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FÊTE OF ST. SAUVEUR
ST. SAUVEUR is the
patron saint of Petit Andelys, and its little church is the church of St.
Each year Petit
Andelys, as do most of the towns of France, celebrates the fête-day of its
patron, and does it so well that the lustre of the fête has spread far and
wide, bringing many visitors, which pleases the good folk of the little town,
for they are proud of it and everything connected therewith.
The fête-day of St.
Sauveur has no connection whatever with Petit Andelys’ big twin town of Grand
Andelys, which has its own fête, but nothing like so grand. There is some
little jealousy between the two Andelys. The size and importance of Grand
Andelys throws the other quite in the shade, but Petit Andelys has the river,
and the people of Grand Andelys have to walk a dusty mile before they reach it,
and that is one reason that visitors like the Belle Etoile.
So Petit Andelys
arranges its own fête. The mayor and its leading citizens organize committees,
and great preparations go on for weeks beforehand.
One day the children
running out of school at the noon hour saw, in the square in front of the
church, many wagons with poles, and flapping canvas strewn about. These were the
booths for the fair, which were being put up.
The great attraction
of every fête is its fair, and these foires,
as the French also call them, move about the country from town to town in
wagons like an old-fashioned circus, planning to reach an important town for
some special occasion — such as its fête-day.
The participants in
these fairs live in their lumbering wagons very much as do gipsies, selling all
sorts of knick-knacks, and performing little plays, or feats of agility or
In a few days the
little town was dressed out with flags and wreaths, gay streamers and paper
Marie and Germaine,
who were staying at their Uncle Daboll’s for the fête, were awakened at five
o’clock on the opening day by a succession of terrific noises, which were set
forth on the official programme as a “Salvo of Artillery.”
They were soon dressed
and out, but even at that early hour the whole town was astir. Later on the
booths in the square opened up for business.
There was a
merry-go-round, “ flying horses” the children call them, with big pink pigs
to ride on, and swings in the shape of boats, and a marvellous “wheel of
fortune” for those who wanted to try their luck.
Germaine never tired of
admiring what seemed to her the most beautiful things set out for sale.
ambition was to hit some of the pipes in the shooting-gallery, and win a
wonderful knife that contained everything from a corkscrew to a file.
The real gaiety, however,
only began in the evening, when a torchlight procession marched up and down the
First came the
“Salvo of Artillery” again, which, after all, was a very simple affair. A
cartridge was placed on a paving-stone and struck with a big hammer. It made a
tremendous noise, however, and everybody jumped, and Germaine put her fingers in
her ears when she saw the hammer coming down.
Behind came men and
boys carrying lighted paper lanterns, and then the band of the pornpiers
(the village fire department), and then more people, while all along the
route was burned red and green fire. Lanterns and fairy lamps in front of the
houses and around the square were lighted, and the band played on a platform
near the booths for the young people to dance.
Jean rode on one of
the pink pigs on the merry-go-round, but Marie and Germaine preferred the chairs
shaped like swans, for they were afraid of slipping off the round pigs. The only
trouble was that the man who had charge of these wonderful beasts cut the rides
Uncle Daboll and M.
Lafond broke several of the pipes in the shooting-gallery, and Germaine’s papa
even hit one of the funny paper ducks that kept bobbing up, and got a
walking-stick for his pains, but no one succeeded in hitting the white ball that
swung at the end of a string.
Germaine’s mamma bought
her a little toy laiterie, which
looked just like the one at their farm. There was a little cow on one side, and
in the other the milk-pans and churn — all true to life.
Perhaps the booth
which had the most custom was the one with the gingerbread, which is a very
popular variety of cake throughout France. Our little friends were soon there
buying quite a menagerie of animals made of gingerbread. Jean chose a horse,
Marie an elephant, and Germaine a cat, which, strange to say, was as big as
Then they all crowded
into the little theatre; the funniest one you ever saw. The stage was made up
out of a wagon, and the audience sat under an awning in front. There was no
scenery, but a piece of cloth with a queer-looking picture painted on it, and
the actors never changed their costumes once, but every one laughed and enjoyed
it as much as if it had been the big theatre in Grand Andelys.
It was late when
everybody got home, that is, it was ten o’clock, which is a very late hour for
a French village, where every one is usually sound asleep by half-past eight or
nine. The fête was to last a week, and every day had something new to offer.
The next day Jean
announced, “There is a circus down on the quay,” as he burst into the
kitchen where the family were gathered for breakfast. “The baker’s boy told
me he could see them from the bakery. They came late last night, and are waiting
to get permission from the mayor to put up their tents in the town.”
“Oh, let’s go and
see them at once!” said Marie and Germaine in the same breath. Jean quickly
disposed of his breakfast by taking a slice of bread and eating it as he went.
The quay presented a
lively appearance indeed. There were nearly a dozen gaudily painted wagons,
while near by were tethered the horses. The women were preparing the morning
meal outside the wagons, which served for houses, while the men fed the horses
or fished in the river, and the children played about, or followed the visitors
with outstretched hands asking for pennies.
“I should like to give
them something,” said Marie, “but you know they are not allowed to beg while
they are in the village, and we should not encourage them to break the law. I
will go back, though, and ask aunty to give me some cakes for them,” and the
kind-hearted girl ran back to Madame Daboll’s.
Meanwhile Jean was
wondering what was inside the wagons with CIRQUE painted in big black letters on
their sides. Near a bright yellow van were tethered two goats which were carried
for their milk. Goat’s milk is much used in France among the poorer classes,
especially in the southern part of the country, and the white goat’s milk
cheeses are rather good, when one gets used to the peculiar flavour.
Germaine was getting
acquainted with a lot of dark-skinned little children, who looked chubby and
well taken care of in their neat cotton dresses.
Their mother was a
gipsy-like woman who had fancy baskets for sale, and she told Germaine she had
nine children, which set Germaine to wondering how they all stowed themselves
away in the one wagon. It was a big one, to be sure, divided into two rooms, and
wonderfully compact, and as they sat and out-of-doors
on the ground or the steps of their wagons, they could easily get on without
tables and chairs.
Here Marie came
running up with her cakes, which she divided among the little ones who gathered
By this time they had
got the desired permission to open up the circus on the square, and that
afternoon our three little friends had the pleasure of seeing the horse that
could find a hidden handkerchief, the performing dogs, and all the other wonders
of the show.
The grand events of
the fête were saved up for the last day. There were to be the sports in the
afternoon, and a grand illumination and display of fireworks in the evening. The
sports, in which the young boys were to take part, were held in the square. Jean
was to participate in one of these, and was one of the first to be at the
roped-in enclosure in the middle of which stood two high poles. Between these
poles were hung a dozen or more tin buckets all filled with water, except the
middle one. In this was a new five-franc piece. To each bucket was attached a
string, and when a boy was blindfolded, and an enormous grotesque mask put over
his head, it was a somewhat difficult task to walk up and to pull the string of
the bucket which held the five-franc piece. Should he pull any of the others,
down would tumble a pail full of water all over him, amid the laughter and jeers
of the bystanders. Jean had talked for weeks beforehand how he would spend the
five francs if he were fortunate enough to win it. He had in imagination bought
most of the things in M. Carré’s shop. Five francs, which is equal to one
American dollar, was a big sum to a little French boy such as Jean.
“I do hope you will
get it, Jean!” whispered Germaine; “remember to try and walk straight.”
Jean was so excited as he groped his way along he could not have told whether he
was going backwards or forwards. “Oh, he will get it! Keep where you are!
You’re in the right place!” shouted Jean’s friends, as they watched his
hand touch the strings with indecision. Little Germaine held her breath. “Oh,
he has done it!” she cried, jumping up and down and clapping her hands.
“Marie, he has it!” as the bag with the five franc piece tumbled on top of
Jean was the hero of
the hour among the children, and some of his prize was soon spent at one of the
booths on sucre du pomme, which was
distributed lavishly among his admiring friends. Sucre
du pomme, by the by, is a very nice candy made in sticks of various sizes
from sugar and the drippings of the cider apples. Each stick is carefully
wrapped in a pretty paper, and tied together, in bundles of six or a dozen, with
Jean’s father and M.
Lafond took part in the men’s sports on the river-front, but neither had
Jean’s luck. One feat was quite difficult. It was something like what children
elsewhere know as “climbing the greasy pole,” but in this case it was a bar
that extended over the river, in which at regular intervals were placed, hanging
downward, wooden pegs. These pegs were well greased, and one had to swing
himself by his hands from one of these pegs to another in order to reach the
extreme end of the bar, where was fastened a small bag of money. Well, you may
imagine this was not easy to do, and generally about the third or fourth peg the
participant would drop into the water with a splash, and be picked up by a
waiting boat, to the intense amusement of the lookers-on, who thronged the banks
of the river. After many trials, one venturesome fellow grabbed the bag just
before he slipped off, taking it with him, however, into the water.
After this came the
diving matches and the swimming contests, and then everybody got ready for the
evening’s grand wind-up. In the Belle Etoile all was bustle and confusion; the
maids were flying about, for there were many visitors who had come in for the
usual apéritif The café was full, the gardens were filled up with extra
tables, and M. Auguste was quite distracted in his endeavours to be polite and
attentive to every one, besides stopping to take a glass with his friends, as
was his custom. He had barely a moment to pat Germaine on the cheek, and to hear
the story of Jean’s success.
Mr. Carter, with the
help of the young lady artists, was hanging lanterns in the front windows, and
getting ready a big lot of Roman candles as the contribution of the visitors of
the Belle Etoile to the evening’s gaieties, while Mimi, the white cat, sat in
the doorway regarding things with her usual lofty air of superiority.
As it grew dark, our
two parties found themselves once more on the quay, amid a great throng of
tourists, country folk, visitors in automobiles and farm carts, on bicycles, and
in lumbering ‘buses from out-of-the-way villages.
The prosaic little
neighbourhood was changed for the night into a gorgeous panorama of light and
colour. The river banks burned with red, green, and white Bengal fires. Queer
boats rigged with golden lamps, and sails of coloured lanterns, floated down the
stream, and into the sky burst showers of gold and silver stars.
Suddenly there was
heard a great boom, and from the top of Château Gaillard rose a red cloud of
fire, and the old walls and turrets stood out red against the dark blue sky, a
beacon for miles of country roundabout. It was a mimic reproduction of the
destruction of the grand old castle many hundreds of years ago.
Marie’s hand, it seemed so real. It seemed as if her cherished playground were
crumbling away, and that never again could she picture the great king and his
knights riding out of its massive gateway to do battle against its foes.
and Mesdames, is it not a
wonderful sight; a grand occasion for our city?” The voice brought Germaine
back to earth again. It was the indefatigable little sous-Commissaire, the one policeman of the village, speaking to them. The
little man had come unwearied and triumphant through the excitements of the
great day. Ah! it was he who had managed it all so successfully! It was he who
had kept order among the vast throng. No other sous-Commissaire in all France could have done better, and the
little man swelled with pride.
The light had faded
off the château; the last rocket had been fired; the band of the pompiers
played the “Marseillaise,” — the national air, — and the great event
of the year for Petit Andelys was over.
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