It is a tantalising thing to be whirled on a hot and dusty day through districts famous for their wines, the dust and heat standing out in more painful colours by contrast with the recollection of cooling draughts which other occasions have owed to such vineyards; though, after all, the true method of facing heat with success is to drink no wine. At any rate, the vineyards of Arbois must always be interesting, and if the stories of the Templars’ orgies be true, we may be sure that the chapelry which they possessed in that town would be a favourable place of residence with the order; possibly Rule XVI. might there be somewhat relaxed. ‘The good wine of Arbois,’ la meilleure cave de Bourgougne, a judicious old writer says, had free entry into all the towns of the Comte; and when Burgundy was becoming imperial, Maximilian extended this privilege through all the towns of the empire. A hundred years later, it had so high a character, that the troops of Henri IV. turned away from the town, announcing that they did not wish to attack ceulx estoient du naturel de leur vin, qui frappe partout; and the king was forced to come himself, with his constable and marshals, to beat down the walls, in the course of which undertaking his men felt the vigour of the inhabitants to a greater extent than he liked. It is said that when he had taken the town, the municipality received him in state, and supplied him with wine of the country. He praised the wine very highly, on which one of the body had the ill taste to assure him that they had a better wine than that. ‘You keep it, perhaps,’ was the royal rebuke, ‘for a better occasion.’ Henry had a great opinion of this wine; and the Duc de Sully states, in his Memoirs, that when the Duc de Mayenne retired from the league against the king, and came to Monceaux to tender his allegiance, Henry punished him for past offences by walking so fast about the grounds of the chateau, that the poor duke, what with his sciatica, and what with his fat, at last told him with an expressive gesture that a minute more of it would kill him. The king thereupon let him go, and promised him some vin d’Arbois to set him right again.
The present appearance of the town, as seen from the high level followed by the railway, scarcely recalls the time when Arbois was known as le jardin de noblesse, and Barbarossa dated thence his charters, or Jean Sans-peur held there the States of Burgundy. Gollut tells a story of a dowager of Arbois, mother-in-law to Philip V. and Charles IV. of France, which outdoes legend of Bishop Hatto. Mahaut d’Artois was an elderly lady remarkable for her charities, and was by consequence always surrounded by large crowds of poor folk during her residence at the Chatelaine, the ruins of which lie a mile or two from Arbois. On the occasion of a severe famine in Burgundy, she collected a band of her mendicant friends in a stable, and burned them all, saying that ’par pitie elle hauoit faict cela, considerant les peines que ces pauvres debuoient endurer en temps de si grande et tant estrange famine.’