Home Life in France IV.

Home Up Reminiscences Victorian Memories Literary Rambles Unfrequented France Snow-Flakes Little Bird Red Main Index Site Search


 

[Previous Page]


 
CHAPTER XXIII.

THE VILLAGE SCHOOLMASTER


AS we all know, education in France is non-sectarian, obligatory, and gratuitous.  How much store is set by the splendid educational opportunities afforded every French child the following story will show.

    Two years ago I was staying in Champagne with my friend Mademoiselle M―, the middle-aged daughter of a former schoolmaster.  Not for the first time I enjoyed "harbour and good company" under her hospitable roof, making acquaintance with a charming little circle.

    Mademoiselle M— occupied her own roomy house, which stood on the outskirts of the little riverside town, a large fruit and vegetable garden at the back making pleasant shade; a small annuity and the letting of spare rooms completed her modest income, from the sum-total something ever remaining for benevolence.  In a small way, indeed, mademoiselle was a veritable Providence to the waif and stray.  The late schoolmaster had left his daughter a library of several hundred volumes, and the part of the house retained for her own use was most comfortably furnished.  But, knowing how small are the emoluments of village pedagogues, I could not account for the numerous works of art and objects of luxury seen on every side.  Every room seemed full of wedding presents!

    One afternoon my hostess invited some neighbours to tea, and I ventured a comment upon the exquisite tea-service and silver-gilt plate set out in their honour.

    "All gifts of pupils and pupils' parents to papa," was mademoiselle's reply; "and when my visitors are gone I will show you some other things.  At the New Year and on his fête day, my father always received handsome presents; you see, he had been schoolmaster here so many years, and was so much beloved."

    A list of the treasures now displayed or pointed out to me would fill a page.  All represented considerable outlay, and all, be it remembered, were offered by small officials, artisans, and peasants.  I especially noticed a liqueur service of elegant cut-glass, enclosed in a case of polished rosewood.  Another costly gift was an ormolu clock surmounted with figures, that must have cost a hundred francs at least.  The entire collection, I should say, represented several thousand francs; in each case we may be quite sure that these offerings involved, on the part of the donors, no little self-sacrifice.  Here, then, was a palmary proof of the French peasant's progressiveness, of the high esteem in which he holds education.  Excessive thrift and lavish generosity are not compatible, but next to his paternal acres he evidently values the hard-won privileges wrested from obscurantism and bigotry.

    Immense is the change that has come over the village schoolmaster since I first made his acquaintance in Anjou more than a quarter of a century ago.  The instituteur of the village in which I was then staying with French friends received £30 a year, besides lodging and trifling capitation fees.  Both boys' and girls' schools were supported by the State, but, unfortunately, the commune had been induced some years before to accept a house and piece of land from some rich resident, the conditions being that the school for girls should always be kept by nuns.  The consequence was that, as education at that period was not strictly obligatory, boys were detained on the farm, the numbers of scholars being only twenty, whilst the girls numbered sixty.  Under such circumstances the capitation fee was hardly worth taking into account.  What mattered much more was the inequality of the instruction accorded, the schoolmasters possessing certificates of proficiency, the nuns being free to teach provided that they professed une lettre d'obédience, a kind of character signed by the bishop.

    This difference was evidenced in the prize distribution, in which I was flatteringly invited to take part.  Whilst the boys received amusing and instructive books of history, travel, and adventure, the girls got little theological treatises, the only attractive feature about them being gilt edges and a gaudy binding.

    Pitiable in the extreme was the position of a village schoolmaster during the MacMahon Presidency, indigence being often the least of his tribulations.  The butt of clerical animosity, speech, action, and manners of life ever open to misinterpretation—such was his position.  The marvel is that candidates should be found for post so unenviable.  Twenty-five years strenuous fighting and endeavour have changed all this, and popular education in France is now the first in the world.

    For the victory belongs to the Third Republic, as a retrospective glance will show.  The ancien régime did not deem the R's a common necessity.  Like house-sparrows depending upon stray crumbs, poor folks' children got here and there a modicum of knowledge, Danton's "bread of the understanding."  In the more favoured provinces—Lorraine and Champagne, for instance—were village schoolmasters fulfilling at the same time the functions of grave-digger, sacristan, bell-ringer, and sometimes combining with these a trade or handicraft.  In the commune of Angles, Hautes Alpes, the schoolmaster offered to shave all the inhabitants for a consideration of two hundred livres yearly!  In very poor districts they were partly remunerated by meals taken alternately at the houses of their pupils.  For want of a school-house, teaching, such as it was, had to be given in barns and stables, and when spring came both master and pupils exchanged the cross-row, strokes and pothooks for labours afield.  These wandering pedagogues were called maîtres ambulants.  In Provence schoolmasters were hired at fairs, as is still the case with domestics, in Normandy.

    One of the first preoccupations of Revolutionary leaders was the village school.  Tallyrand laid a plan of popular education before the Constituant Condorcet drew up a scheme for the Legislative Assembly.  The Convention revised and matured the respective systems of Barère, Lakanal, and others, but wars within and without the frontier, and want of finances, stood in the way.  The noble project of non-sectarian, gratuitous, and obligatory instruction was adjourned for a century.

    Napoleon did not care to waste thought or money upon the education of the people.  The sum of 4,230 francs, just £170, was deemed by him quite sufficient for such a purpose.  The Restoration magnanimously increased these figures to 50,000 francs, the monarchy of July raised the sum-total to three millions, the Second Empire to twelve million francs.  The budget of the Third Republic is a hundred and sixty million, municipalities and communes adding a hundred million more.  This sum does not include the money spent upon the erection of schools, hundreds having been built both in town and country.

    Instructive it was to zigzag through remote regions twenty years ago.  I well remember an experience in the Burgundian highlands about this time.  I was staying at Autun in order to be near my friends, the late Philip Gilbert Hamerton and his wife, and one day journeyed by diligence to Château Chinon, whilom capital of a little Celtic kingdom.

    The five hours' ascent by splendid roads led through the very heart of the Morvan, wooded hills, gloomy forests, and masses of rock framing brilliant pastures and little streams.  Amid these thinly populated scenes, only a straggling village or two passed on the way, one sign of progress met the eye—the village school in course of erection.  Of all French provinces Brittany was worst off as regards schools.  A generation ago travellers might interrogate well-clad men and women, who, not understanding a syllable of French, would shake their heads and pass on.  At Nantes in 1875-6 the following inscription would meet my eyes: "Écrivain publique, 10 centimes par lettre" ("Public writer, a penny per epistle").  Women servants who could read, much more write, in that great, rich city were rare indeed.  My hostess, widow of a late préfet, kept a well-paid cook, also a housemaid.  The pair were both as illiterate as Hottentots.

    All this belongs to the past.  The noble dream of the Convention has been realized in its entirety.  The Ferry laws of 1881 and 1882, for once and for all, have ensured for every boy and girl born within the French dominions that greatest heritage, a good education.

    The following figures will show how the new state of things has affected both pupils and pedagogues.

    In every chef-lieu and commune numbering over 6,000 souls exists an upper and lower school for the people.  The former, called the école prima' supérieure, or collège communal, was created so far back as 1833 by M. Guizot.  The Ferry decrees considerably increased the number of these upper schools, as well as improving the condition of teachers.  The course of instruction in communal colleges is essentially practical, being designed for those youths about to engage in commerce, industry, or agriculture.

    The maximum pay of schoolmasters in the primary school is £104 a year, with allowance for lodging, making a sum-total of £136; the minimum salary is £40, with £3 allowed for lodging.  Women teachers receive the same pay in elementary schools, but slightly less in the communal colleges for girls.  Masters and mistresses alike must be provided with a certificate, the brevet élémentaire sufficing for a post in the primary schools, the brevet supérieure being necessary for the college communal.  It will be seen, then, that my Champennois acquaintances of half a dozen years ago are in a very different position to the poor Angevin pedagogue of 1876 with his miserable £30 a year.  And from a social point of view his advance has been far greater.  Under the reactionary MacMahon régime the instituteur was a pariah, as I wrote at the time, "There is no one more liable to censure and to political and social persecution; if not born a trimmer, able to please everybody, he pleases nobody, and has a hard time of it."  If any reader doubts this assertion, I commend to his notice the writings of the late Jules Simon.


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER XXIV.

JACQUES BONHOMME


THE evolution of the French peasant is the history of modern France.  In the genesis of Jacques Bonhomme must be sought the origin of the Third Republic.

    By bourgeois agency, in a single night the ancien régime was swept into limbo, became the survival of an irrevocable past.  The legislators of the two Assemblies and the Convention, with those of the present Palais Bourbon, belonged to the middle and professional classes.

    It was by peasant-born commanders that newly acquired liberties were guaranteed, by recruits torn from the plough that the combined forces of Europe were held at bay.  To talk of "the French peasant" is to express one's self loosely.  Not for a moment must we narrow the conception of Jacques Bonhomme to that of our own Hodge, still, as fifty years ago, earning a weekly pittance, and in old age depending on parish relief.

    The French peasant possesses France.  He may or may not be in easy circumstances, happy, enlightened; he is neither the degraded being portrayed by Zola and De Maupassant, nor perhaps the ideal rustic of George Sand's fascinating page.  We must know him in order to get at the mean, to measure his qualities and aptitudes.  To appreciate him as a social and political force personal acquaintance is not necessary; so much the history of the salt thirty-five years teaches us.  But for the invested savings of the thrifty countryman, Thiers' task of liberating French territory from the Prussian invader might have been indefinitely prolonged.  And since that terrible time, whenever the ship of State has been in deadly peril Jacques Bonhomme has acted the part of pilot bringing her safely to port, his rôle upon critical occasions saving the Republic.

    Readers of "La Terre" who do not know rural France must ask themselves, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"  The peasant-born rulers, legislators, scientists, and litterati of France, how are they to be accounted for?  History affords the clue.

    Recent examination of provincial archives shows us the slow but steady evolution of the countryman.  Rousseau's well-known story of the peasant who, suspecting him to be a fiscal agent, affected direst neediness, and on discovering his error repaired it by open-hearted hospitality, was doubtless no exceptional case.  Despite exorbitant taxation and unimaginable hindrances alike to material and moral advancement, here and there small owners and even labourers educated their sons, dowered their daughters, and laid by a little money.

    In 1688 no less than forty-two sons of peasant proprietors and day labourers attended the upper classes of the college of Le Mans.  In many communes, despite their fiscal and feudal burdens, the inhabitants subscribed among themselves in order to pay a schoolmaster.  Many distinguished Frenchmen thus obtained their first instruction, among these the erudite Mabillon, Villars, the botanist of Dauphiné and Thénard, the eminent chemist, son of a poor peasant. [p.218-1]  On this subject the testamentary documents and inventories preserved in provincial archives are very illuminating.

    Among the belongings of one day labourer in 1776 we find a psalter and three books of "L'Imitation de Jésus Christ;" of another, "Une Vie des Saints " and "Les Évangiles;" whilst a third (Archives de l'Aube, 1772) was the possessor of two folios, viz. "L'Anatomie de l'homme" and "Le véritable Chirurgien."  A fourth possessed a Latin dictionary, whilst musical instruments not infrequently figure in these inventories.  It will thus be seen that anterior to the memorable Fourth of August the peasant was raising himself and was awake to the value of instruction.  He might echo the refrain so popular in Auvergne—


"Le pauvre laboureur
 Est toujours tourmenté,
 Payant à la gabelle
 Et les deniers un roi;
 Toujours devant sa porte,
 Garnison and sergent,
 Qui crieront sans cesse,
 Apportez de l'argent." [p.218-2]


    But by dint of unimaginable thrift and laboriousness he contrived to have something worth willing away.  Pre-revolutionary wills show a catholicity of sentiment undreamed of in Zola's philosophy.  A labourer in 1752, for instance, after bequeathing the bulk of his little property to his children, leaving four arpents [p.218-3] of cultivable land to the village church, thereby assuring perpetual masses for his soul and that of his wife, and remembers his day-labourers and woman servant by gifts of money and clothes (Archives de l'Aube).

    Even dairymaids made their wills.  Thus in 1685 a certain Edmée Lambert, in the employ of Jacques Lajesse, estant au liet malade, saine toutefois de bon propos, mémoirez et entendement ("sick abed, but possessed of all her faculties"), bequeaths a plot of ground and a crown (value from three to six livres or francs) to her parish church, in order that perpetual masses may be said for her soul; a panier à mouche [p.219-1] to her master, for the trouble he had taken about her; "a second panier à mouche to a young fellow-servant of the other sex," as a token of friendship; "finally, the rest of her belongings, goods and money, to the wife of a neighbour, "in consideration of her goodwill and amity."

    The testatrix being unable to write, the will was signed by the curé in presence of two witnesses.  These wills were always drawn up by a notary and attested by two witnesses.  "In nomine Domini, Amen" was the invariable formula with which these documents began.

    Equally instructive are marriage contracts.  In 1611, the brother of Jeanne Graveyron, on her marriage with a labourer, gives her as dowry, five livres [p.219-2] for the expenses of the wedding, thirty-five livres to keep, a bed, bedstead with hangings and bedclothes, sundry kitchen utensils, three new gowns, and a chest, fermant à clef (with lock and key), containing personal and household linen.  The daughter of a labourer receives five measures of wine, four of wheat, and the sum of ninety livres en dot et chancère [p.220] pour tons ses droits paternels et maternels ("as a dowry, paternal and maternal").

    Such facts as these help us to understand the unique position of the French peasant, no other country in the world showing his compeer.  From century to century, from generation to generation, the rural population of France has been materially and morally progressive.  That at the present day sixty-three per cent. of the inhabitants of communes numbering two thousand souls and under should occupy houses of their own, bears out the first position; that alike in statesmanship, arms, science, and letters sons of peasants have risen to the first rank supports the latter.  Not all provinces show the same degree of intelligence and well-being.  Climate, soil, means of communication, differences of tenure, affect the small farmer.  Here we find comparative wealth, there a struggle with inadventitious circumstances.  Thus the phylloxera brought about the temporary ruin of thousands, the sum-total of loss reaching that paid into Prussian coffers after the last war.  There is indeed a gamut beginning with the humble métayer but yesterday a hired labourer, and ending with the wealthy owner of acres added to from year to year.

    A contemporary novelist, in his sketches of rural life, draws the mean between "La Terre" and George Sand's idylls.  M. René Bazin, in his "Terre qui meurt," however, writes with a purpose; characterization plays a secondary part.  This writer evidently regards peasant property and peasant life as conditions on the wane.  And another well-known writer asserts that certain districts of France are daily suffering more and more from depopulation. [p.221]  Year by year emigration citywards increases, and individualism, too, is rather on the increase than otherwise.

    Interrogated on this point, a large landowner in central France thus lately expressed himself to me—

    "I do not hold with M. René Bazin's views.  On the contrary, I rejoice that our young men show more initiative, more readiness to quit the paternal roof and make their way elsewhere, especially in the colonies; France has too long fostered inertness and nostalgia.  It is high time that our youth should manifest more enterprize and independence."

    The patriarchal order of things is not always ideal.  Thrift, too often taking the form of avarice, and paternal feeling are among the peasant's foremost characteristics.  Laborious devotion to the patrimony of sons and successors is sometimes poorly rewarded.  Neither among the opulent nor toiling masses do adulated children invariably prove dutiful.  According to De Maupassant and other writers of his school, exaggerated parental fondness and self-sacrifice are frequently as pearls cast before swine.  The hoarder-up for sons and daughters in his old age comes to be regarded as a burden.  And in any case a burden imposed by law, La dette alimentaire, Art. 205, 207 of the Code Civil, not only obliges sons and daughters, but sons and daughters in law, to support their parents and those of their partners by marriage.

    If Balzac, George Sand, and Zola have failed to portray the French peasant as he is, how can a foreigner hope for success?  According to M. Octave Uzanne, Balzac, though a seer, an observant genius, has here only partially succeeded; Zola in "La Terre," has given us mere pitiful caricatures; George Sand, nineteenth-century pastorals, vague, fanciful, imaginative.

    I can only summarize the impressions of twenty-five years, and speak of Jacques Bonhomme as I have found him.

    It has been my good fortune and privilege to join hands with the peasant folk of Anjou in the round, old and young footing it merrily under the warm twilight heavens; to crown the little lauréats, or prize-winners of communal schools; to witness signatures and marriage registers in country churches; and to sit out rustic wedding feasts, lasting four or five hours!  Many and many a time have I driven twenty miles across Breton solitudes, my driver and sole companion being a peasant in blue blouse, his bare feet thrust in sabots.  Again and again has the small farmer, or métayer, quitted his work in order to show me his stock and answer my numerous and sometimes, I fear, indiscreet questions.  Often, too, have I sat down to the midday table d'hôte of country towns on market days, the guests all belonging to one class.  Their Sunday suits of broadcloth protected by the blue cotton blouse, sparing of words, swiftly degustating the varied meal set before them, these farmers would put to and drive home as soon as buying and selling were over, the attractions of a fair proving no lure.  And here, there, and everywhere on French soil have I enjoyed rural hospitality.  On the borders of Spain, within a stone's throw of the new Prussian frontier, in the vine-growing villages of Burgundy, and farmhouses of rich Normandy, in scattered Cévenol homesteads, on the banks of the Loire, the Marne, and many a beautiful river besides, in remote Breton hamlets have I ever found cheery welcome and an outspread board, humble or choice as the case might be.  Whatever faults he may or may not possess, the French peasant is hospitality itself.  I will here narrate a characteristic incident.  A few years since I revisited a little Norman town, and was anxious to call upon a farmer and his wife living near who had shown me much kindness when first staying in the neighbourhood.  Not wishing to surprise them at their midday meal, I lunched with my travelling companion at a little inn, afterwards sitting on a bench outside whilst our horse was being put to.  A countrywoman, evidently a farmer's wife, who was also awaiting her vehicle, sat near with her marketings.

    "So you are going to see Madame C—?" she asked, after a little chat; "an old friend of mine.  But how sorry she will be that you did not go to dinner!" she added; "that you should sit down to table in an inn when you were only a mile and a half off!"

    And true enough, our former hostess chided me with real chagrin.

    "You would have been so welcome to what we had," she said; "not perhaps all that we should wish to set before friends, but," she added gaily, "when there is less to eat, one eats less, that is all."

    The less was here, of course, used numerically, not standing for a smaller quantity, but for fewer dishes.

    A word here about the destitute and agèd poor.  Whilst in every French town we find handsome schools, generally a training college for teachers, and museum as well, one suburban building to which English eyes are accustomed is missing.  The workhouse is unknown.  Asiles so-called, for homeless old people, and orphanages for waifs and strays abound; these are the outcome of no poor-law, instead the organization of Catholic charity, and entirely under Catholic management, often mismanagement.  Recent revelations concerning the homes of the Bon Pasteur bear out this assertion.

    It must not be inferred that the State is indifferent to its least fortunate subjects.

    Already in 1791 the care of the indigent and the infirm was proclaimed a national charge by the Constituent Assembly.  The principle was not only upheld, but put into practice, by the Convention; and, strange to say, many altruistic and hygienic measures were carried out during the violent Hébertist period, among these being the humane treatment of the insane, the teaching of the blind by means of raised letters, and the deaf and dumb by lip speech.  In 1801 Napoleon, then First Consul, created a Conseil général de l'Assistance publique, or body charged with the administration of national relief.  The budget devoted to this purpose in 1904 reached the sum of 140 millions of francs, the city of Paris alone spending fifty millions upon her sick, helpless, and abandoned poor.  But help can never be claimed by those having children in a position to support them.  In country places, when such is not the case, and the matter is proved past question, the commune acts the part of foster-parents, or, if a good Catholic, the unfortunate burden on his fellows finds harbourage in some orphanage of a religious house.  I was once staying in an Angevin village of a few hundred souls; only one inhabitant depended upon communal aid.  Peasant ownership and pauperism are quarrelsome bedfellows.  The small farmer may have to put up with a shrewish daughter-in-law in his failing years.  A thousand times more endurable to his proud independent spirit the Regan or Goneril of his own roof-tree than the soft-voiced sister of a charitable house!

    Dignity I should set down as the leading, the quintessential characteristic of the French peasants; next to this quality, a purely mental one—that of shrewdness, ofttimes carried to the point of cunning; and thirdly must be put foresight, taking the form of thrift.  He is unique, a type apart.  Jacques Bonhomme has his faults and shortcomings with the rest of mortal born.  He may occasionally remind us of Zola's caricatures or De Maupassant's scathing portraiture, rarely may we encounter George Sand's ideals.  But as a moral, intellectual, and social type, he stands alone, in his person representing the homely virtues, the mental equilibrium, the civic stability which, if they do not make, at least maintain, the surpassing greatness of France.


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER XXV.

RESTAURANT-KEEPING IN PARIS


THROUGHOUT a long and varied experience of French life, I have ever made it my rule to associate with all sorts and conditions of men.  With no little pleasure, therefore, I lately received the following invitation:—

    "Our Marcel," lately wrote an old friend, "has just taken over a large restaurant in Paris, and my husband and myself are helping the young couple through the first difficult months.  Pray pay us an early visit when next here.  We shall be delighted to see you to déjeuner or dinner."

    Madame J— mère, the writer of these lines, belongs to a close ring, a marked class, to that consummate feminine type—the French business woman.  Search the world through and you will not match the admirable combination, physical and mental powers nicely balanced, unsurpassed aptitude for organization and general capacity putting outsiders to the blush.

    Well pleased with the prospect of fresh insight into bourgeois life, a week or two later I started for Paris, my first visit being paid to Marcel's restaurant.  I had known the young proprietor from his childhood, and Marcel he still remained to me.

    What a scene of methodical bustle the place presented!  I was here in the region known as Le Sentier—that part of Paris lying near the Bourse, made up of warehouses and offices, in some degree answering to our own city.

    It was now noon, the Parisian hour of déjeuner, for in business quarters the midday meal is still so called, lunch being adopted by society and fashionable hotels only.  Marcel's clientèle is naturally commercial and cosmopolitan.  In flocked Germans, Russians, Italians, Japanese, with, of course, English.  The Nijni Novgorod Fair could hardly be more of a Babel.  In a very short time the three large dining-rooms were filled with well-dressed men and women of all nationalities; no sooner one occupant throwing down his napkin than the linen of his table being changed with what looked like legerdemain, a veritable sleight-of-hand.  That changing of napery for each guest bespeaks the conduct of the restaurant.  Here, indeed, and at a few similar establishments in Paris, are to be had scrupulous cleanliness and well-cooked viands of first-rate quality at the lowest possible price.

    One franc seventy-five centimes (one and five pence halfpenny) is the fixed tariff both at déjeuner and dinner.  For this small sum the client is entitled to half a pint of a good vin ordinaire, a hors d'oeuvrei.e. bread and butter with radishes, anchovies, or some other appetizing trifle—and the choice of two dishes from a very varied bill of fare.

    As I glanced at the list, I noted with some surprise that many expensive meats were included—salmon, game, and poultry, for instance.  Monsieur J— père smilingly enlightened me on the subject.

    "You should accompany me one morning at five o'clock to the Halles," he said; "you would then understand the matter.  Every day I set out, accompanied by two men-servants with hand-trucks, which they bring back laden—fish, meat, vegetables, eggs, butter, poultry, and game.  I buy everything direct from the vendors, thus getting provisions at wholesale prices.  Some articles are always cheap, whilst others are always dear.  I set one against the other.  Take soles, for instance: soles are always high-priced in Paris, but at the markets the other day I bought up an entire lot, several dozen kilos, and the consequence was that they cost me no more than herrings!"

    As monsieur and madame the elder and myself chatted over our excellent déjeuner, the young master was busily helping his waiters, whilst his wife, perched at a high desk, made out the bills and received money.  Folks trooped in and trooped out; tables were cleared and re-arranged with marvellous rapidity.  Waiters rushed to and fro balancing half a dozen dishes on one shoulder, as only Parisian waiters can, meals served being at the rate of two a minute!

    "Next in importance to the quality of the viands," my informant went on, "is the excellence of the cooking.  We keep four cooks, each a chef in his own department, no apprentices, or gâte-sauces, as we call them.  One of our cooks is a rôtisseur, his sole business being to roast; another is a saucier, who is entirely given up to sauce-making—"

    Here my old friend stopped, my intense look of amusement exciting his own, and, indeed, the matter seemed one for mirth, also for a humiliating comparison.  Since the utterance of Voltaire's scathing utterance, England pilloried as the benighted country of one sauce, how little have we progressed!  In a London restaurant how many sauces could we select from in sitting down to an eighteenpenny meal?  Probably two or three, i.e. mint-sauce in May and apple-sauce in October, throughout the rest of the year contenting ourselves with melted butter.  Truly, they manage these things better in France.  I dare aver that here the thrice-favoured diner could enjoy a different sauce on each day of the year.  Again, I could not help making another comparison.  The unhappy rôtisseur!  What a terrible sameness, that perpetual roasting from January to December!  The saucier, on the contrary, must be set down as a highly favoured individual, having a quite unlimited field for the play of fancy and imagination.

    "The third cooks vegetables, and the fourth prepares soups and stews.  Pastry and ices, being in comparatively small demand, are supplied from outside.  We employ four waiters—"

    Here, a second time, I could not resist an ejaculation of surprise.  At least a score of the nimblest, most adroit beings imaginable seemed on duty, so lightning-like their movements that each, in a sense, quadrupling himself, appeared to be in several places at once.  That marvellous adjusting of a dozen dishes, the shoulder doing duty as a dumb waiter, is another surprising feat, perhaps explained as follows: A friend of my own attributes French nimbleness to a difference in the seat of gravity.  Why do French folks never slip on floors and stairs, however highly polished?  Because, he says, their centre of gravity differs from our own.  Be this as it may, French plates and dishes, when overturned, are attracted to the ground precisely like Newton's apple.

    "Our waiters receive wages," my informant went on, "and of course get a great deal in tips, sometimes a hundred francs to divide between them in a day.  Out of this, however, they have to pay for breakages, and immense numbers of plates and dishes are smashed in the course of the year."

    If Frenchmen can keep their feet under circumstances perilous to the rest of the world, they are naturally not proof against shocks.  And in these crowded dining-rooms the wonder is that accidents were not constantly occurring.

    Déjeuner over, Madame J— mère accompanied me for a stroll on the boulevard.  What a difference between the Paris Sentier and the London City!

    The weather was neither balmy nor sultry, yet the broad pavement of the Boulevard Bonne Nouvelle was turned into a veritable recreation ground.  Here, in the very heart of commercial Paris, as in the Parc Monceaux or the Champs Élysées, ladies and nursemaids sat in rows, whilst children trundled their hoops or played ball.  So long as out-of-door life is practicable, French folks will not spend the day within four walls, this habit, perhaps, greatly accounting for the national cheerfulness.  Delightful it was to see how old and young enjoyed themselves amid the prevailing noise and bustle, the enormously wide pavement having room for all.  The boulevard is, indeed, alike lounge, playground, and promenade.  On the boulevard is focussed the life of Paris, and, to my thinking, nowhere is this life more worth studying than in the immediate neighbourhood of the noble Porte St. Denis.

    As we strolled to and fro I had a very interesting and suggestive conversation with Madame J―, senior, and as her share of it throws an interesting light upon French modes of thought, I venture to repeat a portion.

    "Yes," she said, "my husband and myself are both well pleased with our daughter-in-law.  She brought our son no fortune—"

    "No fortune?" I interrupted, incredulously.

    "That is to say, no fortune to speak of, nothing to be called a dowry.  When advising Marcel as to the choice of a wife we did not encourage him to look out for money; on the contrary, whilst he could have married into moneyed families, he chose, with our approbation, a portionless girl, but one well fitted by character and education to be an aid and companion to her husband.  Suppose, for instance, that he had married a girl, say, with capital bringing in two or three thousand francs a year.  She would have been quite above keeping the books and living in the restaurant, and most likely would have needed her entire income for dress and amusements.  No, it is very bad policy for a young man who has his way to make to look out for a dot.  I have always found it so, more than one young man of my acquaintance having been ruined by a pretentious and thriftless wife.  My daughter-in-law, as you see, takes kindly to her duties and position.  She is amiable, intelligent, and simple in her habits.  With such a wife Marcel is sure to get on."

    For the next few years this young couple will give their minds entirely to business, foregoing comfort, ease, and recreation in order to insure the future and lay the foundations of ultimate fortune.  By-and-by, when affairs have been put on a sure footing, they will take a pretty little flat near.  Monsieur's place will be occasionally taken by a head waiter; madame's duties at the desk relegated to a lady book-keeper.  English and French ideals of life differ.  To the French mind any sacrifices appear light when made in the interest of the future—above all, the future of one's children.  Doubtless by the time this young restaurateur and his wife have reached middle age they will have amassed a small fortune, and, long before old age overtakes them, be able to retire.

    Let no one suppose that sordidness is the necessary result of such matter-of-fact views.  Here, at least, high commercial standard and rules of conduct go hand-in-hand with uncompromising laboriousness and thrift; for in France the stimulus to exertion, the lodestar of existence, the corner-stone of domestic polity, is concern for the beings as yet unborn, the worthy foundation of a family.

    The super-excellent education now received by every French citizen is not thrown away.  I found restaurant-keeping by no means incompatible with literary and artistic taste—an intelligent appreciation of good books, good pictures, and good music.

    On our return to the restaurant for tea, we found the large dining-rooms deserted except for three somnolent figures in one corner.  One waiter was enjoying his afternoon out; his companions were getting a nap, with their feet on chairs.  All was spick and span—in readiness for the invasion at six o'clock.  Meantime, we had the place to ourselves.

    In the midst of our tea-drinking, however, a gentlemanly-looking individual, wearing a tall hat and frock-coat, entered, and, after a short colloquy with the young master, passed out again.

    "You would never guess that gentleman's errand," Marcel said, smiling as he re-seated himself at the tea-table.

    "He looked to me like a rather distinguished customer," I replied; "some Government functionary on half-pay, or small rentier."

    Marcel smiled again.

    "That well-dressed gentleman, then, supplies us with tooth-picks, which his wife makes at home.  He calls once a month, and our orders amount to about a franc a day.  I dare say he and his wife between them make from thirty to forty francs a week, and contrive to keep up appearances upon that sum.  It is an instance of what we call la misère dorée" ("gilded poverty").

    Truly one lives to learn.  That retailer of curedents, in his silk hat and frock-coat, was another novel experience of Parisian life—an experience not without its pathos.  I shall not easily forget the gentlemanly-looking man with his long favoris and his odd industry.  I add that the Paris City—i.e. Le Sentier—since July last has followed English initiative, warehouses and offices being now closed herein from noon on Saturday till Monday morning.


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER XXVI.

HOURS IN VAL-DE-GRACE


"I HATE sights," wrote Charles Lamb, and with myself the speech touches a sympathetic chord.  I do not suppose that I should ever have visited the Church of Val-de-Grace; certainly I should never have crossed the threshold of the great military hospital as a sightseer.  But a few years ago an old and valued friend was invalided within its walls, and I ran over to Paris for the purpose of seeing him.  The handsome Romanesque Church of Val-de-Grace was built in the reign of Louis XIV., and the hospital occupies the site of an ancient abbey, but Napoleonic memories are recalled at every step.  As you approach the Observatoire a bronze statue meets your eyes—that of "Le brave des braves," the lion-hearted Ney, who fell here on a December morning in the year of Waterloo.

    "Soldats, droit au cœur!" ("Soldiers, straight at the heart!") he shouted, his last word of command as he confronted his companions-in-arms charged with his execution.

    In front of the hospital stands another and much finer statue—David d'Anger's bronze figure of Larrey, Napoleon's army surgeon.  "The most virtuous man I ever met with," declared the Emperor at St. Helena, when handsomely remembering him in his will.

    Larrey was not only a great surgeon and the initiator of many modern methods, he was a great moral inventor.  Attached to the Army of the Rhine in 1792, he thereupon organized the first ambulance service introduced in warfare, later adopted throughout Europe.  After serving in twenty-five campaigns, including the expedition to Moscow, and narrowly escaping with his life at Waterloo, Larrey died at the post of duty in 1842.  The inspection of a fever hospital in Algeria brought on an illness which terminated his noble career.

    It was a bright afternoon in April when I paid my first visit to Val-de-Grace.  What a contrast did that gloomy interior present to the sunny, animated, tumultuous world without!  In spring and early summer the Paris boulevards have very little in common with the crowded thoroughfares of other cities.  The stately avenues of freshly budded green, the children making a playground of the broad pavement, the groups of loungers quaffing their coffee or lemonade amid oleander and pomegranate trees, the gaily moving crowds, make up a whole impossible to match elsewhere.  "The cheerful ways of men" are more than cheerful here.  One feels exhilarated, one knows not why.  Inexpressibly dreary seemed the vast building in which my friend had spent many months.

    "Il n'est pas bien gai ici" ("It is not very lively here"), was all he said, as we sat down for a chat.  The French soldier never complains.  The commandant's windows overlooked the garden, now showing freshly budded foliage; sparrows twittered joyously among the branches, sunshine flooded the place, yet nothing could well be more depressing.

    Sick and disabled soldiers sunned themselves on the benches or hobbled up and down the straight walks.  Here was a white-faced convalescent recovering from malaria contracted in Algeria, there a victim to acute sciatica brought on by exposure in the French Alps; a third had been stricken by sunstroke in Tonkin; a fourth had succumbed to fatigue during the last autumn's manœuvres; the majority, as was the case with my friend, having sacrificed health to duty in times of peace.  There was indescribable pathos in the aspect of these invalided soldiers.

    In French civil hospitals the Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul add a picturesque element.  At Val-de-Grace the nursing staff consists entirely of men.  Each officer who pays a certain sum for accommodation has a soldier told off to wait upon him, often some conscript who has chosen hospital service instead of life in barracks.  Medical students frequently serve their term as nurses or attendants, the interval being utilized practically.  Seminarists also prefer the hospital to the camp.

    The commandant's room was furnished with Spartan simplicity, but doubtless with all that he wanted—an iron bedstead, an armchair, a second chair for a visitor, pegs for coats and dressing-gowns, a toilet table with drawers, a centre table on which lay a few newspapers, a somewhat shabby volume of Herbert Spencer translated into French, and another volume or two.  Pianos are out of place in a hospital, otherwise I should most certainly have found here that incomparable lightener of gloom and solitude, my friend being an enthusiastic musician.  His long convalescence had now—alas! for the time being only—come to an end, and he was shortly about to resume his post in one of the provinces.

    "The winter months seemed long.  How I should have got through them without my comrade D—'s visits Heaven only knows," he said, adding sadly, "I shall never be able to repay such devotion—never, never!"

    This brother officer, now stationed in Paris, had been a school and college comrade.  The pair were knit by brotherly affection, addressing each other with the charming "thee" and "thou" of the Quakers.  The one was in fine health, and rapidly rising in his profession; the other's equally hopeful career had been checked by illness contracted in discharge of his duties.  No shadow dimmed their friendship.

    The commandant went on to tell me how hardly a winter day had passed without D—'s cheery visit.  No matter the weather—rain might be falling in torrents, sleet and snow might be blinding, a fierce east wind might make the strongest wince—at some hour or other he would hear the thrice welcome footsteps outside, in would burst his friend with cheery handshake and enlivening talk.  The long invalid's day was broken, whiffs from the outer world cheered the dreary place, warm affection gladdened the sick man's heart.  Despite weather, distance, and the obligations of an onerous service, his comrade made time for a visit.  Making time in this case is no misuse of words.  Only those familiar with military routine in France can realize what such devotion really meant.  An officer in garrison has comparatively an easy time of it to that of his fellow-soldier in the bureau, whose work is official rather than active.  These indefatigable servants of the State, from the highest to the most modest ranks, receive very moderate emoluments, and voluntaryism is not compatible with military discipline.  Little margin of leisure is left to the busy officer.

    As I have said, French soldiers never complain.  With them the post of duty is ever the post of honour.  The commandant's terrible illness had been brought on by the supervision of engineering works on the Franco-Italian frontier during an Arctic winter.

    "Climate, climate!" he said.  "There is the soldier's redoubtable enemy alike in times of war and peace.  I started on this survey in fine health, and returned a wreck.  You see, I had come from the south, and the change was too sudden and too great.  I was often obliged to start with my comrades for a long drive at dawn and in an open vehicle amid blinding snow.  At other times we had to take bridle-paths on horseback, often a little girl acting as guide.  You may be sure we comforted the poor child with food and hot wine at the first auberge reached, but these dales' folk are a hardy race.  What is a dangerous ordeal to others is a trifle to them.  I lost my health in those regions.  Mais que voulez vous?  A soldier does not choose his post."

    During the following days we took several drives, the sunshine, the April foliage, the general animation imparting temporary oblivion of past sufferings and anxiety concerning the future.  It was something to feel that he would shortly be at work once more, and if his strength should finally give way—"Alors, le repos éternel," he would say with a sad smile.

    Devoted to music, eminently sociable, largely endowed with the French aptitude—rather, I will say, genius—for friendship, no man was ever more fitted to enjoy life.  In earlier years, as a comrade had said of him, il était la gaieté même ("he had been gaiety itself ").  In these pleasant hours abroad the old self came back; a more delightful cicerone in Paris you could not have.  We did not spend our time in sightseeing, but in the forenoon strolled through the markets, revelling in the sight of flowers, fruit, and vegetables, or, after déjeuner, chatted over a newspaper in some square or public garden, and a cup of coffee or glass of sirop and water on the boulevard, taking a long drive or turning into some place of popular entertainment.  My short stay passed all too quickly, but we met elsewhere in the autumn, and again and again would the old self come back.

    But such gleams of revived health and spirits were transitory.  After a brief resumption of service the commandant retired on half pay, not too long having to wait for le repos éternel, so much more welcome to him than valetudinarianism and enforced inactivity, the Legion of Honour his sole in lifetime—strange to say, that reward not entitling him to a soldier's grave.

    There is something appalling in the expeditionsness with which one's friends are hurried into the tomb in France.  Three months after spending some days near the invalid, and a few days only after receiving a note from him, came tidings of last illness, death, and interment, twenty-four hours only separating the last two.  And some months later I learned that an officer on half pay, no matter how distinguished, is not entitled to burial in that part of a cemetery set apart for military men.  Unless a site is purchased beforehand, or by his representatives, a military funeral is followed by interment in the common burial-ground.  And this is what happened in my friend's case—a circumstance, I hardly know why, filling me with hardly less sadness than the news of his death itself.

    But that lonely far-off grave is ever carefully tended, for flowers and shrubs brighten it.  From time to time a tiny nosegay gathered therefrom reaches the home of his unforgetting English friend.


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER XXVII.

MY JOURNEY WITH MADAME LA PATRONNE


THE gist of French travel, to my thinking, lies in French companionship.  Native eyes help to sharpen our own, and native wit enlivens every passing incident.  Incomplete, indeed, had been my own survey of rural France without such aid and stimulus, and to no fellow-traveller do I owe more than to the patronne of a popular hotel "east of Paris."  Our journey, moreover, was made under circumstances so novel and piquant that it stands by itself.

    A wife at sixteen, afterwards mother of several children, and co-manageress with her husband of a large establishment by the time she was barely of age, Madame C—'s aptitude for business and organization would have been remarkable in any other country.  With Julius Cæsar this clearheaded little Frenchwoman—at the time I write of middle-aged—could do three things at once; that is to say, she could add up figures whilst giving orders to cook or chambermaids and answering miscellaneous questions put by English tourists.  Interruptions that would prove simply maddening to other folks did not confuse or irritate her in the very least.  Equally admirable was her dealing with practical details, the discriminating choice of subordinates, methodical conduct of daily routine, the thoroughness of her supervision.  Let it not for a moment be presumed that hotel-keeping and attention to maternal duties shut out other interests.  To the utmost she had profited by an excellent middle-class education, was well versed in French classic literature, could enjoy good music and art, and on half-holidays would take her children to the magnificent town museum, pour former leurs idées, in order to cultivate their minds.  That books were more to her than mere pastime the following incident will show.

    We were one day discussing favourite authors, when she told me that during a recent convalescence she had re-read Corneille's plays right through, adding—

    "And in each discovering new beauties; it is the same with all great writers."

    The patronne of the Écu d'Or was not only charming company, but a devoted friend; and when a few years ago I wanted a fellow-traveller, I luckily bethought myself of my actual hostess.  The proposal was accepted.  Monsieur, ever solicitous of his wife's pleasure, cheerfully undertook double duty for a fortnight, and in high spirits we set off.

    It was, I believe, Madame C—'s first journey as a tourist since her wedding trip, often the only trip of a busy Frenchwoman's life.  Perhaps had she overrun Europe after the manner of the modern globe-trotter, she would not have proved so genial and informing a companion.  No one can really love France or appreciate French scenery like a native.  A close and accurate observer, Madame C—, whilst perpetually increasing her own knowledge, was ever pointing out features I might otherwise have missed.  Again, when she criticized, it was without the superciliousness of foreign observers.  Meantime, the weather was perfect.  Never had the Burgundian landscape looked richer or more glowing; never were travellers more enticingly beckoned onward by vista after vista of vine-clad hills, sunlit valleys, and blue mountain range.

    The kind of freemasonry that binds professional bodies together exists among members of what is called in France le haut commerce, or more important commercial ranks.  On arriving at our destination in Savoy I soon discovered this, and that, as I have said, however delightful French travel may be with a sympathetic English friend, native companionship introduces a novel and highly agreeable element.  The mistresses of the Écu d'Or and Lion Rouge now met for the first time, but their husbands had corresponded on business matters, their callings were identical, and general circumstances on a par.  Children on both sides proved a further bond of union.  Intercourse was straightway put on the footing of old acquaintanceship.  As warm a welcome was extended to myself, and such friendliness amazingly transforms the atmosphere of a big hotel.  Our hostess's husband being absent, her time was more taken up than usual, and the greater part of our own was spent abroad.  We took our meals in the public dining-room, ordering what we wanted as any other tourists would have done.  Yet somehow we seemed and felt at home.  And most instructive to me were the confabulations of the two ladies when leisure admitted of tea or coffee in Madamle F—'s cosy little bureau, or office and parlour combined.  What most struck me about these prolonged chats was the sense of parental responsibility shown by these busy mothers.  Madame C— had three boys, Madame F— a marriageable daughter, the group forming an inexhaustible topic.  The various aptitudes and temperaments of each child, the future, after most careful deliberation, marked out for them, were discussed again and again.  One remark my friend of the Écu d'Or made about her two elder sons impressed me much, evincing, as it did, a painstaking study of character from the cradle upwards.

    "My husband and I had wished to set up Pierre and Frédéric in business together," she said, "but we find as they grow older that natures so opposite as theirs would never harmonize.  Some young people are improved by coming into contact with their antipodes, but the experiment would not answer with our boys.  I have watched them both narrowly, and am convinced that they will be better apart."

    No less circumstantial was the patronne of the Lion Rouge regarding her eighteen-year-old Marie.

    As I listened I got no mere glimpse, but real insight into bourgeois ideals of the daughter, wife, mother, and very worthy ideals they were.  Marie's education had been, first and foremost, practical.  The practical element in a French lycée for girls is much more conspicuous than in our own high schools, and the lycée now has very largely supplemented the more restricted education of the convent school.  Especially insisted upon in the curriculum are such subjects as book-keeping and domestic management, both highly important to a girl destined for active life.  Trades as well as professions are often hereditary.  Mademoiselle Marie had just returned from a year's stay in an English business house, and already took her turn at the desk.  In due time she would replace the young lady caissière, or clerk, and most probably marry a hotel-keeper.

    These maternal colloquies brought out more than one French characteristic very forcibly.  In forecasting the future of their children, parents leave the least possible to chance.  A happy-go-lucky system is undoubtedly better suited to the Anglo-Saxon temperament.  The more methodical French mind does not rebel against routine.  Inherited prudence, an innate habit of reasoning, avert such conflicts as under the same circumstances would inevitably occur among ourselves.

    After discussing sons and daughters, the two ladies would discuss their husbands, or rather take each other—and myself—into the happiest confidences.  Madame C—, I knew well, owned a partner in every way worthy of her; the same good fortune had evidently fallen to Madame F—'s share.  Hard were it to say which of the two waxed the more enthusiastic on the topic.  Sentimentality is foreign to the national character, but these matrons, mothers of youths and maidens, now became tearfully eloquent.  Glad indeed I felt that the master of the Lion Rouge remained absent.  The excellent man in person must have proved a disillusion—have fallen somewhat short of his wife's description!

    Many other suggestive conversations I heard in that little parlour, but I must now relate by far the most interesting particular of this journey —the incident, in fact, which made it worth narrating

    Like Falstaff, I ever—when possible—take my ease at mine inn.  Madame of the Écu d'Or had mentioned this little weakness to Madame of the Lion Rouge, and accordingly the best rooms on the first floor were assigned to us, the choicest wines served.  During our several days' stay we enjoyed not only the cordiality of acquaintanceship, but all the comfort and luxury the hotel could afford.  What was my dismay, on applying for our bill, to learn that none was forthcoming!  Quite useless for me to expostulate!  Monsieur C— and Monsieur F— had transacted business together; I was Madame C—'s friend.  Both of us had been received, and could only be received, on the footing of welcome guests and old acquaintances.

    Argument after argument I tried in vain.  There remained nothing for me to do but accept such generous hospitality in the spirit with which it was accorded.  To have acted otherwise would have in the last degree outraged French susceptibilities.  And afterwards, when asking my travelling companion how best to show my appreciation, her answer was characteristic.

    "Send an English book, one of your own novels, to Mademoiselle Marie; on no account anything more costly, or it would look like payment in kind."  Which advice I followed.

    Nor was our journey in Dauphine without evidence of this freemasonry.  The patronne of the Écu d'Or seemed able to traverse France like the guest of Arab tribes, viceregally franked from place to place.  As the sordid rather than the generous qualities of their compatriots are insisted upon by French novelists, such incidents are worth recording.  On the whole, too, I am told on excellent authority that hotel-keepers in France, as a rule, do not make large fortunes.  Their expenses are too great, and, excepting in large commercial centres and health resorts, their clientèle is not rich enough to admit of high charges.  Only by dint of incessant attention to business and rigid economy can the bourgeois ideal be obtained—retirement, a suburban villa, and a garden.

    I here add that, apart from national cleverness and capacity, I think two circumstances greatly account for the success of commercial houses under feminine management.  The first is the admirable clearness with which arithmetic is taught and the prominence given to book-keeping in girls' schools in France.  The second is concentration of purpose, a single aim.  The matron has in view her children and grandchildren; the paid manageress her own independence.  One and all have ever the future before them.  They bend their undivided energies to the day's work, not for the sake of to-morrow's pleasure or relaxation, but of ultimate to-morrows, or aspirations inseparable from national character.  Wealth beyond the dreams of avarice is not the dream of the French bourgeois; instead, the modest existence assurée, a life free from pecuniary anxiety, advancing years spent in solvent dignity and comfort.


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER XXVIII.

THE LYCÉE FÉNELON FOR GIRLS


A GENERATION ago the education of French girls was far behind that of England and Germany.  I have no hesitation to-day in affirming its superiority to both Anglo-Saxon and Teutonic systems.

    My convent-bred contemporaries in France, nay, younger women whose studies were but beginning when their own had long since ended, would treat their education as a subject of gentle irony.

    "What did I learn at the convent, you ask me?" said one dear old friend to me some years since.  "Absolutely nothing."

    And another convent-bred friend, the other's junior by thirty years, by this time a wife and mother, informed me that she was sedulously applying herself to the study of history.

    "Would you believe it?" she said, smiling, "in my convent French history stopped short at the Revolution, for us it ended with the ancien régime!"

    The convent school was simply a school of manners.  With M. Turveydrop, the teachers' business was solely to polish, polish, polish.  A little French literature, a little music, perhaps a little drawing, were thrown into the bargain.  If pupils quitted the place ignorant as they had come, they at least acquired habits of self-possession, a faultless deportment, and scrupulous attention to minutiæ of dress, speech, and behaviour.

    What must be regarded as a drawback to the lycée will be mentioned in its proper place.

    When M. Hanotaux's work on contemporary France attains the colophon, we shall be in a position to appraise the Third Republic as an intellectual force.  No sooner was French soil rid of the invader, the army re-organized, the war indemnity had been paid into German coffers, and on September 16, 1873, the last detachment of Prussian troops saluted the tricolour on the frontier near Verdun, than reforms began in earnest.  The re-organization of the army, the raising of the French colonial empire to the second in the world, financial, municipal, and legislative reforms, were worthily crowned by the great Educational Acts, or Ferry laws, of 1881 and 1882.  Popular education as projected by the Convention eighty years before now became a fact.  Primary schools, lay, gratuitous, and obligatory, were opened in every commune throughout the country, and by the creation of the lycée for girls two rival camps were brought together; in the noble words of Gambetta—"French youths and maidens would henceforth be united by the intellect before being united by the heart."  The reign of smatterings and polish, polish, polish was doomed.

    The lycée de filles has no counterpart in England.  A foundation of the State, a dependence of the University of France, a body subsidized alike by the Government and by municipalities, every member of the various staffs is a civil servant.  With not a few Frenchmen, we are apt to rail at such instances of centralization.  The results are what we have to consider, and the inspection and study of a lycée will eradicate many prejudices.

    If a hard-and-fast rule of uniformity governs this administrative department as any other, if voluntaryism is rigidly excluded, it must be borne in mind what voluntaryism had cost the country before the Ferry laws.  Until 1881 both men and women could teach provided only with the so-called lettre d'obédience, or pastoral letter signed by the bishop—no certificate whatever of competence, merely a testimony to good conduct and submission to clerical discipline.

    Under the stately ægis of the University of France, the French girl is protected from incapacity, favouritism, or misdirected patronage.  The only title of admission to professional chair or to an inferior post is tried capacity.  From the modestly paid surveillante, or supervisor of studies, to madame la directrice, or the lady principal, and certified lady teachers, the entire staff is responsible to the vice-recteur of the Académie de Paris.  Here I may mention that there are sixteen académies in France, all affiliations of the university, the head of the university being the Minister of Public Instruction.

    By the courteous permission of the vice-recteur of the Sorbonne, I was lately not only enabled to see over the magnificent Lycée Fenelon in Paris, but to be present during several lessons.  In this vast congeries of buildings, annexe after annexe having been added to the ancient Hôtel de Rohan, five hundred and odd pupils from six to seventeen are accommodated with thirty agrégées—that is to say, ladies who have passed the examinations obligatory on professors teaching in a lycée, or Faculté, or school of art, science, or literature.

    Unlike the lycée for boys, that for girls is exclusively a day school.  Pupils living at a distance can have a midday meal and afternoon collation on the premises, but the State holds itself responsible to parents no farther.  Omnibuses do not collect the children and take them home as is the case with convent schools.  A new experience was it to see little girls of twelve, or even younger, deposit their pass ticket with the porter and run home unattended as in England.

    I was assured that the habit is on the increase, and as many professional and middle-class families in Paris keep no servant, great must be the relief of this innovation to over-worked mothers.  Indeed, the excessive supervision of children in France has ever, of course, been a matter of money and circumstances.

    An amiable young surveillante, or supervisor of studies and playground, etc., acted as my cicerone, explaining everything as we went along.  Quitting the porter's lodge and large waiting-room, we entered the recreation ground, a fragment of the fine old garden in which contemporaries of Madame de Sévigné once disported themselves, now noisy with romping children.  Class-rooms and refectories opened on to the gravelled spaces and shady walks, here and there lady professors taking a stroll between lesson and lesson.

    Ascending a wide staircase, relic of former magnificence, with elaborate iron hand-rail, we zigzag through the labyrinthine congeries of buildings, now looking into one class-room, now into another.  In some of these, fine mouldings and ceilings remind us that we are in what was once a splendid mansion of the Renaissance.  The sight of each room made me long to be a schoolgirl again.  Instead of receiving stones for bread and thistles for figs, the use of the globes, Mangnall's questions, and the like, a mere simulacrum of instruction, how delightful to be taught by the competent, to be made to realize our great thinker's axiom—knowledge is seeing!

    In one class-room, or rather laboratory a young lady professor was preparing her lesson on chemistry.  Very business-like she looked in along brown linen pinafore like a workman's blouse, as she moved to and fro, now fetching a retort, now some apparatus or substance for her demonstration.  Great prominence is given to the study of elementary science in the lycée curriculum.  Elsewhere we just glanced into a classroom where a second science mistress was lecturing on physics with practical illustrations.  In yet a third room, a vase of freshly gathered wild flowers betokened a forthcoming lesson on botany.

    "Our pupils delight in their lessons on natural history," said my cicerone, as with natural pride she showed me the school museum, a small but comprehensive collection of stuffed animals, birds, and skeletons, scientifically classified, and constantly enlarged by friends and scholars.

    One feature that more particularly interested me was a small room containing specimens of the pupils' work—delicately adjusted scales and weights, thermometers, and other mechanical appliances made by little girls unassisted.  Here indeed was a proof positive that with the young lycéenne—knowledge is seeing.  About twenty-five girls form a class, those attending the French lesson I was permitted to hear being from eleven to thirteen.  Very much alive looked most of these little maidens, all wearing the obligatory black stuff pinafore fastened round the waist, and having long sleeves, many with their hair dressed à la infanta of Velasquez—that is to say, hanging loose, and knotted on one side with a ribbon; not a few still in socks!  French girls, indeed, often go bare-legged and in socks till they are almost as tall as their mothers.

    Dictation and grammatical analysis are subjects naturally less attractive than chemical experiments or a lesson on field flowers.  More than once the lady professor was obliged to call some laggard to order; one, indeed, she sharply threatened with dismissal on account of inattention.  But on the whole I should say the class was a very intelligent one, and two or three girls of eleven or twelve, called up for examination, showed a really remarkable mastery of syntax.

    An admirable English lesson, given by a thoroughly capable French lady, was another interesting experience.  Of the twenty-five pupils, their ages being the same as those of the former class, about a third, not more, showed lively interest in the study.  Two or three, indeed, made a not unsuccessful attempt to tell the story of Whittington and his cat in English!  One bright little girl of twelve seemed ahead of all the rest.  On the disadvantage of employing French professors of modern languages in lycées, both for boys and girls, there at first sight would seem to be but one opinion.  No amount of erudition and experience can surely here atone for the sine quâ non of fitness, namely, native idiom and accent, that vitality in language hardly less individual and racial a matter than physical idiosyncrasy.

    The exclusion of foreign professors from State schools became law after the Franco-Prussian war, the measure being solely directed against Germans.  At the present time I believe the measure is partly protective, in the interest of the excessive number of native teachers, and partly pedagogic, viz. in the interest of the scholars.  And as a French friend writes on the subject "It is my firm conviction that foreign professors should never be employed unless they can speak French fluently and without accent.  Otherwise they are not respected by their pupils, and fail to exercise the desired authority."

    Where, indeed, would these be found?  Is it not for a similar reason that English professors of French and German are engaged for our own public schools?  What seems at the onset a defect may therefore be a necessity.

    The immense importance attached to the teaching of science more than compensates for any linguistic drawbacks.  The French mind is naturally acquisitive and logical, instruction here so directly appeals to natural aptitude, that great things may be expected from the future.  Already we find Frenchwomen coming to the fore in scientific discovery, law, medicine, and literature.  The lycée fosters inclination for studies hitherto considered the province of the other sex.  In the programme before me I find that students of the second division, i.e. girls from twelve to seventeen, are taught the following subjects, two or three being optional, and the complete course occupying five years: La morale, moral science, general history, German or English (in departments bordering on Spain and Italy, Spanish and Italian replace these), domestic economy and hygiene, common law, natural history, physics, chemistry, geometry and the elements of algebra.  French language and literature, drawing, solfeggio, with gymnastics, needlework including cutting out, are added; also a dancing-class and practical lessons in cookery, these being an extra charge.  In the preparatory class, i.e. for girls from six to twelve, the fees amount to 200 francs, just £8 a year, with an extra charge of £6 for pupils preparing their lessons under the supervision of a répétitrice, or under-teacher; in the second division the charges are from £10 to £12, the same sum as in the first being charged for what is called the externat surveillé.

    Before quitting the Lycée Fénelon I sent in my card to madame la directrice, who received me most cordially, saying that, with the permission of M. le Vice-Recteur, she should at any time cordially welcome myself or friends.  I mention this fact to show how the principle of authority is insisted upon in every administrative department of France.


"Take but degree away, untune that string,
 And hark! what discord follows!   Each thing meets
 In mere oppugnancy."


    In these words we have the key of that centralization so incomprehensible to ourselves, but which works so satisfactorily in France.  The vast administrative machine moves apparently by itself, unhinged by outward events however disturbing.

    A boarding-house at St. Mande, within half an hour's distance from the lycée, was opened in 1903.  Here bathrooms, tennis court, croquet ground, and other modernities are offered on moderate terms.

    As I was unable to visit this establishment, I will give some particulars of a boarding-house for girl-students at Toulouse visited some years since.

    I arrived, unfortunately, during the long vacation, but a young lady teacher in residence kindly showed me over the house, or rather block of buildings, standing amid pleasant wooded grounds.  Although we were as yet only midway through September, from attic to basement every corner was spick and span.  In the vast dormitory of the upper school, I was, alas! reminded of the lycée for boys.  Here were no less than thirty compartments or cubicles containing bed and toilet requisites, whilst at the upper end of the room, commanding a view of the entire length, was the bed of the surveillante, or under-mistress.  Sleeping or waking, the lycéenne, like the lycéen, was here under perpetual supervision.  In other respects the arrangements seemed excellent.

    The lycée of Toulouse, like those of other provincial cities, is a dependence of the State, the department, and the municipality.  Thus, whilst the programme of studies is drawn up by the M. le Recteur of the Toulouse Académie, the boarding-house just described is authorized by the town council, and the prospectus is signed by the mayor.  Every detail, therefore, alike scholastic and economic, must receive the sanction of these respective authorities.  How deep is the interest in secondary education the following citation will demonstrate: "At a sitting of the Conseil Municipal of December 29, 1887"—I quote from the prospectus of the boarding-house—"it was decided that a graduated reduction should be made for two, three, or four sisters, a fifth being received entirely free of charge."  It would be interesting to learn how often this generous privilege has been enjoyed.

    The charges both for school and boarding-house are about a third cheaper in the provinces than in Paris.  The curriculum embraces the same subjects with occasional deviations.  Thus, at Toulouse, on account of geographical position, Spanish may supplant German or English.  Religious teaching in every lycée is left entirely to parents.


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER XXIX.

LA MAISON PATERNELLE, OR REFORMATORY FOR YOUNG GENTLEMEN


WE are all familiar with the advertisements of schoolmasters and private tutors undertaking to control and amend idle or unruly lads.  Incorrigible ne'er-do-wells of our own upper classes are summarily packed off to the colonies.  Very different are French methods.  The Code Civil, based on Roman law, places drastic measures within reach of French parents and guardians, and a brief account of the system pursued in dealing with rich prodigals over the water will not, perhaps, prove without interest.  It is now many years since I visited the great agricultural and industrial reformatory, or colonie, as the place is euphemistically called, of Mettray, near Tours.

    A little removed from the vast congeries of dwellings, workshops, and farm buildings stood a pretty Swiss châlet.  This, our guide informed my fellow-traveller and myself, was the Maison Paternelle, another euphemism for what was in reality a refined sort of prison.  Thither, we learned, incorrigibly idle or vicious lads of the better classes were sent for terms varying from one to six months, and kept in strict confinement.

    We were obligingly allowed to inspect the house, which outside looked quite attractive, and within was what might be called a gilded cage, a genteel prison; once the key turned upon a captive, he was here as completely embastille as in the Bastille itself!  The cells varied in size, furniture, aspect and decoration, carpets, curtains, a pretty view, and other luxuries adorning those of what, for want of an exact term, I will call first-class misdemeanants.  But one feature characterized all.  In the door of each cell was a pane of glass admitting of perpetual espial.  Like Cain in Victor Hugo's fine poem, the prisoner was ever followed by an inquisitional eye.

    The key and the peep-hole somewhat discounted our cicerone's glowing appreciation of the Maison Paternelle as a reforming medium.  We refrained, however, from criticism till breakfasting with M. Demetz, the founder of Mettray, and the originator of the Maison Paternelle.  We had reached the colonie soon after eight o'clock in the morning, and M. Demetz, who lived in the midst of his children, as he called the outcasts and prodigals, breakfasted at the early hour of ten.  In a simple yet elegant home, a charming hostess in the person of the Countess, our host's daughter, and, unnecessary to add, a déjeuner of many courses, all perfectly cooked, awaited us.

    One saw at a glance that M. Demetz was a born apostle of humanity; also that, although devoting himself to the humblest and least admirable of his kind, he had consorted with choicest spirits.

    Past middle age, refined in feature, of exquisite urbanity, his face lighted up with rare enthusiasm when on the topic of his Maison Paternelle.  Eloquent as he became, neither my friend, who was also a philanthropist and educationalist, nor myself were won over to the peep-hole and the key.  We quitted Mettray smiling at what we deemed a good man's hobby.

    We were wrong.  The excellent M. Demetz has long since gone to his rest, my travelling companion, Madame Bodichon, the gifted foundress of Girton, has followed him to the grave.  The Maison Paternelle, founded forty-eight years ago, not only exists, but has more than justified the confidence of its projector.  The tiny Swiss châlet is now replaced by a commodious house, fitted up with all modern requirements, and having accommodation for upwards of fifty inmates.  What was formerly a tentative, a modest enterprise, is now an important organization, managed by a board of directors, and having a staff of university professors.  During the year 1900 no less than forty-six youths of wealthy parents were consigned to Mettray for shorter or longer periods by their parents and guardians.  Methods have not changed with conditions.  The system pursued by M. Demetz in dealing with idle or ill-conducted youths is still rigidly adhered to, its efficacy being borne out by results.

    For an understanding of French institutions we must familiarize ourselves with the Code Civil.  Here are the clauses by virtue of which parents can thus sequestrate their children—


"Art. 375.  A father having very serious grounds for dissatisfaction concerning the conduct of his child, has at command the following means of correction.

"Art. 375.  If the child is under sixteen, a father can have him put in confinement for a period not exceeding one month, and the President of the Tribunal of his arrondissement will, at his demand, deliver an order of arrest.

"Art. 377.  From his sixteenth year until attaining his majority, a child may be imprisoned for a period not exceeding six months; his father must apply to the President of the Tribunal, who, after conferring with the Procureur of the Republic, will either deliver or refuse an order of arrest, and in the first case can shorten the period of detention.

"Art. 378.  In neither case is there any judicial formality or written document necessary beyond that of the order of arrest, and a declaration of the reasons thereof.  A father is obliged to pay all expenses of his son's food, or any other expense attached to his confinement."


    These conditions must be strictly complied with by parents sending their sons to the Maison Paternelle; but, as the President's order for incarceration, the only document necessitated by the proceedings, is burnt after each inmate's departure, no unpleasant reminder can be brought against him.  His name does not figure on the criminal list.  M. Demetz' idea was, therefore, an ingenious application of the above articles of the Code Civil, and the reports [p.259-1] in my hands bear ample testimony to its success.

    Before giving citations from these most curious reports, it is necessary to describe M. Demetz' methods.

    The keynote of his system is based upon the reflective character of the French nation.  "We reason more than we imagine," writes the first living philosopher of France, [p.259-2] "and what we imagine best is not the world of exteriors, but the inner world of sentiment, and, above all, of thought."

    An unremitting appeal to the reasoning faculty, persuasion, kindness, and solitude—such are the influences brought to bear upon insubordination, indolence, and vicious habits.

    From the moment of arrival to that of departure, an inmate of the Maison Paternelle sees no one but his attendant (the word gardien being substituted for that of geôlier), his professors, the chaplain, and the director.  So complete is the isolation of each prisoner that two brothers, confined at the same time, have from first to last remained in ignorance of each other's presence.  Inmates are known to the household staff by numbers only.  The director alone knows each by name.

    It was M. Demetz' opinion that a habit of reasoning is induced by solitude.  Hence his insistence on this point.  It must be borne in mind that the Maison Paternelle is essentially an educational establishment.  Incorrigible idleness seems to be the principal cause of incarceration, and one interesting fact testifies to M. Demetz' perspicacity as a psychologist.  "Whilst success has not always crowned our efforts in cases of moral perversity," writes the director in his last report, "from an intellectual point of view we have never failed."  In other words, reflection has proved an apt monitor, where the head rather than the heart has been at fault.  Of twenty-six students going up in 1892, 1893, and 1894, eighteen passed their examination of baccalauréat.  A new-comer is straightway conducted to one of the smallest and barest cells.  If he becomes violent or despairing, efforts are made to soothe and encourage him; he is told that no constraint will be put upon his inclination, but that as soon as he wishes to set to work professors are at hand, who desire nothing better than to forward his progress.  When reflection brings a better mind, his cell is changed for one more cheerful and comfortable, his improvement is furthered to the utmost by those about him; exceptionally good conduct and extra diligence are rewarded by excursions in the neighbourhood, and even visits to the historic chateaux of Touraine.  In addition to the usual programme of studies, the youthful prisoner receives religious instruction and lessons in gymnastics, swimming, fencing, riding, and music.  Every fortnight reports of health and progress are sent to parents and guardians.

    The expenses of such an establishment are necessarily high, only professors of very special attainments being employed, and the number of pupils varying from year to year.  An attendant, or gardien, moreover, is attached to each youth, this person's business being to accompany him in his walks, supervise his conduct generally, and serve his meals.  Under the circumstances the following fees will not seem excessive: An entrance fee of 100 francs (£4), 250 francs per month is paid for inmates preparing for elementary examinations, and 300 for those aspiring to the baccalauréat.  A sum of 500 francs on account must be paid on entry of a pupil.  English and German or any other foreign language, music, drawing, and dancing are extras; also books, stationery, and drawing-materials are charged for.  No uniform is worn by inmates.  Smoking is strictly forbidden, also the possession of money.  Each inmate walks out for an hour a day, a payment of half a franc daily entitles him to a second hour's walk.  This charge helps to defray the salary of an attendant.

    On the eve of his discharge, the penitent prodigal is taken into the cellule de réintégration, i.e. the prison-like cell of refractory inmates; he there signs a solemn promise to refrain from evil or idle courses in the future.  The cellule de réintégration serves as a reminder that, if a second time he is consigned to the Maison Paternelle, he must expect severer treatment than before.

    As might naturally be expected the majority of youthful ne'er-do-wells in France, incorrigibly lazy, and the loafers are sons of widows.  Children as a rule are mercilessly—the word is fit—spoiled in France, and especially is to be pitied the fatherless lad, the "lord of himself, that heritage of woe."  One mother thus wrote to the director of Mettray: "I see but too well, monsieur, that my own weakness has caused all the mischief, and that I deserve to occupy a cell as well as my son.  I beseech you, come to my aid, help me to recover that authority I have allowed to be set at defiance."

    I will now give some brief extracts from the reports before named; also from a paper on the subject contributed to the Journal des Débats. [p.262]

    Here is the letter of a fiery youth to his father on learning of the paternal intentions—


"MONSIEUR,

    "It has just come to my knowledge that you intend to shut me up in a house of detention, in order that willy nilly I pursue my studies.  Take note of this.  Before Heaven I swear never to touch a pen for the purpose of work, never to open a book with similar intention, so long as I remain a prisoner.  However hard to bear may prove incarceration, no matter to what indignities or punishments I am subjected, my mind is made up my will is indomitable.  I have already acquired quite enough for the fulfilment of an honourable career.  I am, forsooth, to be imprisoned, dishonoured?  We shall see the result."


    Six months later the young man thus addressed the director—


MONSIEUR,

    "On the eve of quitting the Maison Paternelle, I cannot help sending you a few lines expressive of my gratitude.

    "It is owing to you, monsieur, and to my professors here, that I have now completed my studies, having learned more in six months under this roof than I should have done in two years elsewhere.

    "Rest assured, monsieur, that I carry away with me the best possible remembrance of the Maison Paternelle; no apter name could be given to this house.  Here I have learned—unfortunately, for the first time in my life—to reflect.  I have been taught to see the serious side of life and my obligations as a social being.  Thus I am deeply grateful for all the care bestowed upon me, and the interest taken in my progress by the professors.  This is no adieu, merely an assurance of my esteem and gratitude."


    Another impetuous youth immediately after incarceration writes as follows to the director—


"MONSIEUR LE DIRECTEUR,

    "If I should say that I intend to work here and atone for the faults of which I am accused, I should tell a lie, and lying I detest.

    "I will then tell you the truth, which is, that if I am not sent home within six days I will destroy myself.  Know, monsieur, that I am capable of anything."


    The above is dated May 18, 1887.  The following bears date August 13 of the same year:—


"MONSIEUR LE DIRECTEUR,

    "Three months have now elapsed since I became an inmate of the Maison Paternelle, and I do not know in what terms to express my sense of indebtedness to you and of all the advantage I have gained by my stay.

    "Forget, I entreat you, Monsieur le Directeur, my first letter.  Rest assured that I bitterly regret having penned it.  As for myself, I shall never forget what I owe you.  You have made me a wholly different being.  I am very sorry that you are away just as I am leaving; but if I fail in my examination I promise to come back."


    The following, dated April 26, 1887, from another inmate, is more curious still:—


"MONSIEUR LE DIRECTEUR,

    "Notwithstanding the proposals of my parents and their wish to see me go back to college, and having well considered the matter and reflected on my past career as a student, I have decided to pass the three months before going up for my examination at Mettray, the only place in which I have really made good use of my time.  I trust that no objection will be made to my return, and beg for the favour of an early reply.

    "Pray give my grateful remembrances to my professors and the chaplain.

    "Yours, etc."


    I cannot refrain from a few more citations.

    P. D. G. writes to the director in 1898, "Would you kindly send me some photographs of the colonie and the Maison Paternelle (three francs enclosed for the same), especially of the interior, in which last year, alas! I spent four months, quitting it, thank God, a reformed being.  These photographs will remind me of a place once inwardly cursed by me, but now a source of self-congratulation since to Mettray I owe my bettered self."

    A grateful father thus expresses himself: "I am happy to inform you, Monsieur le Directeur, that after quitting the Maison Paternelle our René passed three months in Germany, returning with a considerable knowledge of German (un bagage sérieux d'allemand).  He now attends the Lycée Jeanson, and is first of thirty-seven in the fourth class.  Thus you see that I have every reason to be thankful for the pains taken with my son whilst in your hands."

    Many "old boys" send donations towards improvements of the "Paternelle," as they affectionately call their former prison, and one showed his attachment to the place by visiting it in later years accompanied by his wife!

    It would seem as if idleness and its corrective, the faculty of reflection, were in part hereditary.  In any case the son of a whilom inmate was placed in the Maison Paternelle by his father.

    No less interesting than the letters just cited, selections from a vast number, are the monographs or character sketches drawn up by M. Gilbert, Préfet des Études.  A perusal of these carefully drawn-up human documents suggest the inquiry, How far might the individualizing of criminals work out reform?

    A distracted father begged the director to receive his son, a lad who had been expelled from college after college, and who had proved refractory alike to threats and entreaties.

    Here is the youth's description from a psychological point of view: "He belonged to that class of pupils who delight in nothing so much as preventing others from work and upsetting order in a class-room.  Intelligent, but idle and trifling, our new inmate, on arriving, decided—merely to annoy his father—on preparing for the mercantile instead of the classical baccalauréat.  The mere notion that such a decision displeased his parents and professors was enough for him; one severe reprimand and a punishment relatively severe had no effect whatever.  So long as he had his way he would be satisfied.

    "But we must carefully analyze such natures, in order to deal with them efficaciously.  Idleness and a propensity to trifling were this lad's chief faults.  Before finally making up our minds that he should be humoured, we set him to work on preparations for the classical degree.  At first all went well, his progress surprised even himself.  On a sudden he declared his intention of seeking a fortune in the colonies.  Of what good, therefore, to waste his time over Latin and Greek?  Again he lapsed into idleness and inertia.  The effect of a course of punishments was as that of a douche upon an enervated system.  'Such treatment was exactly what I needed,' he owned; and, strange to say—who would believe the fact without personal experience?—from that moment he worked strenuously, and became attached to his professors.  In the end he made up his mind to present himself as a candidate for the baccalauréat of science and letters, and to the joy and infinite amazement of his parents passed the examination."

    The young man—for by this time he might be so called—thus wrote to the director: "For the first time in my life I am quite happy, because, for the first time also, I have made my parents happy.  Since passing my examination I am treated so differently.  I am almost afraid that my head will be thereby turned!"

    Many other instances of successful treatment might be adduced, not only disinclination to work, but vicious habits, dissipation, addiction to bad company, gambling, and other vices having yielded to M. Demetz' methods.  I will now, however, say a few words about the resource of less wealthy parents, another and very different place of detention to which minors can be consigned by virtue of Articles 375, 376, 377, and 378 of the Code Civil.  This is Citeaux, near Nuits, in the Cote d'Or, an agricultural and industrial penitentiary which, at the time of my visit some years ago, although a State establishment, was entirely controlled by priests.  This, I believe, is now changed.

    At Citeaux there is no separate organization for youths of the middle ranks.  Twenty pounds a year only is the sum charged for board and lodging, and these paying inmates fare precisely the same as youthful vagrants or first offenders, but are not set to field work.

    On the occasion of my visit, a hundred of the thousand inmates were middle-class boys with whom their parents could do nothing.  And here, as at Mettray, a large percentage of these young good-for-nothings were sons of widows!

    My driver, who was in the habit of conducting visitors to the colonie, as Citeaux is also called, told me that he had lately taken thither a widow lady with her son, a youth of seventeen; also another widowed mother with an unruly lad somewhat younger.  The mother of the first-named incorrigible declared it her intention to keep him in the reformatory till he should become of age, unless he turned over a completely new leaf.  My conductor further informed me that he was employed in the printing press, and looked miserable enough.

    It is hardly to be expected that results at Citeaux would bear comparison with those of Mettray.  In the former place a lad can have no individual treatment; in the latter, he is in the hands of experienced specialists—in fact, he is a case diagnosed and treated according to the most advanced theories of moral and mental science.  The subject awakens much speculation.


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER XXX.

THE FAMILY COUNCIL

I. ITS ORIGIN AND HISTORY


LEGISTS cannot with any certitude determine the origin of that extra-legal tribunal in France, known as the Conseil de Famille, a domestic court of justice accessible alike to rich and poor and at nominal cost, occupying itself with questions the most momentous as well as the minutest, vigilantly guarding the interests of imbecile and orphan, outside the law, yet by the law rendered authoritative and binding.  From the Middle Ages down to our own time, noble and roturier, wealthy merchant and small shopkeeper, have taken part in these conclaves, the exercise of such a function being regarded both as a civic duty and moral obligation.  One object and one only is kept in view, namely, the protection of the weak.  The law is stript of its cumbrous machinery, above all, deprived of its mercenary spirit.  Not a loophole is left for underhand dealing or peculation.  Simplicity itself, this system has been so nicely devised and framed that interested motive finds no place in it.  Questions of property form the chief subject of inquiry and debate, yet so hedged round by precautions is the fortune of minor or incapacitated that it incurs little or no risk.  And in no other institution is witnessed to the same extent the uncompromising nature of French economy.  Justice here rendered is all but gratuitous.

    According to the best authorities, this elaborate code of domestic legislation is the development of mediæval or even earlier customs.  Under the name of l'avis de parents, we find family councils alike in those provinces having their own legal systems, or coutumes, and those strictly adhering to Roman law.  By little and little such usages were formalized, and so gradually becoming obligatory, in the fact, if not in the letter, were regarded as law.  The extra-legal character of the family council is one of its most curious features.

    Among the oldest documents referring to the subject is an edict of the fifteenth century, signed by René, father of Margaret of Anjou.  The presiding judge is herein forbidden to appoint any guardianship till he has heard the testimony of three syndics, as well as of the child's relations, concerning the trustees proposed, their circumstances, position in life, and reputation.  The syndics, be it remarked, were rural and municipal functionaries, replaced in 1789 by State-paid juges de paix.  Intermediaries between the law and the people, the syndics were elected by vote, their term of office generally lasting a year.

    The coutumes of Brittany and Normandy took especial care to define and regulate the family council.  Thus an edict of 1673 ordains that six relations on the paternal, and as many on the maternal, side of any orphan or orphans, shall assist the judge in selecting trustees.  A clause of the Breton Code enjoined that consultation should be held as to the education of the minors in question, "the profession, whether of arms, letters, or otherwise, for which they should be trained, the same to be decided according to their means and position."

    In the Nivernais, the family council consisted of seven members; in the Berri, of six; in the Orléannais, of five.  The Parliament of Bordeaux in 1700 fixed the number at six, as in the Berri.

    These facts show the importance attached to the function before the Revolution.  Up to that period it was an elastic system based upon usage and tradition rather than law; the family council now underwent minute and elaborate revision at the hands of successive bodies of legists; finally embodied in the Code Napoleon, it has undergone little modification to our own day.

    One of the most curious documents in this history is the rescript drawn tip by Napoleon III. and his ministers at the Palace of St. Cloud, June, 1853.  Following the statutes regulating the position of all members of the Napoleonic House, we have here the Imperial Family Council, as permanently and finally organized.  The Emperor decided its constitution beforehand, once and for all.  In other ranks of life such an assembly is called together when occasion requires.

    "The Conseil de Famine," runs the ordonnance, "shall be presided over by the Emperor in person, or some representative of his choosing; its members will consist of a Prince of the Imperial family also chosen by the Emperor, of the Minister of State, the Minister of Justice, the Presidents of the Senate, the Legislative Body, and the Council of State, the first President of the Court of Cassation, of a Marshal of France or General of Division named by the Emperor."

    As we proceed in this inquiry, we see how utterly at variance are autocratic principles with the real spirit of this domestic legislation.  A body thus framed was a mere vehmgericht, not dealing certainly with life and death, but with personal liberty and fundamental rights of the individual.  Thus this Imperial assembly could declare any member of the family incapable of managing his affairs—in other words, shut him up as a lunatic.  All the powers vested in the Conseil de Famille were in this case without a single guarantee to the individual whose interests were concerned.

    The origin of this truly patriarchal system is doubtless twofold.  Although not directly traceable to Roman law, the family council must be considered as partly an outgrowth of that source.  In certain cases legal decisions concerning the property or education of minors in ancient Rome were guided or modified by the advice of near relations.  But there was no obligation on the part of the magistrate; his decision was final.

    On the other hand, the spirit of the domestic conclave is eminently Gallic.  We find the same spirit animating French life at the present day.  In France, "the family" does not only mean the group of father, mother, and children who gather round a common board.  La Famine rather conveys the notion of a clan, the members of which are often settled within easy reach of each other, their entire lives spent, not merely as kinsfolk, but as neighbours.  To realize this aspect of French society we must live in the country.

    "The entire system under consideration," writes a French lawyer to me, "is based upon the bonds which unite, or ought to finite, the members of a family.  It is a development, and not one of the least happy, of the patriarchal spirit.  Its general tendency is excellent, and the rules framed for practical use are admirably drawn up and adjusted.  Further, this legislation is in perfect harmony with our national character and our theories concerning children generally.  We love children, perhaps, too well, since so often we spoil them by excess of tenderness."  Regard for the welfare of children and of property underlies the constitution of the Conseil de Famille; the same motives, therefore, that actuate minds in the present day were uppermost centuries ago.



II. ITS CONSTITUTION


The family council may be described as the guardian of guardians.  It is an assemblage of next-of-kin, or in default of these, of friends, presided over by a justice of the peace, called together on behalf of orphans, of mentally incapacitated or incorrigible minors (see Art. 388 and 487 of the Code Civil).  It is composed of six members exclusive of the juge de paix, namely, three next of kin on the paternal and three on the maternal side; in default of these their place may be filled by friends.  Natural children, according to the law have no relations; in their case, friends or relations of the father acknowledging them, are eligible.  No one who has forfeited civil rights by imprisonment can form part of the council; members must be of age and where two are equally fit, the elder is selected in preference to the younger.

    Here follow some clauses that strongly bring out the Napoleonic distrust and contempt of women.  From end to end of the Code Civil we discern this spirit.  The woman, the wife, the mother, is relegated to the status of minor, imbecile, or criminal.  Thus, no married woman can join a Conseil de Famille except the mother or grandmother of the ward whose interests are in question; the same rules hold good with regard to guardianship.

    Friends taking the place of kinsfolk are always named by the juge de paix, and cannot be accepted simply from the fact of offering themselves.

    Unnaturalized foreigners, or French people who have accepted another nationality, are ineligible for the family tribunal.  Nor can those take part in the deliberations who at any time have had a lawsuit with parents of the minor in question.

    So much for the constitution of the family council.  We will now proceed to its formalities.  Here it is necessary to say a word about the juge de paix, whose name occupies a prominent place in this history.  "French law," writes a legist in his commentary on the Conseil de Famille, "constitutes the juge de paix natural protector of the minor."

    The family council is convoked by the juge de paix on his own account or at the request of friends or relations of the minor; summonses to attend may be sent out in two forms, either by a simple notice or by a cédule or obligatory request.  In the former case, attendance is optional; in the latter, refusal without valid excuse exposes the offender to a fine of fifty francs.  But what is a valid excuse?  "Accident, sickness, absence," writes a commentator.  In fact, any obstacle which the juge de paix holds insuperable.  With him rests the responsibility of the fine, also the composition of the council, and here may be noted one of the extraordinary precautions taken.  As the rural magistrate is supposed to know his neighbours, deliberations must take place within his especial jurisdiction.  No minor's affairs can be settled except under presidency of the juge de paix of his or her district.  Again, the sittings take place at the official residence, and in case of differences of opinion the juge de paix is entitled to the casting vote, another instance of his importance.  Again, he must be no mean interpreter of the law.  All kinds of knotty questions and legal niceties are brought out at these family conclaves.

    Thus, upon certain occasions, the point has been raised—Can a Conseil de Famille be held on a Sunday or religious festival?  Lawyers have been much exercised upon this point, no trivial one to rural magistrates.  In country places important events are almost invariably put off till the resting day, and, as a rule, the matter has been decided in the affirmative.

    Here we light upon a curious piece of Revolutionary legislation.  A commentator on the question of Sunday family councils cites the law of 17 Thermidor, An. VI., according to which all State offices and public bodies vaquent les décadis jours de fetes rationales.

    The sittings are considered private, and no publicity is given to the subjects under debate.  Occasionally some member of the minor's family not taking part in the council may be present.  The greffier, or clerk of the juge de paix, is also in attendance, but no one else.

    The non-responsibility of members summoned to deliberate is strictly recognized by law; for instance, if a properly constituted family council has decided upon investments which ultimately prove disastrous, neither individually nor collectively are they held responsible.  If, however, on the other hand, connivance with intention to defraud is proved, they are proceeded against in the ordinary way.

    The legal expenses attendant upon this domestic legislation are restricted to the minimum.  Minutes are registered by the juge de paix at a cost of from one to ten or fifteen francs; certain important transactions require a fee of fifty francs.

    There remains one more point to be noted under the head of constitution of a Conseil de Famille.  I allude to what in French legal phraseology is called "homologation," in other words, the formal legalization of any decision arrived at by this body.  Certain verdicts require this to be rendered valid and binding, others do not.  Among the first are those relating to the sale or transference of a minor's estate, to the dismissal of a minor's guardian, to the dowry and marriage contract of son or daughter of any one deprived of civil rights.  The nomination of trustees, the refusal or acceptance of legacies, the details of guardianship generally, i.e. education, bringing up of wards, and many other measures, do not require this process of homologation; they are valid and binding without formal legalization.



III. ITS FUNCTIONS


    The family council, in its care of the fatherless child, is anticipatory.  Thus we find a special provision of the code.  The Code Civil makes special provision for a man's posthumous offspring.  No sooner does he die leaving a widow enceinte than it is her duty to summon a family council for the purpose of choosing what in legal phraseology is called a curateur a l'enfant à naître, or a curateur au ventre.  Duly elected, this guardian is authorized to undertake the entire management of her late husband's property, rendering a full account of his stewardship on the birth of the child.  This trusteeship of children as yet unborn awakens mixed feelings.  Without doubt cases in which the head of a family has left no directions of the kind, may necessitate such precautions.  At the same time do we not trace clearly here the subordination of women as derived from Roman law?  "We must acknowledge," writes a learned commenter, [p.276-1] "that the curateur à l'enfant à naître is named solely in the interest of a man's heirs, a result, as pointed out elsewhere, due to an adhesion to Roman law; Article 393 has crept into our code probably without due weighing of consequences on the part of the legislator."  The curateur's duty is also to verify the condition of the wife daps la mesure des convenances, also the birth of a legitimate child.  When we reflect that the legal heirs of a defunct person are his next of kin, we can easily understand the offensiveness of this law to an honourable, delicate-minded woman; at the same time we are bound to admit that such precautionary measures would in our own country prevent the scandal of a "Baby claimant."  French law, sometimes for good, certainly sometimes for evil, interferes with private life much more than in England.

    When we come to the subject of minors and orphans, we appreciate the enormous power vested in the family council.  The appointment of trustees and guardians, when not made by parents, rests entirely with this assemblage; [p.276-2] also in its hands is a power requiring more delicate handling still, namely, the withdrawal of paternal authority.  Here we meet with points recalling the Society for the Protection of Children, founded some years ago by the Rev. Benjamin Waugh.  As will be seen, however, the family council holds entirely aloof from criminal cases, concerning itself with civil affairs only, first and foremost with the disposition of property.  "From the earliest time," writes a learned commentator, "minors have been regarded (by French law) as privileged beings, placed under the protection of society generally."

    French legists have doubtless done their best for the foundling, the illegitimate, the disowned.  Especially within recent times has the lot of these waifs and strays been ameliorated by the law.  Terrible was their condition formerly as revealed in early records, also in statutes and legal commentaries.  During the Middle Ages, when, according to a French writer, "Roman law fully exercised its disastrous influence, foundlings were deposited at church doors, sex and age of each child were inscribed in a book called the 'Matricule' (Lat. matricula), they were reared in convent or nunnery, and, when sufficiently grown, sold by auction.  These wretched little beings were chiefly offered for sale in the large cities and purchased by the poor for a mere trifle, these often disfiguring or even maiming their chattels so as to excite public compassion.  It was not till 1640 that St. Vincent de Paul founded the first foundling hospital in France.  A century before, the ordonnance of Moulins had obliged the communes of that jurisdiction to maintain all abandoned children found within their limits.  In 1599, the Parliament of Paris had moved in the same direction, ordaining that the charge of foundlings should fall upon the parishes to which they belonged."

    It is the honour of the Republic to have established orphanages in all the cities and larger towns.  By a law, moreover, of 15 Pluviose, An. XIII., a kind of family council was appointed for the children of the State.  The conseil de tutelle discharged the functions of a conseil de famille.  This trusteeship lasts till the majority or marriage of the individual.

    We now come to a class only a degree less unfortunate.  I allude to the acknowledged children of irregular connections, the illegitimate.  French law, as we know, is very merciful to parents who will atone for such lapses.  Marriage, no matter the age of the offspring, legitimizes.  A natural child is thereby put on precisely the same footing as if born in wedlock.

    In all other cases the law stands by him, in so far as possible, protecting and promoting his interests.  "If there is a human being in the world requiring legal guardianship," writes a commentator before mentioned, "it is without doubt the illegitimate, friendless from the cradle, having no relations, none to look to but him to whom he owes his birth.  The care and maintenance of natural children is the duty, the obligation of every father.  If no provision were made by law to this effect, such provision would have to be made."  The Code Civil has, in so far as possible, regulated the position of natural children.  A family council, however, summoned on their behalf cannot be composed in the ordinary way, the illegitimate having neither kith nor kin.  The relations of the father acknowledging them, friends of both father and mother are accepted, and the legal guardianship is framed on the same principles as that of children lawfully begotten.  Volumes have been written on this subject, legists differing as to the right of a natural child to what is called legal or confessed guardianship, tutelle légale, i.e. paternal, or tutelle dative, i.e. appointed by the family council.  When difficulties arise, the matter is settled by the Cour de Cessation.

    After minors, orphans, and illegitimates come the interdis, or individuals pronounced incapable of managing their affairs.  These are imbeciles, maniacs, and persons condemned for criminal offences.  Here the Code Napoléon, now known as the Code Civil, amended the sterner Roman clause, according to which a deaf mute was placed on a level with idiots.  A dispute on this question having arisen at Lyons in 1812, the Cour de Cessation decided that a deaf mute giving evidence of intelligence, although unable to read and write, must be pronounced compos mentis.

    In the case of insanity, a family council is summoned as a preliminary measure, a judicial sentence being required before depriving the individual in question of his liberty.  An instance of the kind came some time ago under my own notice.  The conseil de famille had agreed as to the necessity of seclusion, the tribunal decided otherwise.  It will thus be seen that, except in case of a veritable conspiracy of relations, friends, and juge de paix, the extensive powers of this domestic court are hemmed round with guarantees.  Again, we must bear in mind a fact constantly insisted upon by French legists, namely, that we are here dealing with a conseil d'avis, a consultation acknowledged by the law and responsible to the law, not with legislation itself.

    A final class coming under the wardship of the family council consists of the incorrigible and the spendthrift—in French phraseology le prodigue, a subject treated in the foregoing chapter.

    Any guardian, having great matter for complaint against his ward, is empowered to summon a family council in order to pass the disciplinary measure called la réclusion, in other words, a term of modified imprisonment (Code Civil, Art. 468. De la puissance paternelle).

    Without doubt the most important function of the family council is the choice of guardians, the tutelle dative as opposed to the tutelle légale, the former being accorded by this body, the latter being the natural guardianship of parents.  The tutelle légale is obligatory, no father being at liberty to reject the duty.  So also is the tutelle dative; no individual selected by a family council as guardian and being related to the family of the minor is at liberty to refuse the charge; it is as much incumbent upon any French citizen as military service or the payment of taxes.  This is a most important point to note.

    A few exemptions are specified in the code.  Thus, the father of five legitimate children is exempt, also persons having attained the age of sixty-five, or being able to prove incompetency from illness.  The following also may refuse: ministers and members of the legislative body, admirals, generals, and officers in active service, préfets and other public functionaries at a distance from the minor's home.

    The conseil de famille having named a guardian, also names a tuteur subrojé, or surrogate, whose office is not in any way to interfere with the trustee, but to examine accounts and watch over the interests in question.

    On the subject of tutorial sphere and duty the law is explicit to minuteness.  Generally speaking, he is expected to act as a father towards his own child, having care of his ward's moral and intellectual education, protecting his or her interests, in fact, filling the place of a second father.  Whilst entrusted with the management of affairs as a whole, certain transactions lie outside his control.  Thus he is not at liberty to accept a legacy for his ward without the consent of the conseil de famille.  This precautionary measure requires explanation.  Sometimes the reversion of property may mean very heavy legal expenses, an enjoyment of the same being a prospect too remote to be counted upon.  An instance of this has come under my own observation.  A boy, son of French friends of mine, was left the reversion of an estate, the life interest being bequeathed to another.  His parents somewhat reluctantly accepted the charge, paying a little fortune in legal fees and duties for property most likely to come to a grandson.  No family council would have authorized such a course in the case of a minor.

    Again, the guardian cannot purchase any part of his ward's estate or belongings.  Nor can he reinvest stocks and shares without authorization.  On the expiry of his charge, that is to say, on the marriage or coming of age of the minor, the property in trust has to be surrendered intact, all deficits made up from his own.

    On this subject a French lawyer wrote to me, "It is extremely rare that any ward has occasion to complain of his or her guardian.  During a legal experience of twenty-five years, no serious matters of the kind have come under my notice.  Nevertheless, my practice lay in a part of France where folks are very fond of going to law.  It will occasionally happen that some elderly trustee persuades his young ward to marry him; these gentlemen have not perhaps been over-pleased with their success in the long run.  They are too much of a laughing stock."  Legal coming of age, l'émancipation, brings the guardian's task to a close.  According to French law there are two kinds of emancipation, the formal and the tacit; these matters, however, lie beyond the scope of my paper.

    The functions of the family council are fully set forth in the Code Civil; to understand its scope and spirit we must study the commentators.  "Le Repertoire de jurisprudence general," compiled by Victor and Armand Dalloz, was first published in 1836, but remains the standard book of reference on legal questions.  A handy and admirable digest of the conseil de famille is to be found in the "Traitée," by J.-L. Jay (Bureau des Annales des Juges de Paix, Paris, 1854).  Unfortunately, this book is out of print, and only to be picked up on the quays or at bookstalls.

    In conclusion, I cite the words of a friend before quoted, an experienced French lawyer, no learned commentator, but a hard-working practitioner.  "The excellence of such a system," he wrote, "is proved by one fact, namely, the very small number of lawsuits arising therefrom.  Very rarely it happens that a ward has any reason to complain of his trustees."

    We must bear in mind that inadmissibility to the charge of trusteeship is a disgrace, almost on a footing with the forfeiture of civil rights.  Hence the high character of French trustees generally.

    The family council is not often introduced into novels, an omission difficult to understand.


――――♦――――


[Next Page]

 


 [Home] [Up] [Reminiscences] [Victorian Memories] [Literary Rambles] [Unfrequented France] [Snow-Flakes] [Little Bird Red] [Main Index] [Site Search]

Correspondence should be addressed to.... Webmaster@Gerald-Massey.org.uk