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FÊTES AT ROUEN
IT was growing dark when our
little party scrambled over the decks of several barges, and finally found
themselves walking up the quay.
The lights were
beginning to twinkle in all directions, and in a few minutes the river and city
were ablaze. It seemed like fairyland to the children. The bridges were outlined
with golden globes and festoons of tiny lamps of red, white, and blue. Wreaths
of lights, in the shape of flowers of all colours, made innumerable arches of
light across the streets. Everywhere were flags grouped about shields on which
were the letters R. F., which stand for the words “Republic of France.”
Walking in any
direction was not easy. A mass of people swaying hither and thither blocked
streets, bridges, and quays. Our little Les Andelys party did not attempt to
stem the torrent. “‘We will just
drift along,” said Uncle Daboll, “and see what we can, and you children hold
each other’s hands and keep closely to us.”
It was a motley and
most good-natured crowd. Ladies in Parisian gowns mingled with country women in
their fanciful white caps, kerchiefs, and short skirts. There were Breton
fisherfolk and dark-skinned people from the far south; sailors and soldiers in
their gay red and blue uniforms, and every now and then one would hear a clear
Vendors of toys for
the little ones, and souvenirs for everybody, stood on every corner and did a
flourishing trade, and high above the heads of every one floated masses of the
small red, white, and blue balloons, held captive on a long string, without
which no French fate is complete. On the sidewalk in front of the cafés, people
were sitting at small tables sipping their coffee and the numberless sweet
drinks of which the French are so fond, while at each café a band was playing
for the amusement of its guests, but was also enjoyed by the passing throngs. It
took the combined efforts of many natty policemen —“gendarmes,”
they are called — to keep an open pathway through the crowd.
looks more like a soldier than a policeman, in his dark blue uniform and
soldier-cap, a short sword by his side, and a cape over his shoulders, all of
which gives him quite a military air.
Presently, at a
corner, they were stopped by an even denser throng who were watching a gaily
dressed crowd of people entering a brilliantly decorated and illuminated
“What is this?”
asked Uncle Daboll of a man near him.
“It is the grand
costume ball at the theatre, where every one is expected to dress in old Norman
costume,” was the answer.
Germaine, “that is why the ladies are wearing those funny tall head-dresses;
look, Marie, there is one quite near us.”
The costume was both
pretty and odd. The lady had on a white head-dress made of embroidered muslin,
very like a sunbonnet in shape, with a high crown, around which was tied a big
bow of ribbon. A bright-coloured kerchief was about her neck, and she wore a
square-necked cloth bodice neatly laced in front, with sleeves to the elbow;
underneath this was a white chemisette, as
it is called. Around the neck and sleeves of the bodice were bands of velvet. A
very short skirt, gathered as full as possible about the waist, a dainty little
apron of coloured silk with lace insertion, wooden sabots,
prettily carved, and lace mitts on her hands, completed her unusual costume.
The gentleman with her
was also in Norman dress. He had big baggy trousers, a high velvet waistcoat
embroidered in bright colours, a short round jacket with gold buttons, a high
white collar with a big red silk handkerchief tied in a bow around the neck,
enormous sabots, and all topped off with a high silk hat, with a straight
While the children
were busy looking at the details of the costumes, a carriage halted so near
Germaine that she could have put out her hand and touched its occupant, who was
a young girl about her own age. Germaine was at once attracted to her. She had a
sweet pretty face, bright rosy cheeks, and soft blue eyes; her waving, brown
hair fell loosely about her shoulders, and across her white dress was draped a
small silk flag which Germaine recognized as the British flag, known as the “ Union Jack.” She wore a wreath of red roses and carried in her
hand a bunch of the same flowers in which were stuck two small silk flags —
one French and the other British. Beside her sat a portly gentleman in a
gorgeous robe of black and red trimmed with fur, while around his neck was a
massive golden chain.
As Germaine was
watching her, the little girl leaned eagerly out of the carriage window, and in
so doing dropped her bouquet at Germaine’s feet. “Oh, papa, I have lost my
flowers,” she cried. Meanwhile Germaine quickly picked them up, and handed
them back to her; and not a moment too soon, for the carriage was moving on
again and the bouquet would have been crushed under its wheels.
“Thank you so
much,” cried the little girl, looking back and waving her hand. Germaine did
not understand the words, but knew she had been thanked in English.
Germaine had been so
taken up with this little incident that she had not noticed that the crowd had
separated her from her companions. Her heart gave a bound, and with a startled
cry she realized that only strange faces were about her, and she stood
motionless with fright. Her terror was fortunately short-lived, for through the
crowd she saw Uncle Daboll making his way toward her, and rushing up to him
thankfully clasped his hand, which he made her promise not to loose again until
they were safe back on the barge.
It was not until
later, when they were sitting on the deck of the barge watching the fireworks on
the heights around the city leave fiery streaks and showers of shining stars on
the blackness of the summer sky, that Germaine had the opportunity of telling
the family of her adventure with the “little girl of the roses,” as she
Aunt Daboll thought
that probably she belonged to one of the parties of English visitors who had
come to Rouen to take part in the Fêtes.
Very early the following
morning they finished their coffee and rolls and began their round of
sightseeing, all of which had to be crowded into the morning, as the afternoon
was to be given over to the Water Tournament, to which the children were looking
forward with great excitement.
Jean, especially, had
been impressed with the posters which showed in brilliant colours men in
unfamiliar dress, tumbling into the water and being fished out again, with,
apparently, great unconcern as to the consequences.
“Well, what shall we
see first?” asked Uncle Daboll.
“Oh, the big
clock,” said Jean, " and then let’s climb the iron spire of the
Germaine wanted to see
where poor Jeanne d’Arc had been put to death; the others were ready for
“Everywhere one sees
the name of Jeanne d’Arc,” said Marie. “This street is named after her,
and last night we were in the Boulevard Jeanne d’Arc.”
“And just at the top
of this same street,” said Uncle Daboll, “we shall see the Tower of Jeanne
d’Arc, where the poor girl was imprisoned during her mock trial in the great
castle, of which only this one tower is left standing.”
They soon turned into
a narrow street, and there was the great clock, built in a tower, under which
runs the roadway itself.
brought them to the Palais de Justice, with its big dormer windows elaborately
carved in stone.
A few steps more, and
they were in the old market-place, and little Germaine with bated breath looked
at the stone let into the pavement at her feet, which marks the spot where poor
Jeanne bravely met her terrible death by fire. All about the place the market
people were peddling their wares, bargaining and calling out the merits of their
various vegetables and fruits and poultry, the scene not unlike what it may have
been in those olden days when the Normans ruled.
Our party could not,
however, linger very long over memories of the” Maid,” for Uncle Daboll
hurried them away to see the great church of St. Ouen, with such large windows
that it seems to have walls of glass, and its curious Portal of the Marmosets,
all over which are carved little animals which look like ferrets. They passed
the little church of St. Maclou, set like a gem in a tangle of streets that were
little more than alleys. As Jean said, the tall, old houses seemed to be leaning
over toward one another as if they were trying to knock their heads together.
At one street corner
there had been erected a triumphal arch which was surmounted by a facsimile of
the statue of William the Conqueror, the original of which stands in the little
Norman town of Falaise, where he was born.
All French children
know the history of this great Norman, who was an unknown boy in an obscure
little village, but who in time sailed across what is now known as the English
Channel, conquered England, and made himself King of England as well as Duke of
When they came to the
cathedral, our party were glad to enter and rest awhile within the cool, lofty
aisles and say a short prayer.
Marie remembered her
favourite St. Antoine and dropped two sous in the box at the foot of his statue,
for the poor.
While Uncle Daboll and
Jean climbed up the iron spire, the rest of the party were taken by the “suisse” to see the chapels with their tombs and tapestries.
is an imposing person in gorgeous dress of black velvet and gold lace, a big
three-cornered hat covered with gold braid, white silk stockings, shoes with big
buckles, and he carries a tall gold-headed stock.
It is his duty to
guard the church and, for a small fee, to show visitors the chapels and other
parts of the church not generally open.
Marie and Germaine
felt quite in awe of him at first. They had never seen anything so magnificent
before, but seeing their great interest in all that he pointed out to them, he
unbent, and when he showed Germaine the spot where was buried the heart of King
Richard, and she told him that she lived near the great castle the king had
built, at Les Andelys, he smiled in a most friendly way, and patted her on the
It was quite a change
when, after Uncle Daboll and Jean joined them, they went out from the dark
church into the square blazing with sunlight, and full of booths with all sorts
of things to sell, toys, souvenirs, and picture post-cards galore.
Jean was full of his
experiences in the tower: how they went up a little winding stairway to the very
top, and they could see for miles around the city, and how the people looked
like tiny black dots far below; and how, when coming down, he got a bit dizzy,
and his father made him shut his eyes and sit still for a minute or two; but
that was doing better than a grown man who was just behind them, and who had to
go back just after they had started.
When Jean had finished
telling his experiences, everybody found out that they were very hungry. Uncle
Daboll laughed, and said he had never known them to be so much of one mind
“Well, follow me,
little ones, and we shall find something,” he said, and led the way down the
street, gay with flags, wreaths, and flowers.
“Just one moment,
uncle,” cried Marie, “ let us stop and buy some post-cards to send home.”
“It will be better,”
said Uncle Daboll, “to get them after dinner, and while we are having our
coffee at a café we can write them and send them off. If we stop now, we shall
be late for dinner, for it is past noon.”
“Here is our place
for dinner,” he continued, as they entered a small square surrounded by
old-time houses near the river. On one side was a modest little hotel called the
“Three Merchants.” Going up an outside stairway, they entered a small room
with a low ceiling and a stone floor, with a long table down the centre.
It was a typical place
for the farmers to come for their dinners when they brought their produce into
the markets. Some of these farmers were now sitting at the table with blue or
black blouses over their broadcloth suits, with their wives in black dresses and
white caps, all talking and gesticulating away over their dinner.
There were two
pleasant-faced cures in their long, tight black gowns closely buttoned up the
front, the brims of their flat black hats caught up on either side with a cord,
who had evidently come in from some country parish to see the fêtes. There was
also a solitary bicyclist whose costume betrayed the fact that he was a
Frenchman, for no other bicyclists in the world get themselves up in so juvenile
a manner as do the French. A loose black alpaca coat, a broad waistband in which
was sewed his purse, baggy knickerbockers of gray plaid, and socks with low
shoes, leaving the leg bare to the knee, completed his marvellous costume.
You would think this a
little boy’s dress in America, would you not?
These were the guests
to whom our party nodded, which is a polite and universal French custom when
entering and leaving a room where others are, even though they may be unknown to
After a bountiful
middle-class dinner, our party passed out into the crowded streets again, when
the energetic Jean exclaimed:
“Now for our
“Now for a place to
rest a little while,” cried uncle and aunt in the same breath.
“Here is a pleasant,
cool-looking little café across the street; the one with the green shrubs in
boxes before it. We will have our coffee there while you select your postcards.
You will find them in that corner shop.”
In a few minutes the
children were back with the cards. Jean had selected a view of the cathedral,
because he wanted to show his uncle and aunt the great spire up which he had
climbed; Marie sent several showing the decorations in the streets to various of
her school friends, and Germaine did not forget her friend, M. Auguste, after
sending one each to her father and mother.
Before two o’clock
everybody was hurrying toward the river to see the water sports.
“Oh, aunty,” cried
Germaine, pulling her aunt by the sleeve, “look, there is my ‘little girl of
the roses,’ see, walking this way with those ladies and gentlemen!”
Germaine was quite
trembling with excitement as she saw the little girl recognized her, and came
quickly toward them.
“Oh, I am so glad to
see you,” she cried. “I have wanted to see you again to thank you. Oh, but
isn’t it stupid of me?” she went on, with a sign of vexation. “Of course
you don’t know English, and I can’t speak French, except to say merci
and bon jour and bon soir, so how can we talk to each other?” Then she stopped and
laughed, and Germaine laughed, too, and the two little girls stood smiling at
one another, when the portly gentleman, whom Germaine had seen in the carriage,
hurried up. “Ethel, my dear, why did you run off like this?”
“Oh, papa, this is the
little girl who handed me back my roses, when they fell from the carriage last
night. You know my special programme was tied with the flowers, and I would not
have lost it for anything.”
Just then some French
people came up who also spoke English, and the little girl explained the
situation. Germaine then learned that Ethel was the daughter of the mayor of the
English town of Hastings, and he had been invited to represent England at the fêtes,
for it was at Hastings that William the Conqueror had landed, and near there
that the great battle of Hastings was fought, which gave England to the Normans.
That was so very long
ago that everybody in England is now very proud of it, and the English cousins
from Hastings were taking as much interest in the fêtes as the French
Germaine blushed while
the gentleman was telling her all this, and Ethel took a little English flag
that she had pinned on her dress and gave it to Germaine. When Ethel’s papa
heard where Germaine lived, he said he had been to Les Andelys, he had stayed at
the Belle Etoile, and knew M. Auguste, and perhaps next year he would come there
again and bring Ethel and her mother, and then they should all meet again.
After the French gentleman
kindly made all this known to Germaine, the little girls shook hands and parted,
for the Tournament had begun.
craft, much like gondolas, took up their positions, one at either end of the
course. The crew of one had a white costume with red sashes and red caps— the
other was in similar dress, except that their caps and sashes were blue. These
respective crews were known as the “Blues” and the Reds.”
On a raised platform
at the end of his boat stood a “Red,” with a long lance at rest; opposite
was a “Blue” in the same position. At a given signal, the boats came toward
one another, and one lance-man attempted to push the other off into the water.
Great was the
excitement among their partisans on the banks, and cries of encouragement came
from friends on either side. Jean had picked out the “Blue” as his choice,
while Marie and Germaine hoped the” Red” would win. By this time the
children were standing on their chairs, Jean waving his cap with great
enthusiasm. Suddenly “Red” gave a stronger push, and down went poor
“Blue,” head foremost in the water. However, he did riot seem to mind it, as
he sat dripping in the rescue boat. Jean felt rather badly over the fall of his
hero, but another man took his place, and this time Jean’s man won, to his
intense delight. So the fun went on until late in the afternoon. Another
evening’s walk through the illuminated city, and the children were quite ready
for their beds on the barge, — for the men of the party slept on deck while
the rest had the little house to themselves.
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