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    Chapter 39

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    Chapter 39
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    On my return to Macon I found myself fairly face
    to face with the fact that my little tour was near its
    end. Dijon had been marked by fate as its farthest
    limit, and Dijon was close at hand. After that I was
    to drop the tourist, and re-enter Paris as much as pos-
    sible like a Parisian. Out of Paris the Parisian never
    loiters, and therefore it would be impossible for me to
    stop between Dijon and the capital. But I might be
    a tourist a few hours longer by stopping somewhere
    between Macon and Dijon. The question was where
    I should spend these hours. Where better, I asked
    myself (for reasons not now entirely clear to me) than
    at Beaune? On my way to this town I passed the
    stretch of the Cote d'Or, which, covered with a mel-
    low autumn haze, with the sunshine shimmering
    through, looked indeed like a golden slope. One
    regards with a kind of awe the region in which the
    famous _crus_ of Burgundy (Yougeot, Chambertin, Nuits,
    Beaune) are, I was going to say, manufactured. Adieu,
    paniers; vendanges sont faites! The vintage was
    over; the shrunken russet fibres alone clung to their
    ugly stick. The horizon on the left of the road had
    a charm, however, there is something picturesque
    in the big, comfortable shoulders of the Cote. That
    delicate critic, M. Emile Montegut, in a charming
    record of travel through this region, published some
    years ago, praises Shakspeare for having talked (in
    "Lear") of "waterish Burgundy." Vinous Burgundy
    would surely be more to the point. I stopped at
    Beaune in pursuit of the picturesque, but I might
    almost have seen the little I discovered without stop-
    ping. It is a drowsy little Burgundian town, very
    old and ripe, with crooked streets, vistas always ob-
    lique, and steep, moss-covered roofs. The principal
    lion is the Hopital-Saint-Esprit, or the Hotel-Dieu,
    simply, as they call it there, founded in 1443 by
    Nicholas Rollin, Chancellor of Burgundy. It is ad-
    ministered by the sisterhood of the Holy Ghost, and
    is one of the most venerable and stately of hospitals.
    The face it presents to the street is simple, but strik-
    ing, - a plain, windowless wall, surmounted by a vast
    slate roof, of almost mountainous steepness. Astride
    this roof sits a tall, slate-covered spire, from which,
    as I arrived, the prettiest chimes I ever heard (worse
    luck to them, as I will presently explain) were ring-
    ing. Over the door is a high, quaint canopy, without
    supports, with its vault painted blue and covered
    with gilded stars. (This, and indeed the whole build-
    ing, have lately been restored, and its antiquity is
    quite of the spick-and-span order. But it is very
    delightful.) The treasure of the place is a precious
    picture, - a Last Judgment, attributed equally to John
    van Eyck and Roger van der Weyden, - given to the
    hospital in the fifteenth century by Nicholas Rollin
    aforesaid.

    I learned, however, to my dismay, from a sympa-
    thizing but inexorable concierge, that what remained
    to me of the time I had to spend at Beaune, between
    trains, - I had rashly wasted half an hour of it in
    breakfasting at the station, - was the one hour of the
    day (that of the dinner of the nuns; the picture is in
    their refectory) during which the treasure could not
    be shown. The purpose of the musical chimes to
    which I had so artlessly listened was to usher in this
    fruitless interval. The regulation was absolute, and
    my disappointment relative, as I have been happy to
    reflect since I "looked up" the picture. Crowe and
    Cavalcaselle assign it without hesitation to Roger van
    der Weyden, and give a weak little drawing of it in
    their "Flemish Painters." I learn from them also -
    what I was ignorant of - that Nicholas Ronin, Chan-
    cellor of Burgundy and founder of the establishment
    at Beaune, was the original of the worthy kneeling
    before the Virgin, in the magnificent John van Eyck
    of the Salon Carre. All I could see was the court of
    the hospital and two or three rooms. The court, with
    its tall roofs, its pointed gables and spires, its wooden
    galleries, its ancient well, with an elaborate superstruc-
    ture of wrought iron, is one of those places into which
    a sketcher ought to be let loose. It looked Flemish
    or English rather than French, and a splendid tidiness
    pervaded it. The porter took me into two rooms on
    the ground-floor, into which the sketcher should also
    be allowed to penetrate; for they made irresistible
    pictures. One of them, of great proportions, painted
    in elaborate "subjects," like a ball-room of the seven-
    teenth century, was filled with the beds of patients,
    all draped in curtains of dark red cloth, the tradi-
    tional uniform of these, eleemosynary couches. Among
    them the sisters moved about, in their robes of white
    flannel, with big white linen hoods. The other room
    was a strange, immense apartment, lately restored
    with much splendor. It was of great length and
    height, had a painted and gilded barrel-roof, and one
    end of it - the one I was introduced to - appeared
    to serve as a chapel, as two white-robed sisters were
    on their knees before an altar. This was divided by
    red curtains from the larger part; but the porter lifted
    one of the curtains, and showed me that the rest
    of it, a long, imposing vista, served as a ward, lined
    with little red-draped beds. "C'est l'heure de la
    lecture," remarked my guide; and a group of conva-
    lescents - all the patients I saw were women - were
    gathered in the centre around a nun, the points of
    whose white hood nodded a little above them, and
    whose gentle voice came to us faintly, with a little
    echo, down the high perspective. I know not what
    the good sister was reading, - a dull book, I am afraid,
    - but there was so much color, and such a fine, rich
    air of tradition about the whole place, that it seemed
    to me I would have risked listening to her. I turned
    away, however, with that sense of defeat which is
    always irritating to the appreciative tourist, and pot-
    tered about Beaune rather vaguely for the rest of my
    hour: looked at the statue of Gaspard Monge, the
    mathematician, in the little _place_ (there is no _place_ in
    France too little to contain an effigy to a glorious son);
    at the fine old porch - completely despoiled at the
    Revolution - of the principal church; and even at the
    meagre treasures of a courageous but melancholy little
    museum, which has been arranged - part of it being
    the gift of a local collector - in a small hotel de ville.
    I carried away from Beaune the impression of some-
    thing mildly autumnal, - something rusty yet kindly,
    like the taste of a sweet russet pear.
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