However, the great monument itself more than supplied this absence of vitality. One could never be weary of surveying its overpowering proportions, its nobility, its unshaken strength, its vast length, and flourishing air. Yet how curious to think that it was now quite purposeless, had no meaning or use! Over four hundred feet long, it was once the seat of bustle and thriving business, for which the building itself was not too large. The hall on the ground seems to stretch from end to end. Here was the great mart for linens—the toiles flamandes—once celebrated over Europe. Now, desolate is the dwelling of Morna! A few little local offices transact the stunted shrunken local business of the place; the post, the municipal offices, each filling up two or three of the arches, in ludicrous contrast to the unemployed vastness of the rest. It has been fancifully supposed that the name Diaper, as applied to linens, was supplied by this town, which was the seat of the trade, and Toile d’Ypres might be supposed, speciously enough, to have some connection with the place.
But en route again, for the sands are fast running out. Old fortified towns, particularly such as have been protected by ’the great Vauban,’ are found to be a serious nuisance to the inhabitants, however picturesque they may seem to the tourist; for the place, constricted and wrapped in bandages, as it were, cannot expand its lungs. Many of the old fortressed towns, such as Ostend, Courtrai, Calais, have recently demolished their fortifications at great cost and with much benefit to themselves. There is something picturesque and original in the first sight of a place like Arras, or St. Omer, with the rich and lavish greenery, luxuriant trees, banks of grass by which the ‘fosse’ and grim walls are masked. Others are of a grim and hostile character, and show their teeth, as it were.