“I have never told you that story. It is too old-fashioned to be understood at the present day. Since I have come to Paris there are many things to which I have never alluded.... These country nobles were so much respected. I always considered them to be the genuine noblemen. It would be no use telling this to the Parisians, they would only laugh at me. They think that their city is everything, and in my view they are very narrow-minded. People have no idea in the present day how these old country noblemen were respected, poor as they were.”
Here my mother paused for a little, and then went on with the story, which I will tell in her own words.
[Footnote 1: I may perhaps relate all these anecdotes at a future time.]
“Do you remember the little village of Tredarzec, the steeple of which was visible from the turret of our house? About half a mile from the village, which consisted of little more than the church, the priest’s house, and the mayor’s office, stood the manor of Kermelle, which was, like so many others, a well-kept farmhouse, of very antiquated appearance, surrounded by a lofty wall, and grey with age. There was a large arched doorway, surmounted by a V-shaped shelter roofed with tiles, and at the side of this a smaller door for everyday use. At the further end of the courtyard stood the house with its pointed roof and its gables covered with ivy. The dovecote, a turret, and two or three well-constructed windows not unlike those of a church, proved that this was the residence of a noble, one of those old houses which were inhabited, previous to the Revolution, by a class of men whose habits and mode of life have now passed beyond the reach of imagination.
“These country nobles were mere peasants, but the first of their class. At one time there was only one in each parish, and they were regarded as the representatives and mouthpieces of the inhabitants, who scrupulously respected their right and treated them with great consideration. But towards the close of the last century they were beginning to disappear very fast. The peasants looked upon them as being the lay heads of the parish just as the priest was the ecclesiastical head. He who held this position at Tredarzec of whom I am speaking, was an elderly man of fine presence, with all the force and vigour of youth, and a frank and open face; he wore his hair long, but rolled up under a comb, only letting it fall on Sunday, when he partook of the Sacrament. I can still see him—he often came to visit us at Treguier—with his serious air and a tinge of melancholy, for he was almost the sole survivor of his order, the majority having disappeared altogether, while the others had come to live in towns. He was a universal favourite. He had a seat all to himself in church, and every Sunday he might be