It was evening when we reached the little railway-station of La Cluse, and exquisite indeed was the twilight drive to Nantua. The crimson glories of sunset were still flaming in the west, and reflected in the limpid lake, whilst a silvery crescent moon rose slowly above the dark purple mountains framing in the picture. A delicious scene this, and wonderfully contrasted to the sombre splendour of St. Claude, tenderest allegro after stateliest adagio maestoso, droppings of pearly rain after heavy thunder-claps. Nantua must be seen from above its interesting Romanesque old church to be appreciated. It lies at the end of a mountain gorge, black with pines from summit to base, the transparent fairy-like lake opening beyond, shut in with violet hills.

No less delightful is the walk to La Cluse alongside the lake, an umbrageous avenue, the shadows of which are grateful this hot June-like October day. Through a light screen of foliage you look across the blue waters upon bluer hills, and still bluer sky. Nantua, in spite of its smiling appearance, is inevitably doomed one day to destruction, Straight over against the town impends a huge mass of loosened rock, which, so authorities predict, must sooner or later slide down, crushing any thing with which it comes in contact. People point to the enemy with nonchalance, saying, "Yes, the rock will certainly fall at some time or other, and destroy a great part of the town, but not perhaps in our time." Be this as it may, the gigantic fragment of rock hanging so menacingly over Nantua, is a curious object of contemplation.

I fell into conversation with two nuns belonging to the Order of St. Charles, and I wish I could delineate the hideousness of their costumes, and the unmitigated ugliness of their general appearance. Their dress consisted of a plain black gown with round cape and close fitting hood, on each side of which projected black gauze flaps extended on wires, shading their withered, ill-favoured countenances, and making them look indeed more like female inquisitors, ogres, or Witches of Endor than human beings. I never saw human nature made so uninviting, and I could fancy the terror inspired by these awful figures, with their bat-like flaps, in the tender minds of the little children entrusted to their care. It was edifying to hear these holy women discourse upon the Paris Exhibition, which it is hardly necessary to say the clerical party throughout France was bound to consider a failure. Alike the highest and the lowest, bishop and parish priest, were determined in their own minds that the Exhibition, as a display of rehabilitated France under a Republican Government, should fail altogether, and come to some conspicuously bad end. The very reverse had happened, yet here were two women of age, experience, and some intelligence coolly talking of this terrible failure of the Exhibition, financially and otherwise, the bad effect upon trade generally, and so forth.

I take the railway from Bourg to La Cluse, a mile from the town, and a marvellous piece of railway engineering is this short journey, veritable Alpine ascent in a railway-carriage, scaling perpendicular mountain sides by means of the steam-engine! The train curls round the mountain as the Jura roads are made to do, high above an awful gorge, in the midst of which runs the River Ain, emerald-green irradiated by diamond-like flashes of cascade and torrent. When we have accomplished this aerial bit of travel - it is very like being up in a balloon - we suddenly lose alike mountain, river, and ravine, all the world of enchantment in which I had been living for weeks past, to find ourselves in the region of prose and common-place! In other words, we were in the wide, highly cultivated plain of La Bresse. At Bourg-en-Bresse I halted, as everyone else must do, in order to see its famous Church of Brou. The Church was built in consequence of a vow made by Margaret of Burgundy, that if her husband, Philibert the Second, Duke of Savoy, was healed from injuries received in the hunt, she would erect a church and found a monastery of the Order of St. Benoit. The Duke recovered, but his wife died before accomplishing her work, which was, however, carried out by her daughter-in-law, Margaret of Austria, wife of Philibert le Beau. She summoned for this purpose all the best artists of the time to Bourg, and the church begun in 1506 was finished in 1532, under the direction of Loys von Berghem.

This spirited and imperious Margaret of Austria, known as Margot la Flamande, played an important part in history, as readers of Michelet's eloquent seventh volume know. She adored her second husband, the handsome Philibert, and owed all her life a grudge against France, on account of having been, as a child, promised in marriage to Charles VIII., and afterwards supplanted for political reasons by the no less imperious Anne of Brittany. Aunt and first instructress of Charles V., King of Spain and Emperor of Germany, she is regarded by Michelet as the founder of the House of Austria, and one of the chief agents in humiliating France by means of the Treaty of Cambrai. Margaret of Austria, Anne of Brittany, Louise of Savoy, mother of Francis I., writes the historian, "cousant, filant, lisant, ces trois fatales Parques ont tissu les maux de l'Europe" (sewing, spinning, reading, these three fatal Parcae were the misfortune of Europe), and the student of French history will follow the career of all three with interest after the clue here given them. Margaret, bitter, vindictive, and designing, seems to have had one poetic thread in her life only, namely, her passion for her husband, whose beauty lives in marble before us.

The Church of Brou - magnificent case for these gems of monumental art - cost seven millions of francs, and the combined labours of the best living architects and artists of the time, may be considered as the last efflorescence of Gothic architecture, for the spirit of the Renaissance was already making itself felt. It is less, however, the church, in spite of its rich exterior and elegant proportions, that travellers will come to see than the exquisite mausoleum of the choir, each deserving a chapter to itself. You quit the quiet old-fashioned town of Bourg, and after a walk of twenty minutes, come suddenly on the church, standing in the suburb, or as it seems, indeed, in the open country. A sacristan is at hand to unlock the door of the choir, but it is best to give him his fee in advance, and tell him to return in an hour; generally speaking, other strangers are coming and going, in which case such a precaution is not necessary, but it is impossible to enjoy this artistic treat with a guide hovering about you, doling out pieces of stale information, and impatiently awaiting to be paid. The choir is screened off from the nave by a rich, although somewhat heavy rood-loft, and great is the contrast between the two portions of the church; in the first, all is subdued, quiet in tone, and refreshing; in the last, the eye is troubled by too much light, there is no stained glass to soften down the brilliant sunshine of this fine October day, and, although the architectural proportions of the entire building are graceful and on a vast scale, the beholder is much less delighted than he ought to be on this account. In fact the effect is dazzling; but how different are our sensations when once on the other side of the richly sculptured rood-loft! Here the impression is one of peerless beauty, without a shadow of disillusion or the slightest drawback to aesthetic enjoyment, except one, and that very trifling. These three mausoleums are so well defended against possible iconoclasts that the thick, closely set iron bars almost prevent us from seeing the lower part of the three tombs, and, in two cases, these are as interesting as any. Surely in the present day such measures are unnecessary! It may be mentioned that the church and tombs narrowly escaped destruction during the great Revolution, and the world is indebted for their safety to the public spirit of one of the civil authorities, who filled the interior with hay, securely fastened the doors, and put outside the conspicuous inscription: Propriete Nationale. But for these prompt measures, the beautiful and unique treasures contained in the Church of Brou would, without doubt, have shared the fate of so many others during that awful epoch.

The three tombs are those of Philibert le Beau, Duke of Savoy, of Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy, his mother, and of Margaret of Austria, his wife. They are chiselled in Carrara marble, and are the combined work of Michel Colomb, Jean Perreal, called Jean de Paris, and Conrad Meyt. [Footnote: Consult on this subject "Monographie de l'Eglise de Brou," par MM. Didron et Dupasquier.] The central tomb is that of Philibert, who, like his wife, is represented twice, the upper figure that of the Duke when alive, the lower delineating death. This monument is perhaps the most splendid of all, although there are especial beauties to be found in the other two, and each is deserving of long and careful study.

Above, therefore, we have the Prince in all the glory of life and pomp of state; below, in the cold bareness and nakedness of death, a contrast highly artistic and touching at the same time. The iron rails already alluded to only hide the lower division of the tomb, so that we see the upper part in all its splendour. The Prince, wearing his ducal cap and dress, reposes on a couch, the cushion supporting his head being covered with delicate sculptures, his feet resting on a lion recumbent, his hands clasped, his face slightly turned towards Margaret of Austria, his wife. On each side, little lovely naked boys, geniuses, loves, cherubs - call them what we will - support his helmet and gloves, and charming statuettes after the same dainty pattern stand at each corner of the sarcophagus supporting his shield and various pieces of armour. Underneath, on a slab of black marble, lies the figure of the dead Prince, the finely modelled limbs only partially draped, the long hair curling round the bare shoulder, the beautiful face turned, as in the first instance, towards the image of his wife - pose, expression, design, all combining to make up an exquisite whole. This second figure is a master-piece, and no less masterly are the Sibyls and other figures which surround it, each statuette deserving the most careful study, each, in fact, a little gem. The frame-work of this noble monument is of rich Gothic design, too elaborate, perhaps, to please the fastidious critic, but deliciously imaginative, and finished as far as artistic finish can go. To the right of the Prince is the tomb of Marguerite of Burgundy, his mother, a hardly less sumptuous piece of work than the first, and superbly framed in by Gothic decorative sculptures, statuettes, arabesques, flowers, and heraldic designs. The little mourning figures or pleureuses, each in its graceful niche, are wonderfully beautiful, and for the most part veiled, whilst the artist's fancy has been allowed to run riot in the ornamentation surrounding them. The Princess wears her long ducal mantle and crown, and at her feet reposes a superb greyhound. The third tomb, that of Marguerite of Austria, the wife of Philibert, is in some respects the richest of the three, being almost bewildering in elaborateness of detail and abundance of ornament. It is divided into two compartments; in the upper, we have the living figure of a beautiful woman in the flower of life, richly dressed; in the lower, we have the same after death, the long hair rippling in curls to her waist, the slender feet showing from under the drapery, the expression that of majestic calm and solemnity. We have here the simplicity and nakedness of death in close proximity with the gorgeousness and magnificence of art - art under one of its most sumptuous aspects, art in its fullest and most poetic moods. All thoughtful observers must come to the conclusion that lovely and artistic as is the frame-work of this last figure, each tiniest detail being a marvel both of design and execution, it is, perhaps, not quite in harmony with the rest. It is, indeed, somewhat overcharged with ornament. Be this as it may, the mausoleums in the Church of Brou will ever remain in the memory as one of those exquisite and unique art experiences that form an epoch in our inner history. For what, indeed, avails art at all, if it is a thing of minor importance in life, a half joy, a half consolation, a second or inferior impression to be effaced by anything new that comes in our way? It was pitiable to see parties of two or three French tourists rush into the choir with the sacristan, spend five minutes in glancing at the treasures before them, then hurry away, not dreaming of what they have failed to see, only dimly conscious of having seen something. It is curious that in 1856 the lead coffins containing the remains of Philibert and the two Duchesses were discovered in a crypt under that part of the choir where the mausoleums stand. The inscriptions on all three were perfectly legible, and left no doubt as to identity; the skeletons were placed in new coffins, and re-interred with religious ceremony. Other crypts were discovered, but these had evidently been spoliated.

Before quitting these mausoleums and their exquisite possessions of pleureuses, geniuses, Sibyls, and the rest, it may be worth while to remind the reader that, according to the most learned of the Romans, there were ten Sibyls, viz.: - 1. Persica, 2. Libyssa, 3. Delphica, 4. Cumaea, 5. Erythraea, 6. Samia, 7. Cumana, who brought the book to Tarquin, 8. Hellespontica, 9. Phrygia, 10. Tiburs, by name Albunea, worshipped at Tiber as a goddess. Thus Varro categorizes the Sibyls, and besides these we hear of a Hebrew, a Chaldaean, a Babylonian, an Egyptian, a Sardian Sibyl, and some others. Other writers considerably reduce this number, three being that most usually accepted, and Salmasius, the most learned man that ever lived, summed up the various theories concerning these mysterious beings with the words: "There is nothing on which ancient writers more widely differ than as to the age, number, and country of the Sibyls."

There is little to see in the Church of Brou besides these mausoleums, and nothing in Bourg itself, except the fine bronze statue to Bichat, by David d'Angers. The great anatomist is represented in the act of oscultation, the patient being a child, standing between his knees. It is a monument alike worthy of the artist and his subject, another instance of that dignified realism for which David d'Angers was so remarkable. There is, however, some doubt as to Bichat's birth-place; Lons-le-Saunier, as I have before mentioned, contesting the honour with Bourg. On the principle that two monuments to a great man are better than none at all, each place claims the honour.

The night mail-express from Geneva whirled me in about ten hours to Paris, and the next morning I found myself in what, after the matchless atmosphere of the Jura, seemed murkiness, although the day was fine and the sky cloudless. I had thus, with hardly an important deviation from the plan originally laid down, accomplished my journey in Eastern France, but with a success, in one respect, impossible to anticipate. Accustomed as I am to French amiability and hospitality, I was yet unprepared for such a reception as that accorded to me throughout every stage of my travels. All hearts were open to me; everyone wanted to do the honours of his beloved "patrie" - using the word in its local rather than national sense - to be serviceable, kind, accommodating. Thus it happened that my holiday rambles in Franche-Comte were so far novel, that they may be said to have been accomplished without hotels or guidebooks; for the most part, my time being spent in friends' houses, and my itineraries being the best possible, namely, the oral information of interested natives of every place I passed through. This is, indeed, the way in which all countries, and especially France, should be seen, for, without a sympathetic knowledge of her people and their ways of life, we lose the most interesting feature in French travel. Travellers who only see the outside of things in foreign countries, indeed, may be compared to those who gaze upon a skeleton, instead of the living form, warm with life, sympathy, and beauty. Old France, as studied in her glorious monuments, whether Gallic, Merovingian, Mediaeval, or Renaissance, pales in interest before the New, that France which alone has taught the world the lesson of Equality, and is teaching us every day what misfortunes may be overcome by a noble people, inspired with true patriotism, allied to democratic feeling. In Republican France, now, who can doubt? and I am all the more thankful here to be able to bear witness to the unanimity, prosperity, and marvellous development found in the different strata of French social life. There are, without doubt, blots on this bright picture; but none can deny that the more we learn to know France the more we admire and love her, and that, if the richest and most beautiful country in the world, it is also the one in which happiness and well-being are most generally diffused. We are accustomed to regard France in the light of a parable to other nations, but, if her sorrows and retributions have taught them much, at least her successes and triumphs have taught them more. She has lately shown herself greater even in the hour of her prosperity than in that of evil fortune, the highest praise to be accorded alike to nations as to individuals. Honour then to all who have helped in bringing about these great results, whether in the humblest or loftiest walks of life, and may I be the means of inducing scores of travellers to follow in my footsteps, and judge for themselves whether I have drawn too glowing a picture! Of one thing they may be certain - namely, that they will be welcomed wherever they go, if led thither in a sympathetic spirit, although, perhaps, not many may have the like good fortune with myself, each stage of my journey being marked by delightful acquaintances and friendships, binding me still closer to La Belle France and her glorious Republic!