I know not whether the exact limits of an excur- sion, as distinguished from a journey, have ever been fixed; at any rate, it seemed none of my business, at Tours, to settle the question. Therefore, though the making of excursions had been the purpose of my stay, I thought it vain, while I started for Bourges, to determine to which category that little expedition might belong. It was not till the third day that I re- turned to Tours; and the distance, traversed for the most part after dark, was even greater than I had sup- posed. That, however, was partly the fault of a tire- some wait at Vierzon, where I had more than enough time to dine, very badly, at the _buffet_, and to observe the proceedings of a family who had entered my rail- way carriage at Tours and had conversed unreservedly, for my benefit, all the way from that station, - a family whom it entertained me to assign to the class of _petite noblesse de province_. Their noble origin was confirmed by the way they all made _maigre_ in the refreshment oom (it happened to be a Friday), as if it had been possible to do anything else. They ate two or three omelets apiece, and ever so many little cakes, while the positive, talkative mother watched her children as the waiter handed about the roast fowl. I was destined to share the secrets of this family to the end; for when I had taken place in the empty train that was in waiting to convey us to Bourges, the same vigilant woman pushed them all on top of me into my com- partment, though the carriages on either side con- tained no travellers at all. It was better, I found, to have dined (even on omelets and little cakes) at the station at Vierzon than at the hotel at Bourges, which, when I reached it at nine o'clock at night, did not strike me as the prince of hotels. The inns in the smaller provincial towns in France are all, as the term is, commercial, and the _commis-voyageur_ is in triumphant possession. I saw a great deal of him for several weeks after this; for he was apparently the only traveller in the southern provinces, and it was my daily fate to sit opposite to him at tables d'hote and in railway trains. He may be known by two infallible signs, - his hands are fat, and he tucks his napkin into his shirt-collar. In spite of these idiosyncrasies, he seemed to me a reserved and inoffensive person, with singularly little of the demonstrative good-humor that he has been described as possessing. I saw no one who re- minded me of Balzac's "illustre Gaudissart;" and in- deed, in the course of a month's journey through a large part of France, I heard so little desultory con- versation that I wondered whether a change had not come over the spirit of the people. They seemed to me as silent as Americans when Americans have not been "introduced," and infinitely less addicted to ex- changing remarks in railway trains and at tables d'hote the colloquial and cursory English; a fact per- haps not worth mentioning were it not at variance with that reputation which the French have long en- joyed of being a pre-eminently sociable nation. The common report of the character of a people is, how- ever, an indefinable product; and it is, apt to strike the traveller who observes for himself as very wide of the mark. The English, who have for ages been de- scribed (mainly by the French) as the dumb, stiff, unapproachable race, present to-day a remarkable ap- pearance of good-humor and garrulity, and are dis- tinguished by their facility of intercourse. On the other hand, any one who has seen half a dozen Frenchmen pass a whole day together in a railway- carriage without breaking silence is forced to believe that the traditional reputation of these gentlemen is simply the survival of some primitive formula. It was true, doubtless, before the Revolution; but there have been great changes since then. The question of which is the better taste, to talk to strangers or to hold your tongue, is a matter apart; I incline to believe that the French reserve is the result of a more definite con- ception of social behavior. I allude to it only be- came it is at variance with the national fame, and at the same time is compatible with a very easy view of life in certain other directions. On some of these latter points the Boule d'Or at Bourges was full of instruction; boasting, as it did, of a hall of reception in which, amid old boots that had been brought to be cleaned, old linen that was being sorted for the wash, and lamps of evil odor that were awaiting replenish- ment, a strange, familiar, promiscuous household life went forward. Small scullions in white caps and aprons slept upon greasy benches; the Boots sat staring at you while you fumbled, helpless, in a row of pigeon- holes, for your candlestick or your key; and, amid the coming and going of the _commis-voyageurs_, a little sempstress bent over the under-garments of the hostess, - the latter being a heavy, stem, silent woman, who looked at people very hard.
It was not to be looked at in that manner that one had come all the way from Tours; so that within ten minutes after my arrival I sallied out into the dark- ness to get somehow and somewhere a happier im- pression. However late in the evening I may arrive at a place, I cannot go to bed without an impression. The natural place, at Bourges, to look for one seemed to be the cathedral; which, moreover, was the only thing that could account for my presence _dans cette galere_. I turned out of a small square, in front of the hotel, and walked up a narrow, sloping street, paved with big, rough stones and guiltless of a foot-way. It was a splendid starlight night; the stillness of a sleeping _ville de province_ was over everything; I had the whole place to myself. I turned to my right, at the top of the street, where presently a short, vague lane brought me into sight of the cathedral. I ap- proached it obliquely, from behind; it loomed up in the darkness above me, enormous and sublime. It stands on the top of the large but not lofty eminence over which Bourges is scattered, - a very good position, as French cathedrals go, for they are not all so nobly situated as Chartres and Laon. On the side on which I approached it (the south) it is tolerably well ex- posed, though the precinct is shabby; in front, it is rather too much shut in. These defects, however, it makes up for on the north side and behind, where it presents itself in the most admirable manner to the garden of the Archeveche, which has been arranged as a public walk, with the usual formal alleys of the _jardin francais_. I must add that I appreciated these points only on the following day. As I stood there in the light of the stars, many of which had an autumnal sharpness, while others were shooting over the heavens, the huge, rugged vessel of the church overhung me in very much the same way as the black hull of a ship at sea would overhang a solitary swimmer. It seemed colossal, stupendous, a dark leviathan.
The next morning, which was lovely, I lost no time in going back to it, and found, with satisfaction, that the daylight did it no injury. The cathedral of Bourges is indeed magnificently huge; and if it is a good deal wanting in lightness and grace it is perhaps only the more imposing. I read in the excellent hand- book of M. Joanne that it was projected "_des_ 1172," but commenced only in the first years of the thirteenth century. "The nave" the writer adds, "was finished _tant bien que mal, faute de ressources;_ the facade is of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries in its lower part, and of the fourteenth in its upper." The allusion to the nave means the omission of the transepts. The west front consists of two vast but imperfect towers; one of which (the south) is immensely buttressed, so that its outline slopes forward, like that of a pyramid, being the taller of the two. If they had spires, these towers would be prodigious; as it is, given the rest of the church, they are wanting in elevation. There are five deeply recessed portals, all in a row, each surmounted with a gable; the gable over the central door being exceptionally high. Above the porches, which give the measure of its width, the front rears itself, piles itself, on a great scale, carried up by gal- leries, arches, windows, sculptures, and supported by the extraordinarily thick buttresses of which I have spoken, and which, though they embellish it with deep shadows thrown sidewise, do not improve its style. The portals, especially the middle one, are extremely interesting; they are covered with curious early sculp- tures. The middle one, however, I must describe alone. It has no less than six rows of figures, - the others have four, - some of which, notably the upper one, are still in their places. The arch at the top has three tiers of elaborate imagery. The upper of these is divided by the figure of Christ in judgment, of great size, stiff and terrible, with outstretched arms. On either side of him are ranged three or four angels, with the instruments of the Passion. Beneath him, in the second frieze, stands the angel of justice, with his scales; and on either side of him is the vision of the last judgment. The good prepare, with infinite titilla- tion and complacency, to ascend to the skies; while the bad are dragged, pushed, hurled, stuffed, crammed, into pits and caldrons of fire. There is a charming detail in this section. Beside the angel, on, the right, where the wicked are the prey of demons, stands a little female figure, that of a child, who, with hands meekly folded and head gently raised, waits for the stern angel to decide upon her fate. In this fate, how- ever, a dreadful, big devil also takes a keen interest; he seems on the point of appropriating the tender creature; he has a face like a goat and an enormous hooked nose. But the angel gently lays a hand upon the shoulder of the little girl - the movement is full of dignity - as if to say, "No; she belongs to the other side." The frieze below represents the general re- surrection, with the good and the wicked emerging from their sepulchres. Nothing can be more quaint and charming than the difference shown in their way of responding to the final trump. The good get out of their tombs with a certain modest gayety, an alacrity tempered by respect; one of them kneels to pray as soon as he has disinterred himself. You may know the wicked, on the other hand, by their extreme shy- ness; they crawl out slowly and fearfully; they hang back, and seem to say, "Oh, dear!" These elaborate sculptures, full of ingenuous intention and of the reality of early faith, are in a remarkable state of pre- servation; they bear no superficial signs of restoration, and appear scarcely to have suffered from the centu- ries. They are delightfully expressive; the artist had the advantage of knowing exactly the effect he wished to produce.
The interior of the cathedral has a great simplicity and majesty, and, above all, a tremendous height. The nave is extraordinary in this respect; it dwarfs every- thing else I know. I should add, however, that I am, in architecture, always of the opinion of the last speaker. Any great building seems to me, while I look at it, the ultimate expression. At any rate, during the hour that I sat gazing along the high vista of Bourges, the interior of the great vessel corresponded to my vision of the evening before. There is a tranquil largeness, a kind of infinitude, about such an edifice: it soothes and purifies the spirit, it illuminates the mind. There are two aisles, on either side, in addi- tion to the nave, - five in all, - and, as I have said, there are no transepts; an omission which lengthens the vista, so that from my place near the door the central jewelled window in the depths of the perpen- dicular choir seemed a mile or two away. The second, or outward, of each pair of aisles is too low, and the first too high; without this inequality the nave would appear to take an even more prodigious flight. The double aisles pass all the way round the choir, the windows of which are inordinately rich in magnificent old glass. I have seen glass as fine in other churches; but I think I have never seen so much of it at once.
Beside the cathedral, on the north, is a curious structure of the fourteenth or fifteenth century, which looks like an enormous flying buttress, with its sup- port, sustaining the north tower. It makes a massive arch, high in the air, and produces a romantic effect as people pass under it to the open gardens of the Archeveche, which extend to a considerable distance in the rear of the church. The structure supporting the arch has the girth of a largeish house, and con- tains chambers with whose uses I am unacquainted, but to which the deep pulsations of the cathedral, the vibration of its mighty bells, and the roll of its organ- tones must be transmitted even through the great arm of stone.
The archiepiscopal palace, not walled in as at Tours, is visible as a stately habitation of the last century, now in course of reparation in consequence of a fire. From this side, and from the gardens of the palace, the nave of the cathedral is visible in all its great length and height, with its extraordinary multitude of supports. The gardens aforesaid, accessible through tall iron gates, are the promenade - the Tuileries - of the town, and, very pretty in themselves, are immensely set off by the overhanging church. It was warm and sunny; the benches were empty; I sat there a long time, in that pleasant state of mind which visits the traveller in foreign towns, when he is not too hurried, while he wonders where he had better go next. The straight, unbroken line of the roof of the cathedral was very noble; but I could see from this point how much finer the effect would have been if the towers, which had dropped almost out of sight, might have been carried still higher. The archiepiscopal gardens look down at one end over a sort of esplanade or suburban avenue lying on a lower level, on which they open, and where several detachments of soldiers (Bourges is full of soldiers) had just been drawn up. The civil population was also collecting, and I saw that something was going to happen. I learned that a private of the Chasseurs was to be "broken" for stealing, and every one was eager to behold the cere- mony. Sundry other detachments arrived on the ground, besides many of the military who had come as a matter of taste. One of them described to me the process of degradation from the ranks, and I felt for a moment a hideous curiosity to see it, under the influence of which I lingered a little. But only a little; the hateful nature of the spectacle hurried me away, at the same time that others were hurrying for- ward. As I turned my back upon it I reflected that human beings are cruel brutes, though I could not flatter myself that the ferocity of the thing was ex- clusively French. In another country the concourse would have been equally great, and the moral of it all seemed to be that military penalties are as terrible as military honors are gratifying.
The cathedral is not the only lion of Bourges; the house of Jacques Coeur is an object of interest scarcely less positive. This remarkable man had a very strange history, and he too was "broken," like the wretched soldier whom I did not stay to see. He has been re- habilitated, however, by an age which does not fear the imputation of paradox, and a marble statue of him ornaments the street in front of his house. To interpret him according to this image - a womanish figure in a long robe and a turban, with big bare arms and a dramatic pose - would be to think of him as a kind of truculent sultana. He wore the dress of his period, but his spirit was very modern; he was a Van- derbilt or a Rothschild of the fifteenth century. He supplied the ungrateful Charles VII. with money to pay the troops who, under the heroic Maid, drove the English from French soil. His house, which to-day is used as a Palais de Justice, appears to have been re- garded at the time it was built very much as the resi- dence of Mr. Vanderbilt is regarded in New York to-day. It stands on the edge of the hill on which most of the town is planted, so that, behind, it plunges down to a lower level, and, if you approach it on that side, as I did, to come round to the front of it, you have to ascend a longish flight of steps. The back, of old, must have formed a portion of the city wall; at any rate, it offers to view two big towers, which Joanne says were formerly part of the defence of Bourges. From the lower level of which I speak - the square in front of the post-office - the palace of Jacques Coeur looks very big and strong and feudal; from the upper street, in front of it, it looks very handsome and deli- cate. To this street it presents two stories and a con- siderable length of facade; and it has, both within and without, a great deal of curious and beautiful detail. Above the portal, in the stonework, are two false win- dows, in which two figures, a man and a woman, ap- parently household servants, are represented, in sculp- ture, as looking down into the street. The effect is homely, yet grotesque, and the figures are sufficiently living to make one commiserate them for having been condemned, in so dull a town, to spend several cen- turies at the window. They appear to be watching for the return of their master, who left his beautiful house one morning and never came back.
The history of Jacques Coeur, which has been written by M. Pierre Clement, in a volume crowned by the French Academy, is very wonderful and in- teresting, but I have no space to go into it here. There is no more curious example, and few more tragical, of a great fortune crumbling from one day to the other, or of the antique superstition that the gods grow jealous of human success. Merchant, million- naire, banker, ship-owner, royal favorite, and minister of finance, explorer of the East and monopolist of the glittering trade between that quarter of the globe and his own, great capitalist who had anticipated the brilliant operations of the present time, he expiated his prosperity by poverty, imprisonment, and torture. The obscure points in his career have been elucidated by M. Clement, who has drawn, moreover, a very vivid picture of the corrupt and exhausted state of France during the middle of the fifteenth century. He has shown that the spoliation of the great merchant was a deliberately calculated act, and that the king sacrificed him without scruple or shame to the avidity of a sin- gularly villanous set of courtiers. The whole story is an extraordinary picture of high-handed rapacity, - the crudest possible assertion of the right of the stronger. The victim was stripped of his property, but escaped with his life, made his way out of France, and, betak- ing himself to Italy, offered his services to the Pope. It is proof of the consideration that he enjoyed in Europe, and of the variety of his accomplishments, that Calixtus III. should have appointed him to take command of a fleet which his Holiness was fitting out against the Turks. Jacques Coeur, however, was not destined to lead it to victory. He died shortly after the expedition had started, in the island of Chios, in 1456. The house of Bourges, his native place, testifies in some degree to his wealth and splendor, though it has in parts that want of space which is striking in many of the buildings of the Middle Ages. The court, indeed, is on a large scale, ornamented with turrets and arcades, with several beautiful windows, and with sculptures inserted in the walls, representing the various sources of the great fortune of the owner. M. Pierre Clement describes this part of the house as having been of an "incomparable richesse," - an estimate of its charms which seems slightly exaggerated to-day. There is, however, something delicate and familiar in the bas-reliefs of which I have spoken, little scenes of agriculture and industry, which show, that the pro- prietor was not ashamed of calling attention to his harvests and enterprises. To-day we should question the taste of such allusions, even in plastic form, in the house of a "merchant prince" (say in the Fifth Avenue). Why is it, therefore, that these quaint little panels at Bourges do not displease us? It is perhaps because things very ancient never, for some mysterious reason, appear vulgar. This fifteenth-century million- naire, with his palace, his egotistical sculptures, may have produced that impression on some critical spirits of his own day.