oldest deputy present. If Frenchwomen ever obtain seats in the Palais Bourbon, this dignity will certainly be abolished. The actual President of the bureau d'âge is eighty-two.

It may be here mentioned that under no previous form of government has suffrage been both universal and direct. During the various parliamentary régimes of the Revolution, as M. Rambaud points out, manhood suffrage existed, but with certain restrictions. Under the Consulate and the first Empire freedom of vote ceased to exist, the so-called representatives of the people being mere nominees of the Government.

The Restoration and July monarchy allowed a restricted parliamentary franchise only, whilst the system of official candidatures under the second Empire nullified what was nominally manhood suffrage. I add that in 187o electoral rights were granted to the Jews of Algeria. As is seen in another chapter, the legislation of the last twenty years has been eminently progressive, especially with regard to education. There is, indeed, henceforth to be an educational fete held yearly in Paris, a second anniversary certainly no less worthy of commemoration than July 14.

On June 19, 1872, was presented to the assemdy, then sitting at Versailles, a petition signed by over a million citizens, for free, universal, and non-sectarian education. Ten years later the great Ferry laws carried out this programme in its entirety. The former date was lately celebrated in the Trocadéro with great éclat, the President of the Republic and the Minister of Public Instruction being present at the inauguration.

Thus Lex henceforth is to have a deservedly foremost place in the Republican calendar.


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