THE LOW COUNTRIES AND RHINELAND
AMIENS AND QUAINT OLD BRUGES
They have not yet found out the secret in France of banishing dust from railway-carriages. Paris, late in June, was hot, but not dusty: the country was both. There is an uninteresting glare and hardness in a French landscape on a sunny day. The soil is thin, the trees are slender, and one sees not much luxury or comfort. Still, one does not usually see much of either on a flying train. We spent a night at Amiens, and had several hours for the old cathedral, the sunset light on its noble front and towers and spire and flying buttresses, and the morning rays bathing its rich stone. As one stands near it in front, it seems to tower away into heaven, a mass of carving and sculpture,—figures of saints and martyrs who have stood in the sun and storm for ages, as they stood in their lifetime, with a patient waiting. It was like a great company, a Christian host, in attitudes of praise and worship. There they were, ranks on ranks, silent in stone, when the last of the long twilight illumined them; and there in the same impressive patience they waited the golden day. It required little fancy to feel that they had lived, and now in long procession came down the ages. The central portal is lofty, wide, and crowded with figures. The side is only less rich than the front. Here the old Gothic builders let their fancy riot in grotesque gargoyles,—figures of animals, and imps of sin, which stretch out their long necks for waterspouts above. From the ground to the top of the unfinished towers is one mass of rich stone-work, the creation of genius that hundreds of years ago knew no other way to write its poems than with the chisel. The interior is very magnificent also, and has some splendid stained glass. At eight o’clock, the priests were chanting vespers to a larger congregation than many churches have on Sunday: their voices were rich and musical, and, joined with the organ notes, floated sweetly and impressively through the dim and vast interior. We sat near the great portal, and, looking down the long, arched nave and choir to the cluster of candles burning on the high altar, before which the priests chanted, one could not but remember how many centuries the same act of worship had been almost uninterrupted within, while the apostles and martyrs stood without, keeping watch of the unchanging heavens.
When I stepped in, early in the morning, the first mass was in progress. The church was nearly empty. Looking within the choir, I saw two stout young priests lustily singing the prayers in deep, rich voices. One of them leaned back in his seat, and sang away, as if he had taken a contract to do it, using, from time to time, an enormous red handkerchief, with which and his nose he produced a trumpet obligato. As I stood there, a poor dwarf bobbled in and knelt on the bare stones, and was the only worshiper, until,