One year we were at Boulogne for the summer in a funny little house, in a narrow street just behind the port and close to the Casino and beach. There were a great many people - all the hotels full and quantities of automobiles passing all day. The upper part of the town is just like any other seaside place - rows of hotels and villas facing the sea - some of the houses built into the high green cliff which rises steep and almost menacing behind. Already parts of the cliff have crumbled away in some place and the proprietors of the villas find some difficulty in letting them. The front rooms on the sea are charming, but the back ones - directly under the cliff - with no air or sun, are not very tempting. There is a fine digue and raised broad walk all along the sea front, with flowers, seats, and music stand.

It is a perfectly safe beach for children, for though the channel is very near and the big English boats pass close to the shore, there are several sand banks which make the beach quite safe, and from seven in the morning till seven at night there are two boats au large and two men on the beach, with ropes, life-preservers, and horns which they blow whenever they think the bathers are too far out. There is an "Inspecteur de la Plage," a regular French official with a gold band on his cap, who is a most important and amiable gentleman and sees that no one is annoyed in any way. We made friends with him at once, moyennant une piece de dix francs, and he looked after us, saw that our tents were put up close to the water, no others near, and warned off stray children and dogs who were attracted by our children's toys and cakes.

The plage is a pretty sight on a bright day. There are hundreds of tents - all bright-coloured. When one approaches Boulogne from the sea the beach looks like a parterre of flowers. Near the Casino there are a quantity of old-fashioned ramshackly bathing cabins on wheels, with very small boys cracking their whips and galloping up and down, from the digue to the edge of the water, on staid old horses who know their work perfectly - put themselves at once into the shafts of the carriages - never go beyond a certain limit in the sea.

All the bathers are prudent. It is rare to see any one swimming out or diving from a boat. A policeman presides at the public bathing place and there are three or four baigneurs and baigneuses who take charge of the timid bathers; one wonderful old woman, bare-legged, of course, a handkerchief on her head, a flannel blouse and a very short skirt made of some water-proof material that stood out stiff all around her and shed the water - she was the premiere baigneuse - seventy years old and had been baigneuse at Boulogne for fifty-one years. She had bathed C. as a child, and was delighted to see her again and wildly interested in her two children.

There were donkeys, of course, and goats. The children knew the goat man well and all ran to him with their mugs as soon as they heard his peculiar whistle. They held their mugs close under the goat so that they got their milk warm and foaming, as it was milked directly into their mugs. The goats were quite tame - one came always straight to our tents and lay down there till his master came. Every one wanted to feed them with cakes and bits of sugar, but he would never let them have anything for fear it should spoil their milk.

Another friend was the cake man, dressed all in white, with his basket of brioches and madeleines on his head - then there were the inevitable Africans with fezes on their heads and bundles of silks - crepes-de-chine and ostrich feathers, that one sees at every plage. I don't think they did much business.

The public was not all distinguished. We often wondered where the people were who lived in the hotels (all very expensive) and villas, for, with very rare exceptions, it was the most ordinary petite bourgeoisie that one saw on the beach - a few Americans, a great many fourth-rate English. They were a funny contrast to the people who came for the Concours Hippique, and the Race Week. One saw then a great influx of automobiles - there were balls at the Casino and many pretty, well-dressed women, of both worlds, much en evidence. The chatelains from the neighbouring chateaux appeared and brought their guests.

For that one week Boulogne was quite fashionable. The last Sunday of the races was a terrible day. There was an excursion train from Paris and two excursion steamers from England. We were on the quay when the English boats came in and it was amusing to see the people. Some of them had left London at six in the morning. There were all sorts and kinds, wonderful sportsmen with large checked suits, caps and field glasses slung over their shoulders - a great many pretty girls - generally in white. All had bags and baskets with bathing suits and luncheon, and in an instant they were swarming over the plage - already crowded with the Paris excursionists. They didn't interfere with us much as we never went to the beach on Sunday.

F. was fishing all day with some of his friends in a pilot boat. (They brought back three hundred mackerel), had a beautiful day - the sea quite calm and the fish rising in quantities. C. and I, with the children, went off to the Hardelot woods in the auto. We established ourselves on a hillside, pines all around us, the sea at our feet, a beautiful blue sky overhead, and not a sound to break the stillness except sometimes, in the distance, the sirene of a passing auto. We had our tea-basket, found a nice clear space to make a fire, which we did very prudently, scooping out a great hole in the ground and making a sort of oven. It was very difficult to keep the children from tumbling into the hole as they were rolling about on the soft ground, but we got home without any serious detriment to life or limb.

       * * * * *

The life in our quarter on the quais is very different, an extraordinary animation and movement. There are hundreds of vessels of every description in the port. All day and all night boats are coming in and going out: The English steamers with their peculiar, dull, penetrating whistle that one hears at a great distance - steam tugs that take passengers and luggage out to the Atlantic liners, lying just outside the digue - yachts, pilot boats, easily distinguished by a broad white line around their hulls, and a number very conspicuously printed in large black letters on their white sails, "baliseurs," smart-looking little craft that take buoys out to the various points where they must be laid. One came in the other day with two large, red, bell-shaped buoys on her deck which made a great effect from a distance; we were standing on the pier, and couldn't imagine what they were; "avisos" (dispatch-boats), with their long, narrow flamme, which marks them as war vessels, streaming out in the wind. Their sailors looked very picturesque in white jerseys and blue berets with red pompons. Small steamers that run along the coast from Calais to Dunkirk - others, cargo boats, broad and deep in the water, that take fruit and eggs over to England. The baskets of peaches, plums, and apricots look most appetizing when they are taken on board. The steamers look funny when they come back with empty baskets, quantities of them, piled up on the decks, tied to the masts. Many little pleasure boats - flat, broad rowing boats that take one across the harbour to the Gare Maritime (which is a long way around by the bridge), a most uncomfortable performance at low tide, as you go down long, steep, slippery steps with no railing, and have to scramble into the boat as well as you can.

Of course, there are fishing-boats of every description, from the modest little sloop with one mast and small sail to the big steam trawlers which are increasing every year and gradually replacing the old-fashioned sailing-boat. One always knows when the fishing-boats are arriving by the crowd that assembles on the quay; that peculiar population that seems natural to all ports, young, able-bodied sailors, full of interest about the run and the cargo - old men in blue jerseys who sit on the wall, in the sun, all day, and recount their experiences - various officials with gold bands on their caps, men with hand carts waiting to carry off the fish and fishwives - their baskets strapped on their backs - hoping for a haul of crabs and shrimps or fish from some of the small boats.

All the cargo of the trawlers is sold before they arrive to the marieurs (men who deal exclusively in fish), and who have a contract with the big boats. There is no possibility of having a good fish except at the Halles, where one can sometimes get some from one of the smaller boats, which fish on their own account and have no contract; but even those are generally sold at once to small dealers, who send them off to the neighbouring inland towns. In fact, the proprietor of one of the big hotels told me he had to get his fish from Paris and paid Paris prices.

The fishwives, the young ones particularly, are a fine-looking lot - tall, straight, with feet and legs bare, a little white cap or woollen fichu on their heads - they carry off their heavy baskets as lightly as possible, taking them to the Halles where all the fish must go. They are quite a feature of Boulogne, the young fishwives. One sees them often at low tide - fishing for shrimps, carrying their heavy nets on their shoulders and flat baskets strapped on their backs into which they tip the fish very cleverly. They are quite distinct from the Boulonaises matelottes, who are a step higher in the social scale. They always wear a wonderful white cap with a high starched frill which stands out around their faces like an aureole. They, too, wear short full skirts, but have long stockings and very good stout shoes - not sabots - which are also disappearing. They turn out very well on Sundays. I saw a lot of them the other day coming out of church - all with their caps scrupulously clean - short, full, black or brown skirts; aprons ironed in a curious way - across the apron - making little waves (our maids couldn't think what had happened to their white aprons the first time they came back from the wash - thought there had been some mistake and they had some one's else clothes - they had to explain to the washerwoman that they liked their aprons ironed straight); long gold earrings and gold chains. They are handsome women, dark with straight features, a serious look in their eyes. Certainly people who live by the sea have a different expression - there is something grave, almost sad in their faces, which one doesn't see in dwellers in sunny meadows and woodlands.

We went this morning with the Baron de G., who is at the head of one of the fishing companies here, to see one of their boats come in and unload. It was a steam trawler, with enormous nets, that had been fishing off the English coast near Land's End. There were quite a number of people assembled on the quay - a policeman, a garde du port, an agent of the company, and the usual lot of people who are always about when a fishing-boat comes in. Her cargo seemed to be almost entirely of fish they call here saumon blanc. They were sending up great baskets of them from the hold where they were very well packed in ice; half-way up they were thrown into a big tub which cleaned them - took off the salt and gave them a silvery look. They are put by hundreds into hand-carts which were waiting and carried off at once to the Halles. They had brought in 3,500 fish, but didn't seem to think they had made a very good haul. The whole cargo had been sold to a marieur and was sent off at once, by him, all over the country.

Other boats were also sending their cargo to the Halles. They had all kinds of fish - soles, mackerel, and a big red fish I didn't know at all. I wouldn't have believed, if I had not seen it with my own eyes, that such a bright-coloured fish could exist. However, a very sharp little boy, who was standing near and who answered all my questions, told me they were rougets. We went on to the Halles - a large gray stone building facing the sea - rather imposing with a square tower on top, from which one can see a long way out to sea and signal incoming fishing-boats. It was very clean - water running over the white marble slabs, and women, with pails and brushes, washing and wiping the floor. It is evidently a place that attracts strangers; many tourists were walking about - one couple, American, I think, passing through in an automobile and laying in a stock of lobsters and crabs (the big deep-sea crabs) and rougets. The man rather hesitated about leaving his auto in the streets; they had no chauffeur with them, tried to find a boy who would watch it. For a wonder none was forthcoming, but two young fishwives, who were standing near, said they would; when the man came back with his purchases he gave each of them a five-franc piece, which munificence so astounded them that they could hardly find words to thank him.

Quantities of fish of all kinds had arrived - some being sold a la criee, but it was impossible to understand the prices or the names of the fish - at least for us. The buying public seemed to know all about it. The fishwives were very busy standing behind the marble slabs with short thick knives, with which they cut off pieces of the large fish when the customer didn't want a whole one, and laughing and joking with every one. Here and there we saw a modern young person in a fancy blouse, her hair dressed and waved, with little combs, but there were not many. We bought some soles and shrimps. M. de G. tried to bargain a little for us, but the women were so smiling and so sure we didn't know anything about it, or what the current price of the fish was, that we had not much success.

The trawlers are gradually taking away all the trade from the old-fashioned fishing-boats. They go faster, carry more and larger nets, and are, of course, stronger sea-boats. They are not much more expensive. They burn coal of an inferior quality and their machinery is of the simplest description. There is not the loss of life with them that there must be always with the smaller sailing-boats.

Newfoundland is the most dangerous fishing ground, as the men have so much to contend with - the passing of transatlantic liners and the cold, thick fogs which come up off the banks - all of them prefer the Iceland fishing. The cold is greater, but there is much less fog and very few big boats to be met en route. Few of the Boulogne boats go to Newfoundland. It is generally the boats from Fecamp and some of the Breton ports that monopolize the fishing off the Banks. It seems that men often die from the cold and exposure in these waters. From the old-fashioned sailing-boats they usually send them off - two by two in a dory (they don't fish from the big boats); they start early, fish all day; if no fog comes up, they are all right and get back to their boats at dark, but if a sudden fog comes on they often can't find their boats and remain out all night, half frozen. One night they can stand, but two nights' cold and exposure are always fatal. When the fog lifts the little boat is sometimes quite close to the big one, but the men are dead - frozen. M. de G. tells us all sorts of terrible experiences that he has heard from his men, and yet they all like the life - wouldn't lead any other, and have the greatest contempt for a landsman.

       * * * * * There is a fruit stall at the corner of our street, where we stop every morning and buy fruit on our way down to the beach. We have become most intimate with the two women who are there. One, a young one with small children about the age of ours (to whom she often gives grapes or cherries when they pass), and the other a little, old, wrinkled, brown-faced grandmother, who sits all day, in all weathers, under an awning made of an old sail and helps her daughter. She has very bright eyes and looks as keen and businesslike as the young woman. She told us the other day she had forty grandchildren - all the males, men and boys, sailors and fishermen and "mousses" - many of the girls fishwives and the mothers married to fishermen or sailors. I asked her why some of them hadn't tried to do something else - there were so many things people could do in these days to earn their living without leading such a rough life. She was quite astonished at my suggestion - replied that they had lived on the sea all their lives and never thought of doing anything else. Her own husband had been a fisherman - belonged to one of the Iceland boats - went three or four times a year regularly - didn't come back one year - no tidings ever came of ship or crew - it was God's will, and when his time came he had to go, whether in his bed or on his boat. And she brought up all her sons to be sailors or fishermen, and when two were lost at sea, accepted that, too, as part of her lot, only said it was hard, sometimes, for the poor women when the winter storms came and the wind was howling and the waves thundering on the beach, and they thought of their men ("mon homme" she always called her husband when speaking of him), wet and cold, battling for their lives. I talked to her often and the words of the old song,

   "But men must work and women must weep, 
   Though storms be sudden, and waters deep, 
   And the harbour bar be moaning,"

came back to me more than once, for the floating buoy at the end of the jetty makes a continuous dull melancholy sound when the sea is at all rough, and when it is foggy (the channel fogs come up very quickly) we hear fog horns all around us and quite distinctly the big sirene of Cap Gris Nez, which sends out its long wailing note over the sea. It is very powerful and is heard at a long distance.

The shops on the quay are an unfailing source of interest to me. I make a tour there every morning before I go down to the beach. They have such a wonderful variety of things. Shells of all sizes - enormous pink ones like those I always remember standing on the mantelpiece in the nursery at home - brought back by a sailor brother who used to tell us to put them to our ears and we would hear the noise of the sea - and beautiful delicate little mother-of-pearl shells that are almost jewels - wonderful frames, boxes, and pincushions, made of shells; big spoons, too, with a figure or a ship painted on them - knives, penholders, paper-cutters and brooches, made out of the bones of big fish - tassels of bright-coloured sea-weed, corals, vanilla beans - curiously worked leather belts - some roughly carved ivory crosses, umbrella handles, canes of every description, pipes, long gold earrings, parrots, little birds with bright-coloured feathers, monkeys - an extraordinary collection.

I am sure one would find many curious specimens if one could penetrate into the back of the old shops and pull the things about - evidently sailors from all parts of the world have passed at Boulogne. Still I don't hear many foreign languages spoken - almost always French and English; occasionally a dark face, with bright black eyes, strikes one. We saw two Italians the other day, talking and gesticulating hard, shivering, too, with woollen comforters tied over their caps. There was a cold fog and we were all wrapped up. It must be awful weather for Southerners who only live when the sun shines and go to bed when it is cold and gray. There are all sorts of itinerants, petits marchands, on the other side of the quay, looking on the water - old women with fruit and cakes - children with crabs and shrimps - dolls in Boulonaise costume - fishwives and matelottes, stalls with every description of food, tea, coffee, chocolate, sandwiches, and fried potatoes. The children bought some potatoes the other day wrapped up in brown paper - quite a big portion for two sous - and said they were very good.

The quais are very broad, happily, for everything is put there. One morning there were quantities of barrels. I asked what was in them. Salt, they told me, for the herring-boats which are starting these days. Nets, coils of ropes, big sails, baskets, boxes, odd bits of iron, some anchors - one has rather to pick one's way. An automobile has been standing there for three or four days. I asked if that was going to Iceland on a trawler, but the man answered quite simply, "Oh, no, Madame, what should we do with an automobile in a fishing-boat. It belongs to the owner of one of the ships, and has been here en panne waiting till he can have it repaired."

We went one evening to the Casino to see a "bal des matelottes." It was a curious sight - a band playing on a raised stand - a broad space cleared all round it and lots of people dancing. The great feature, of course, was the matelottes. Their costumes were very effective - they all wore short, very full skirts, different coloured jackets, short, with a belt, very good stout shoes and stockings, and their white frilled caps. They always danced together (very rarely with a man - it is not etiquette for them to dance with any man when their husbands or lovers are at sea), their hands on each other's shoulders. They dance perfectly well and keep excellent time and, I suppose, enjoy themselves, but they look very solemn going round and round until the music stops. Their feet and ankles are usually small. I heard an explanation the other day of their dark skins, clean cut features, and small feet. They are of Portuguese origin. The first foreign sailors who came to France were Portuguese. Many of them remained, married French girls, and that accounts for that peculiar type in their descendants which is very different from the look of the Frenchwoman in general. There are one or two villages in Brittany where the women have the same colouring and features, and there also Portuguese sailors had remained and married, and one still hears some Portuguese names - Jose, Manuel - and among the women some Annunziatas, Carmelas, etc. We had a house in Brittany one summer and our kitchen maid was called Dolores.


We made a lovely excursion one day to Cap Gris Nez - just at the end of a wild bit of coast about twenty-five kilometres from Boulogne. The road was enchanting on the top of the cliff all along the sea. We passed through Vimereux, a small bathing-place four or five miles from Boulogne, and one or two other villages, then went through a wild desolate tract of sand-hills and plains and came upon the lighthouse, one of the most important of the coast - a very powerful light that all inward-bound boats are delighted to see. There are one or two villas near on the top of the cliff, then the road turns sharply down to the beach - a beautiful broad expanse of yellow sand, reaching very far out that day as it was dead low tide.

In the distance we saw figures; couldn't distinguish what they were doing, but supposed they were fishing for shrimps, which was what our party meant to do. The auto was filled with nets, baskets, and clothes, as well as luncheon baskets. The hotel - a very good, simple one - with a broad piazza going all around it, was half-way down the cliff, and the woman was very "complaisante" and helpful - said there were plenty of shrimps, crabs, and lobsters and no one to fish. She and her husband had been out at four o'clock that morning and had brought back "quatre pintes" of shrimps. No one knew what she meant, but it was evidently a measure of some kind. I suppose an English pint. She gave us a cabin where the two young matrons dressed, or rather undressed, as they reappeared in their bathing trousers - which stopped some little distance above the knee - very short skirts, bare legs, "espadrilles" on their feet, and large Panama hats to protect them from the sun. The men had merely rolled up their trousers. They went out very far - I could just make them out - they seemed a part of the sea and sky, moving objects standing out against the horizon.

I made myself very comfortable with rugs and cushions under the cliff - I had my book as I knew it would be a long operation. It was enchanting - sitting there, such a beautiful afternoon. We saw the English coast quite distinctly. There was not a sound - no bathing cabins or tents, nobody on the shore, but a few fishermen were spreading nets on poles to catch the fish as the tide came up. The sea was quite blue, and as the afternoon lengthened there were lovely soft lights over everything; such warm tints it might almost have been the Mediterranean and the Riviera. A few fishing-boats passed in the distance, but there was nothing to break the great stillness - not even the ripple of the waves, as the sea was too far out. It was a curious sensation to be sitting there quite alone - the blue sea at my feet and the cliff rising straight up behind me.

The bay is small - two points jutting out on each side, completely shutting it in. There are a good many rocks - the water dashes over them finely when the tide is high and the sea rough. I got rather stiff sitting still and walked about a little on the hard beach and talked to the fishermen. They were looking on amused and indulgently at our amateurs, and said there were plenty of fish of all kinds if one knew how to take them. They said they made very good hauls with their nets in certain seasons - that lots of fish came in with the tide and got stranded, couldn't get back through the nets. One of them had two enormous crabs in his baskets, which I bought at once, and we brought them home in the bottom of the auto wrapped up in very thick paper, as they were still alive and could give a nasty pinch, the man said.

About five, I thought I made out my party more distinctly; their faces were turned homeward, so I went to meet them as far as the dry sand lasted. I had a very long walk as the tide was at its lowest. They came back very slowly, stopping at all the little pools and poking their nets under the rocks to get what they could. They had made a very fair basket of really big shrimps, were very wet, very hungry, and very pleased with their performance.

We had very good tea and excellent bread and butter at the hotel. They gave us a table on the piazza in the sun which finished drying the garments of the party. I fancy they had gone in deeper than they thought. However, salt water never gives cold and nobody was any the worse for the wetting. The woman of the hotel said we ought to go to see a fisherman's hut, on the top of the cliff near the lighthouse, before we went back. The same family of fishermen had lived there for generations, and it was a marvel how any one could live in such a place. We could find our way very easily as the path was marked by white stones. So we climbed up the cliff and a few minutes' walk brought us to one of the most wretched habitations I have ever seen: a little low stone hut, built so close to the edge of the cliff one would think a violent storm must blow it over - no windows - a primitive chimney, hardly more than a hole in the roof - a little low door that one had to stoop to pass through, one room, dark and cold - the floor of beaten earth, damp and uneven, almost in ruts. There were two beds, a table, two chairs, and a stove - nondescript garments hanging on the walls - a woman with a baby was sitting at the table - another child on the floor - both miserable little, puny, weak-eyed, pale children. The woman told me she had six - all lived there - one man was sitting on the bed mending a net, another on the floor drinking some black stuff out of a cup - I think the baby was drinking the same - two or three children were stretching big nets on the top of the cliff - they, too, looked miserable little specimens of humanity, bare-legged, unkempt, trousers and jackets in holes; however, the woman was quite cheerful - didn't complain nor ask for money. The men accepted two francs to drink our health. One wonders how children ever grow up in such an atmosphere without light or air or decent food.

The drive home was beautiful - not nearly so lonely. Peasants and fishermen were coming back from their work - women and children driving the cows home. We noticed, too, a few little, low, whitewashed cottages in the fields, almost hidden by the sand-hills, which we hadn't seen coming out.


Hardelot was a great resource to us. It is a fine domain, beautiful pine woods running down to the sea - a great stretch of green meadow and a most picturesque old castle quite the type of the chateau-fort. The castle has now been transformed into a country club with golf-links, tennis, and well-kept lawns under big trees which give a splendid shade and are most resting to the eye after the glare of the beach. There is no view of the sea from the castle, but from the top of the towers on a fine day one just sees a quiver of light beneath the sky-line which might be the sea.

The chateau has had its history like all the old feudal castles on the sea-board and has changed hands very often, being sometimes French and sometimes English. It was strongly fortified and resisted many attacks from the English before it actually came into their possession. Part of the wall and a curious old gate-way are all that remain of the feudal days. The castle is said to have been built by Charlemagne. Henry VIII of England lived in it for some time, and the preliminaries of a treaty of peace between that monarch and Francois I were signed there - the French and English ambassadors arriving in great state - with an endless army of retainers. One wonders where they all were lodged, as the castle could never have been large - one sees that from the foundations; but I fancy habits were very simple in those days, and the suites probably slept on the floor in one of the halls with all their clothes on, the troopers keeping on their jack-boots so long that they had to be cut off sometimes - the feet and legs so swollen.

The drive from the club to the plage is charming. Sometimes through pretty narrow roads with high banks on each side, with hedges on top, quite like parts of Devonshire, and nice, little, low, whitewashed cottages with green shutters and red doors, much more like England than France.

We stopped at a cottage called the Dickens House, where Charles Dickens lived for some time. It is only one story high - white with green shutters - stands at the end of an old-fashioned garden filled with all sorts of ordinary garden-flowers - roses, hollyhocks, larkspurs, pinks, all growing most luxuriantly and making patches of colour in the green surroundings. We saw Dickens' study, his table still in the window (where he always wrote), looking over the garden to an endless stretch of green fields.

The plage is very new. There is a nice clean hotel, with broad piazzas and balconies directly on the sea and a few chalets are already built, but there is an absolute dearth of trees and shade. There was quite a strong sea-breeze the day we were there, and the fine white sand was blown high into the air in circles, getting into our eyes and hair. There is a splendid beach - miles of sand - not a rock or cliff - absolutely level. The domain of Hardelot belongs to a company of which Mr. John Whitley was the president. He had concessions for a tramway from Boulogne to Hardelot which will certainly bring people to the plage and club. Now there is only an auto-bus, which goes very slowly and is constantly out of order; once the club is organized, I think it cannot fail to be a charming resort. There is plenty of game in the forest (they have a good piece of it), perfect golf and tennis grounds - as much deep-sea fishing as one wants. We went often to tea at the chateau. F. played golf, and we walked about and sat under the trees, and the children were quite happy playing on the lawns where they were as safe as in their nurseries.