Wanderings by southern waters, eastern Aquitaine eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 361 pages of information about Wanderings by southern waters, eastern Aquitaine.

Much more interesting than this shop is the old house where Gambetta spent his childhood.  His parents did not live on the premises where they carried on their business.  Therefore the odour of honey and vinegar had not, after all, so much to do with the formation of the clever boy’s character.  I found the house down a dark passage.  The rooms occupied by the Gambetta family are now those of a small restaurateur for the working class.  After ascending some steps, I entered a greasy, grimy, dimly-lighted room, the floor of which had never felt water save what had been sprinkled upon it to lay the dust.  It had the old-fashioned hearth and fire-dogs and gaping sooty chimney, a bare table or so for the customers, a shelf with bottles, and the ordinary furniture and utensils of the provincial kitchen.  Here I had some white wine with the present occupier as a reason for being in a place that must have often resounded with the infantile screams of Leon Gambetta.  I ascertained that he was not born in this house, but that he was brought to it when about three months old, and that he passed his childhood here.  I was shown an adjoining room, darker, dingier, less persecuted by soap, if possible, than the other.  It was here that Gambetta slept in those early years.  Did he ever dream here of a great room in a palace, draped with black and silver, of a catafalque fit for a prince, of a coffin heaped with flowers?

Again I changed my ideas by crossing the Lot and searching for the Fountain of Divona, now called the Fontaine des Chartreux.  The old name is Celtic, and as it charmed the Romans they preserved it.  Following the river downward, I came to a spot where a great stream flowed silently and mysteriously out of a cavity at the foot of lofty rocks overgrown by herbage and low shrubs that seemed to have been left untouched by the hand of Autumn, that burns and beautifies.  The water came out of the hill like a broad sheet of green glass, giving scarcely any sign of movement until it reached a low weir, where it turned to the whiteness of snow.  The Romans held this beautiful fountain in high esteem, and if they had known how to raise the water to the level of the town on the opposite bank of the river, they need not have taken the trouble to carry an aqueduct some twenty miles from the valley of the Vers.  Nowadays it is the Fountain of Divona that supplies Cahors with water.

Still following the river, I came to that famous bridge, the Pont Valentre, which is one of the most interesting specimens of the defensive architecture of the Middle Ages.  It is probably the most curious example of a fortified bridge in existence.  In addition to its embattled parapet, it is protected by three high slender towers, machicolated, crenellated, and loopholed.  The archway of each spans the road over the bridge, so that an enemy who forced the portcullis of the first, and ran the gauntlet of the hot lead from the machicolations, would have to repeat the same performance twice before reaching the bank on which the town is built.  This bridge was raised at the commencement of the fourteenth century.  By what wonderful chance was it preserved intact, together with its towers, after the invention of gunpowder?  The people of Cahors call it the Pont du Diable.  When a certain stone was placed in one of the towers, the devil always pulled it out, or did so until lately.

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Wanderings by southern waters, eastern Aquitaine from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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