IN AND OUT OF THREE NORMADY INNS
IN AND OUT OF THREE NORMADY INNS
ANNA BOWMAN DODD
I. A LANDING ON THE COAST OF FRANCE
II. A SPRING DRIVE
III. FROM AN INN WINDOW
IV. OUT ON A MUSSEL-BED
V. THE VILLAGE
VI. A PAGAN COBBLER
VII. SOME NORMAN LANDLADIES
VIII. THE QUARTIER LATIN ON THE BEACH
IX. A NORMAN HOUSEHOLD
ALONG AN OLD POST-ROAD.
XI. TO AN OLD MANOIR
XII. A NORMAN CURE
XIII. HONFLEUR--NEW AND OLD
XIV. A COAST DRIVE
XVI. THE GREEN BENCH
XVII. THE WORLD THAT CAME TO DIVES
XVIII. THE CONVERSATION OF PATRIOTS
XIX. IN LA CHAMBRE DES MARMOUSETS
TWO BANQUETS AT DIVES.
XX. A SEVENTEENTH CENTURY REVIVAL
XXI. THE AFTER-DINNER TALK OF THREE GREAT LADIES
XXII. A NINETEENTH CENTURY BREAKFAST
A LITTLE JOURNEY ALONG THE COAST.
XXIII. A NIGHT IN A CAEN ATTIC
XXIV. A DAY AT BAYEUX AND ST. LO
XXV. A DINNER AT COUTANCES
XXVI. A SCENE IN A NORMAN COURT
XXVII. THE FETE-DIEU--A JUNE CHRISTMAS
XXVIII. BY LAND TO MONT ST. MICHEL
MONT ST. MICHEL.
XXIX. BY SEA TO THE POULARD INN
XXX. THE PILGRIMS AND THE SHRINE--AN HISTORICAL OMELETTE
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
A VILLAGE STREET--VILLERVILLE
ON THE BEACH--VILLERVILLE
A SALE OF MUSSELS--VILLERVILLE
A VILLERVILLE FISH-WIFE
THE INN AT DIVES--GUILLAUME-LE-CONQUERANT
CHAMBRE DE LA PUCELLE--DIVES
CHAMBRE DES MARMOUSETS--DIVES
MADAME DE SEVIGNE
CHAMBRE DE LA PUCELLE--DIVES
CHATEAU FONTAINE LE HENRI NEAR CAEN
AN EXCITING MOMENT--A COUTANCES INTERIOR
A STREET IN COUTANCES--EGLISE SAINT-PIERRE
MONT SAINT MICHEL
MONT SAINT MICHEL SNAIL-GATHERERS
AN INN BY THE SEA.
A LANDING ON THE COAST OF FRANCE.
Narrow streets with sinuous curves; dwarfed houses with minute shops
protruding on inch-wide sidewalks; a tiny casino perched like a
bird-cage on a tiny scaffolding; bath-houses dumped on the beach;
fishing-smacks drawn up along the shore like so many Greek galleys;
and fringing the cliffs--the encroachment of the nineteenth
century--a row of fantastic sea-side villas.
This was Villerville.
Over an arch of roses; across a broad line of olives hawthorns
laburnums and syringas straight out to sea--
This was the view from our windows.
Our inn was bounded by the sea on one side and on the other by a
narrow village street. The distance between good and evil has been
known to be quite as short as that which lay between these two
thoroughfares. It was only a matter of a strip of land an edge of
cliff and a shed of a house bearing the proud title of Hotel-sur-Mer.
Two nights before our arrival had made quite a stir in the village
streets. The inn had given us a characteristic French welcome; its eye
had measured us before it had extended its hand. Before reaching the
inn and the village however we had already tasted of the flavor of a
genuine Norman welcome. Our experience in adventure had begun on the
Our expedition could hardly be looked upon as perilous; yet it was one
that from the first evidently appealed to the French imagination;
half Havre was hanging over the stone wharves to see us start.
"_Dame_ only English women are up to that!"--for all the world is
English in French eyes when an adventurous folly is to be committed.
This was one view of our temerity; it was the comment of age and
experience of the world of the cap with the short pipe in her mouth
over which curved downward a bulbous fiery-hued nose that met the
"_C'est beau tout de meme_ when one is young--and rich." This was a
generous partisan a girl with a miniature copy of her own round
face--a copy that was tied up in a shawl very snug; it was a bundle
that could not possibly be in any one's way even on a somewhat
prolonged tour of observation of Havre's shipping interests.
"And the blonde one--what do you think of her _hein_?"
This was the blouse's query. The tassel of the cotton night-cap nodded
interrogatively toward the object on which the twinkling ex-mariner's
eye had fixed itself--on Charm's slender figure and on the yellow
half-moon of hair framing her face. There was but one verdict
concerning the blonde beauty; she was a creature made to be stared at.
The staring was suspended only when the bargaining went on; for Havre
clearly was a sailor and merchant first; its knowledge of a woman's
good points was rated merely as its second-best talent.
Meanwhile our bargaining for the sailboat was being conducted on the
principles peculiar to French traffic; it had all at once assumed the
aspect of dramatic complication. It had only been necessary for us to
stop on our lounging stroll along the stone wharves diverting our gaze
for a moment from the grotesque assortment of old houses that before
now had looked down on so many naval engagements and innocently to
ask a brief question of a nautical gentleman picturesquely attired in
a blue shirt and a scarlet beret for the quays immediately to swarm
with jerseys and red caps. Each beret was the owner of a boat; and each
jersey had a voice louder than his brother's. Presently the battle of
tongues was drowning all other sounds.
In point of fact there were no other sounds to drown. All other
business along the quays was being temporarily suspended; the most
thrilling event of the day was centring in us and our treaty. Until
this bargain was closed other matters could wait. For a Frenchman has
the true instinct of the dramatist; business he rightly considers as
only an _entr'acte_ in life; the serious thing is the _scene de
theatre_ wherever it takes place. Therefore it was that the black
shaky-looking houses leaning over the quays were now populous with
frowsy heads and cotton nightcaps. The captains from the adjacent
sloops and tug-boats formed an outer circle about the closer ring made
by the competitors for our favors while the loungers along the
parapets and the owners of top seats on the shining quay steps may be
said to have been in possession of orchestra stalls from the first
rising of the curtain.
A baker's boy and two fish-wives trundling their carts stopped to
witness the last act of the play. Even the dogs beneath the carts as
they sank panting to the ground followed with red-rimmed eyes the
closing scenes of the little drama.
"_Allons_ let us end this" cried a piratical-looking captain in a
loud masterful voice. And he named a price lower than the others had
bid. He would take us across--yes us and our luggage and land
us--yes at Villerville for that.
The baker's boy gave a long slow whistle with relish.
"_Dame!_" he ejaculated between his teeth as he turned away.
The rival captains at first had drawn back; they had looked at their
comrade darkly beneath their berets as they might at a deserter with
whom they meant to deal--later on. But at his last words they smiled a
smile of grim humor. Beneath the beards a whisper grew; whatever its
import it had the power to move all the hard mouths to laughter. As
they also turned away their shrugging shoulders and the scorn in their
light laughter seemed to hand us over to our fate.
In the teeth of this smile our captain had swung his boat round and we
were stepping into her.
"_Au revoir--au revoir et a bientot!_"
The group that was left to hang over the parapets and to wave us its
farewell was a thin one. Only the professional loungers took part in
this last act of courtesy. There was a cluster of caps dazzlingly
white against the blue of the sky; a collection of highly decorated
noses and of old hands ribboned with wrinkles to nod and bob and wave
down the cracked-voiced "_bonjours_." But the audience that had
gathered to witness the closing of the bargain had melted away with the
moment of its conclusion. Long ere this moment of our embarkation
the wide stone street facing the water had become suddenly deserted.
The curious-eyed heads and the cotton nightcaps had been swallowed up
in the hollows of the dark little windows. The baker's boy had long
since mounted his broad basket as if it were an ornamental head-dress
and whistling had turned a sharp corner swallowed up he also by the
sudden gloom that lay between the narrow streets. The sloop-owners had
linked arms with the defeated captains and were walking off toward
their respective boats whistling a gay little air.
"_Colinette au bois s'en alla
En sautillant par-ci par-la;
Trala deridera trala derid-er-a-a._"
One jersey-clad figure was singing lustily as he dropped with a spring
into his boat. He began to coil the loose ropes at once as if the
disappointments in life were only a necessary interruption to be
accepted philosophically to this the serious business of his days.
We were soon afloat far out from the land of either shores. Between
the two sea and river meet; is the river really trying to lose itself
in the sea or is it hopelessly attempting to swallow the sea? The
green line that divides them will never give you the answer: it changes
hour by hour day by day; now it is like a knife-cut deep and
straight; and now like a ribbon that wavers and flutters tying
together the blue of the great ocean and the silver of the Seine. Close
to the lips of the mighty mouth lie the two shores. In that fresh May
sunshine Havre glittered and bristled was aglow with a thousand tints
and tones; but we sailed and sailed away from her and behold already
she had melted into her cliffs. Opposite nearing with every dip of the
dun-colored sail into the blue seas was the Calvados coast; in its
turn it glistened and in its young spring verdure it had the lustre of
a rough-hewn emerald.
"_Que voulez-vous mesdames?_ Who could have told that the wind would
play us such a trick?"
The voice was the voice of our captain. With much affluence of gesture
he was explaining--his treachery! Our nearness to the coast had made
the confession necessary. To the blandness of his smile as he
proceeded in his unabashed recital succeeded a pained expression. We
were not accepting the situation with the true phlegm of philosophers;
he felt that he had just cause for protest. What possible difference
could it make to us whether we were landed at Trouville or at
Villerville? But to him--to be accused of betraying two ladies--to
allow the whole of the Havre quays to behold in him a man disgraced
His was a tragic figure as he stood up erect on the poop to clap
hands to a blue-clad breast and to toss a black mane of hair in the
"_Dame! Toujours ete galant homme moi!_ I am known on both shores as
the most gallant of men. But the most gallant of men cannot control the
caprice of the wind!" To which was added much abuse of the muddy
bottoms the strength of the undertow and other marine disadvantages
peculiar to Villerville.
It was a tragic figure with gestures and voice to match. But it was
evident that the Captain had taken his own measure mistakenly. In him
the French stage had lost a comedian of the first magnitude. Much
therefore we felt was to be condoned in one who doubtless felt so
great a talent itching for expression. When next he smiled we had
revived to a keener appreciation of baffled genius ever on the scent
for the capture of that fickle goddess opportunity.
The captain's smile was oiling a further word of explanation. "See
mesdames they come! they will soon land you on the beach!"
He was pointing to a boat smaller than our own that now ran alongside.
There had been frequent signallings between the two boats a running up
and down of a small yellow flag which we had thought amazingly becoming
to the marine landscape until we learned the true relation of the flag
to the treachery aboard our own craft.
"You see mesdames" smoothly continued our talented traitor "you see
how the waves run up on the beach. We could never with this great
sail run in there. We should capsize. But behold these are bathers
accustomed to the water--they will carry you--but as if you were
feathers!" And he pointed to the four outstretched firmly-muscled
arms as if to warrant their powers of endurance. The two men had left
their boat; it was dancing on the water at anchor. They were standing
immovable as pillars of stone close to the gunwales of our craft. They
were holding out their arms to us.
Charm suddenly stood upright. She held out her hands like a child to
the least impressionable boatman. In an instant she was clasping his
"All my life I've prayed for adventure. And at last it has come!" This
she cried as she was carried high above the waves.
"That's right have no fear" answered her carrier as he plunged
onward ploughing his way through the waters to the beach.
Beneath my own feet there was a sudden swish and a swirl of restless
tumbling waters. The motion as my carrier buried his bared legs in the
waves was such as accompanies impossible flights described in dreams
through some unknown medium. The surging waters seemed struggling to
submerge us both; the two thin tanned legs of the fisherman about
whose neck I was clinging appeared ridiculously inadequate to cleave a
successful path through a sea of such strength as was running
"Madame does not appear to be used to this kind of travelling" puffed
out my carrier his conversational instinct apparently not in the
least dampened by his strenuous plunging through the spirited sea. "It
happens every day--all the aristocrats land this way when they come
over by the little boats. It distracts and amuses them they say. It
helps to kill the ennui."
"I should think it might my feet are soaking; sometimes wet feet--"
"Ah that's a pity you must get a better hold" sympathetically
interrupted my fisherman as he proceeded to hoist me higher up on his
shoulder. I or a sack of corn or a basket of fish they were all one
to this strong back and to these toughened sinews. When he had adjusted
his present load at a secure height above the dashing of the spray he
went on talking. "Yes when the rich suffer a little it is not such a
bad thing it makes a pleasant change--_cela leur distrait_. For
instance there is the Princess de L---- there's her villa close by
with green blinds. She makes little excuses to go over to Havre just
for this--to be carried in the arms like an infant. You should hear
her she shouts and claps her hands! All the beach assembles to see her
land. When she is wet she cries for joy. It is so difficult to amuse
one's self it appears in the great world."
"But _tiens_ here we are I feel the dry sands." I was dropped as
lightly on them as if it had been indeed a bunch of feathers my
fisherman had been carrying.
And meanwhile out yonder across the billows with airy gesture
dramatically executed our treacherous captain was waving us a
theatrical salute. The infant mate was grinning like a gargoyle. They
were both delightfully unconscious apparently of any event having
transpired during the afternoon's pleasuring which could possibly
tinge the moment of parting with the hues of regret.
"_Pour les bagages mesdames_--"
Two dripping outstretched hands two berets doffed two picturesque
giants bowing low with a Frenchman's grace--this on the Trouville
sands was the last act of this little comedy of our landing on the
coast of France.
A SPRING DRIVE.
The Trouville beach was as empty as a desert. No other footfall save
our own echoed along the broad board walks; this Boulevard des
Italiens of the Normandy coast under the sun of May was a shining
pavement that boasted only a company of jelly-fishes as loungers.
Down below was a village a white cluster of little wooden houses; this
was the village of the bath houses. The hotels might have been
monasteries deserted and abandoned in obedience to a nod from Rome or
from the home government. Not even a fisherman's net was spread
a-drying to stay the appetite with a sense of past favors done by the
sea to mortals more fortunate than we. The whole face of nature was as
indifferent as a rich relation grown callous to the voice of entreaty.
There was no more hope of man apparently than of nature being moved
by our necessity; for man to be moved must primarily exist and he
was as conspicuously absent on this occasion as Genesis proves him to
have been on the fourth day of creation.
Meanwhile we sat still and took counsel together. The chief of the
council suddenly presented himself. It was a man in miniature. The
masculine shape as it loomed up in the distance gradually separating
itself from the background of villa roofs and casino terraces resolved
itself into a figure stolid and sturdy very brown of leg and insolent
of demeanor--swaggering along as if conscious of there being a
full-grown man buttoned up within a boy's ragged coat. The swagger was
accompanied by a whistle whose neat crispness announced habits of
leisure and a sense of the refined pleasures of life; for an artistic
rendering of an aria from "La Fille de Madame Angot" was cutting the
air with clear high notes.
The whistle and the brown legs suddenly came to a dead stop. The round
blue eyes had caught sight of us:
"_Ouid-a-a!_" was this young Norman's salutation. There was very little
trouser left and what there was of it was all pocket apparently. Into
the pockets the boy's hands were stuffed along with his amazement; for
his face round and full though it was could not hold the full measure
of his surprise.
"We came over by boat--from Havre" we murmured meekly; then "Is there
a cake-shop near?" irrelevantly concluded Charm with an unmistakable
ring of distress in her tone. There was no need of any further
explanation. These two hearty young appetites understood each other;
for hunger is a universal language and cake a countersign common among
the youth of all nations.
"Until you came you see we couldn't leave the luggage" she went on.
The blue eyes swept the line of our boxes as if the lad had taken his
afternoon stroll with no other purpose than to guard them. "There are
eight and two umbrellas. _Soyez tranquille je vous attendrai._"
It was the voice and accent of a man of the world four feet high--a
pocket edition so to speak in shabby binding. The brown legs hung
the next instant over the tallest of the trunks. The skilful whistling
was resumed at once; our appearance and the boy's present occupation
were mere interludes we were made to understand; his real business
that afternoon was to do justice to the Lecoq's entire opera and to