CHAPTER VI. From Argentan to Avranches

Between tall poplars whose stems are splotched with grey lichen and whose feet are grown over with browny-green moss, runs the road from Falaise to Argentan, straight and white, with scarcely more than the slightest bend, for the whole eight miles. It is typical of the roads in this part of the country and beyond the large stone four or five kilometres outside Falaise, marking the boundary between Calvados and Orne, and the railway which one passes soon afterwards, there is nothing to break the undulating monotony of the boundless plain.

We cannot all hope to have this somewhat dull stretch of country relieved by any exciting event, but I can remember one spring afternoon being overtaken by two mounted gendarmes in blue uniforms, galloping for their very lives. I looked down the road into the cloud of dust raised by the horses' hoofs, but the country on all sides lay calm and deserted, and I was left in doubt as to the reason for this astonishing haste. Half an hour afterwards a group of people appeared in the distance, and on approaching closer, they proved to be the two gendarmes leading their blown horses as they walked beside a picturesque group of apparently simple peasants, the three men wearing the typical soft, baggy cap and blue smock of the country folk. The little group had a gloomy aspect, which was explained when I noticed that the peasants were joined together by a bright steel chain. Evidently something was very much amiss with one of the peaceful villages lying near the road.

After a time, at the end of the long white perspective, appear the towers of the great church of St Germain that dominate the town where Henry II. was staying when he made that rash exclamation concerning his "turbulent priest." It was from Argentan that those four knights set out for England and Canterbury to carry out the deed, for which Henry lay in ashes for five weeks in this very place. But there is little at the present time at Argentan to remind one that it is in any way associated with the murder of Becket. The castle that now exists is occupied by the Courts of Justice and was partially built in the Renaissance period. Standing close to it, is an exceedingly tall building with a great gable that suggests an ecclesiastical origin, and on looking a little closer one soon discovers blocked up Gothic windows and others from which the tracery has been hacked. This was the chapel of the castle which has been so completely robbed of its sanctity that it is now cut up into small lodgings, and in one of its diminutive shops, picture post-cards of the town are sold.

The ruins of the old castle are not very conspicuous, for in the seventeenth century the great keep was demolished. There is still a fairly noticeable round tower - the Tour Marguerite - which has a pointed roof above its corbels, or perhaps they should be called machicolations. In the Place Henri IV. stands a prominent building that projects over the pavement supported by massive pointed arches, and with this building in the foreground there is one of the best views of St Germain that one can find in the town. Just before coming to the clock that is suspended over the road by the porch of the church, there is a butcher's shop at the street corner that has a piece of oak carving preserved on account of its interest while the rest of the building has been made featureless with even plaster. The carving shows Adam and Eve standing on either side of a formal Tree of Life, and the butcher, who is pleased to find a stranger who notices this little curiosity, tells him with great pride that his house dates from the fifteenth century. The porch of St Germain is richly ornamented, but it takes a second place to the south porch of the church of Notre Dame at Louviers and may perhaps seem scarcely worthy of comment after St Maclou at Rouen. The structure as a whole was commenced in 1424, and the last portion of the work only dates from the middle of the seventeenth century. The vaulting of the nave has a very new and well-kept appearance and the side altars, in contrast to so many of even the large churches, are almost dignified in their somewhat restrained and classic style. The high altar is a stupendous erection of two storeys with Corinthian pillars. Nine long, white, pendant banners are conspicuous on the walls of the chancel. The great altars and the lesser ones that crowd the side chapels are subject to the accumulation of dirt as everything else in buildings sacred or lay, and at certain times of the day, a woman may be seen vigorously flapping the brass candlesticks and countless altar ornaments with a big feather broom. On the north side of the chancel some of the windows have sections of old painted glass, and in one of them there is part of a ship with men in crow's nests backed by clouds, a really vigorous colour scheme.

Keeping to the high ground, there is to the south of this church an open Place, and beyond it there are some large barracks, where, on the other side of a low wall may be seen the elaborately prepared steeple-chase for training soldiers to be able to surmount every conceivable form of obstacle. Awkward iron railings, wide ditches, walls of different composition and varying height are frequently scaled, and it is practice of this sort that has made the French soldier famous for the facility with which he can storm fortifications. The river Orne finds its way through the lower part of the town and here there are to be found some of the most pleasing bits of antique domestic architecture. One of the quaintest of these built in 1616 is the galleried building illustrated here, and from a parallel street not many yards off there is a peep of a house that has been built right over the stream which is scarcely less picturesque.

The church of St Martin is passed on entering Argentan from Falaise. Its east end crowds right up against the pavement and it is somewhat unusual to find the entrances at this portion of the building. The stained glass in the choir of St Martin is its most noticeable feature - the pictures showing various scenes in the life of Christ.

As in all French towns Argentan knows how to decorate on fete days. Coming out of the darkness of the church in the late twilight on one of these occasions, I discovered that the town had suddenly become festooned with a long perspective of arches stretching right away down the leafy avenue that goes out of the town - to the north in one direction, and to St Germain in the other. The arches were entirely composed without a single exception of large crimson-red Chinese lanterns. The effect was astonishingly good, but despite all the decoration, the townsfolk seemed determined to preserve the quiet of the Sabbath, and although there were crowds everywhere, the only noise that broke the stillness was that of the steam round-about that had been erected on a triangular patch of grass. The dark crowds of people illuminated by flaring lights stood in perfect quiet as they watched the great noisy mass of moving animals and boats, occupied almost entirely by children, keep up its perpetual dazzle and roar. The fair - for there were many side-shows - was certainly quieter than any I have witnessed in England.

A long, straight road, poplar-bordered and level, runs southwards from Argentan to Mortree, a village of no importance except for the fact that one must pass through it if one wishes to visit the beautiful Chateau d'O. This sixteenth century mansion like so many to be seen in this part of France, is in a somewhat pathetic state of disrepair, but as far as one may see from the exterior, it would not require any very great sum to completely restore the broken stone-work and other signs of decay. These, while perhaps adding to the picturesqueness of the buildings, do not bring out that aspect of carefully preserved antiquity which is the charm of most of the houses of this period in England. The great expanse of water in the moat is very green and covered by large tracts of weed, but the water is supplied by a spring, and fish thrive in it. The approach to the chateau across the moat leads to an arched entrance through which you enter the large courtyard overlooked on three sides by the richly ornamented buildings, the fourth side being only protected from the moat by a low wall. It would be hard to find a more charming spot than this with its views across the moat to the gardens beyond, backed by great masses of foliage.

Going on past Mortree the main road will bring one after about eight miles to the old town of Alencon, which has been famed ever since the time of Louis XIV. for the lace which is even at the present day worked in the villages of this neighbourhood, more especially at the hamlet of Damigny. The cottagers use pure linen thread which is worth the almost incredible sum of L100 per lb. They work on parchment from patterns which are supplied by the merchants in Alencon. The women go on from early morning until the light fails, and earn something about a shilling per day!

The castle of Alencon, built by Henry I. in the twelfth century, was pulled down with the exception of the keep, by the order of Henry of Navarre, the famous contemporary of Queen Elizabeth. This keep is still in existence, and is now used as a prison. Near it is the Palais de Justice, standing where the other buildings were situated.

The west porch of the church of Notre Dame is richly ornamented with elaborate canopies, here and there with statues. One of these represents St John, and it will be seen that he is standing with his face towards the church. A legend states that this position was taken by the statue when the church was being ransacked by Protestants in the sixteenth century.

Another road from Argentan is the great route nationale that runs in a fairly direct line to Granville. As one rides out of the town there is a pretty view on looking back, of St Germain standing on the slight eminence above the Orne. Keeping along by that river the road touches it again at the little town of Ecouche. The old market hall standing on massive pillars, is the most attractive feature of the place. Its old tiled roof and half-timbered upper storey remind one forcibly of some of those fortunate old towns in England that have preserved this feature. The church has lost its original nave, and instead, there is a curious barn-like structure, built evidently with a view to economy, being scarcely more than half the height of the original: the vacant space has been very roughly filled up, and the numerous holes and crevices support a fine growth of weeds, and a strong young tree has also taken root in the ramshackle stone work. From the central tower, gargoyles grin above the elaborately carved buttresses and finials in remarkable contrast to the jerry-built addition.

Passing through rich country, you leave the valley of the Orne, and on both sides of the road are spread wide and fascinating views over the orchard-clad country that disappears in the distant blue of the horizon. Wonderful patches of shadow, when large clouds are flying over the heavens, fall on this great tract of country and while in dull weather it may seem a little monotonous, in days of sunshine and shade it is full of a haunting beauty that is most remarkable.

About seven miles from Argentan one passes Fromentelle, a quiet hamlet full of thatched cottages and curious weathercocks, and then five miles further on, having descended into the valley of the little river Rouvre, Briouze is entered. Here there is a wide and very extensive market-place with another quaint little structure, smaller than the one at Ecouche, but having a curious bell-turret in the centre of the roof. On Monday, which is market day, Briouze presents a most busy scene, and there are plenty of opportunities of studying the genial looking country farmers, their wives, and the large carts in which they drive from the farms. In the midst of the booths, you may see a bronze statue commemorating the "Sapeurs, pompiers" and others of this little place who fell in 1854.

Leaving the main road which goes on to Flers, we may take the road to Domfront, which passes through three pretty villages and much pleasant country. Bellau, the first village, is full of quaint houses and charming old-world scenes. The church is right in the middle on an open space without an enclosure of any description. Standing with one's back to this building, there is a pretty view down the road leading to the south, a patch of blue distance appearing in the opening between the old gables. To all those who may wish to either paint or photograph this charming scene, I would recommend avoiding the hour in the afternoon when the children come out of school. I was commencing a drawing one sunny afternoon - it must have been about three o'clock - and the place seemed almost deserted. Indeed, I had been looking for a country group of peasants to fill the great white space of sunny road, when in twos and threes, the juvenile population flooded out towards me. For some reason which I could not altogether fathom, the boys arranged themselves in a long, regular line, occupying exactly one half of the view, the remaining space being filled by an equally long line of little girls. All my efforts failed to induce the children to break up the arrangement they had made. They merely altered their formation by advancing three or four paces nearer with almost military precision. They were still standing in their unbroken rows when I left the village.

Passing a curious roadside cross which bears the date 1741 and a long Latin inscription splashed over with lichen, one arrives at La Ferriere aux Etangs, a quaint village with a narrow and steep street containing one conspicuously old, timber-framed house. But it is scarcely necessary to point out individual cottages in this part of Normandy, for wherever one looks, the cottages are covered with thick, purply-grey thatch, and the walls below are of grey wooden framework, filled in with plaster, generally coloured a creamy-white. When there are deep shadows under the eaves and the fruit trees in blossom stand out against the dark thatch, one can easily understand how captivating is the rural charm of this part of Normandy. Gradually the road ascends, but no great views are apparent, although one is right above the beautiful valley of the Varennes, until quite near to Domfront. Then, suddenly there appears an enormous stretch of slightly undulating country to the south and west. As far as one can see, the whole land seems to be covered by one vast forest.

But though part of this is real forest-land, much of it is composed of orchards and hedgerow trees, which are planted so closely together that, at a short distance, they assume the aspect of close-growing woods. The first impression of the great stretch of forest-land does not lose its striking aspect, even when one has explored the whole of the town. The road that brings one into the old town runs along a ridge and after passing one of the remains of the old gateways, it rises slightly to the highest part of the mass of rock upon which Domfront is perched. The streets are narrow and parallel to accommodate themselves to the confined space within the walls. At the western end of the granite ridge, and separated from the town by a narrow defile, stands all that is left of the castle - a massive but somewhat shapeless ruin. At the western end of the ramparts, one looks down a precipitous descent to the river Varennes which has by some unusual agency, cut itself a channel through the rocky ridge if it did not merely occupy an existing gap. At the present time, besides the river, the road and railway pass through the narrow gorge.

The castle has one of those sites that appealed irresistibly to the warlike barons of the eleventh century. In this case it was William I., Duc de Belleme, who decided to raise a great fortress on this rock that he had every reason to believe would prove an impregnable stronghold, but although only built in 1011, it was taken by Duke William thirty-seven years later, being one of the first brilliant feats by which William the Norman showed his strength outside his own Duchy. A century or more later, Henry II., when at Domfront, received the pope's nuncio by whom a reconciliation was in some degree patched up between the king and Becket. Richard I. is known to have been at the castle at various times. In the sixteenth century, a most thrilling siege was conducted during the period when Catherine de Medicis was controlling the throne. A Royalist force, numbering some seven or eight thousand horse and foot, surrounded this formidable rock which was defended by the Calvinist Comte de Montgommery. With him was another Protestant, Ambroise le Balafre, who had made himself a despot at Domfront, but whose career was cut short by one of Montgommery's men with whom he had quarrelled. They buried him in the little church of Notre-Dame-sur-l'Eau - the wonderfully preserved Norman building that one sees beneath one's feet when standing on the ramparts of the castle. The body, however, was not long allowed to remain there, for when the royal army surrounded the castle they brought out the corpse and hung it in a conspicuous place to annoy the besieged. Like Corfe Castle in England, and many other magnificently fortified strongholds, Domfront was capable of defence by a mere handful. In this case the original garrison consisted of one hundred and fifty, and after many desertions the force was reduced to less than fifty. A great breach had been made by the six pieces of artillery placed on the hill on the opposite side of the gorge, and through this the besiegers endeavoured to enter. The attenuated garrison, with magnificent courage, held the breach after a most desperate and bloody fight. But after all this display of courage, it was found impossible to continue the defence, for by the next morning there were barely more than a dozen men left to fight. Finally Montgommery was obliged to surrender unconditionally, and not long afterwards he was executed in Paris. You may see the breach where this terrible fight took place at the present day, and as you watch the curious effects of the blue shadows falling among the forest trees that stretch away towards the south, you may feel that you are looking over almost the same scene that was gazed upon by the notable figures in history who have made their exits and entrances at Domfront.

So little has the church of Notre-Dame-sur-l'Eau altered in its appearance since it was built by the Duc de Belleme that, were he to visit the ruins of his castle, he would marvel no doubt that the men of the nine centuries which have passed, should have consistently respected this sturdy little building. There are traces of aisles having existed, but otherwise the exterior of the church can have seen no change at all in this long period. Inside, however, the crude whitewash, the curious assemblage of enormous seventeenth century gravestones that are leant against the walls, and the terribly jarring almost life-sized crucifix, all give one that feeling of revulsion that is inseparable from an ill-kept place of worship. On the banks of the river outside, women may be seen washing clothes; the sounds of the railway come from the station near by, and overhead, rising above the foliage at its feet, are the broken walls and shattered keep from which we have been gazing.

The walls of the town, punctuated by many a quaint tower, have lost their fearsome aspect owing to the domestic uses to which the towers are palpably devoted. One of them appears in the adjoining illustration, and it is typical of the half-dozen or so that still rise above the pretty gardens that are perched along the steep ascent. But though Domfront is full of almost thrilling suggestions of medievalism and the glamour of an ancient town, yet there is a curious lack of picturesque arrangement, so that if one were to be led away by the totally uninteresting photographs that may be seen in the shops, one would miss one of the most unique spots in Normandy.

Stretching away towards Flers, there is a tract of green country all ups and downs, but with no distant views except the peep of Domfront that appears a few miles north of the town. Crowning the ridge of the hill is the keep of the castle, resembling a closed fist with the second finger raised, and near it, the bell-cote of the Palais de Justice and the spire of the church break the line of the old houses. Ferns grow by the roadside on every bank, but the cottages and farms are below the average of rustic beauty that one soon demands in this part of France.

Flers is a somewhat busy manufacturing town where cotton and thread mills have robbed the place of its charm. At first sight one might imagine the church which bears the date 1870 was of considerably greater age, but inside one is almost astounded at the ramshackle galleries, the white-washed roof of rough boards discoloured by damp, and the general squalor of the place relieved only by a ponderous altar-piece of classic design. The castle is still in good preservation but although it dates from early Norman times, it is chiefly of the sixteenth century.

Out in the country again, going westwards, the cottage industry of weaving is apparent in nearly every cottage one sees. The loud click-a-ti-clack - click-a-ti-clack of the looms can be heard on every side as one passes such villages as Landisacq. Everywhere the scenery is exceedingly English, the steep hillsides are often covered with orchards, and the delicate green of the apple-trees in spring-time, half-smothered in pinky-white blossom, gives the country a garden-like aspect. You may see a man harrowing a field on a sudden slope with a cloud of dust blowing up from the dry light soil, and you may hear him make that curious hullaballooing by which the peasants direct their horses, so different from the grunting "way-yup there" of the English ploughman. Coming down a long descent, a great stretch of country to the north that includes the battlefield of Tinchebrai comes into view. It is hard to associate the rich green pastures, smiling orchards, and peaceful cattle, with anything so gruesome as a battle between armies led by brothers. But it was near the little town of Tinchebrai that the two brothers, Henry I., King of England, and Robert Duke of Normandy fought for the possession of Normandy. Henry's army was greatly superior to that of his brother, for he had the valuable help of the Counts of Conches, Breteuil, Thorigny, Mortagne, Montfort, and two or three others as powerful. But despite all this array, the battle for some time was very considerably in Robert's favour, and it was only when Henry, heavily pressed by his brother's brilliant charge, ordered his reserves to envelop the rear, that the great battle went in favour of the English king. Among the prisoners were Robert and his youthful son William, the Counts of Mortain, Estouteville, Ferrieres, and a large number of notable men. Until his death, twenty-seven years later, Henry kept his brother captive in Cardiff Castle, and it has been said that, owing to an effort to escape, Henry was sufficiently lacking in all humane feelings towards his unfortunate brother, to have both his eyes put out. It seems a strange thing that exactly sixty years after the battle of Hastings, a Norman king of England, should conquer the country which had belonged to his father.

The old church of St Remy at Tinchebrai, part of which dates from the twelfth century, has been abandoned for a new building, but the inn - the Hotel Lion d'Or - which bears the date 1614, is still in use. Vire, however, is only ten miles off, and its rich mediaeval architecture urges us forward.

Standing in the midst of the cobbled street, there suddenly appears right ahead a splendid thirteenth century gateway - the Tour de l'Horloge - that makes one of the richest pictures in Normandy. It is not always one can see the curious old tower thrown up by a blaze of gold in the west, but those who are fortunate enough to see such an effect may get a small suggestion of the scene from the illustration given here. The little painted figure of the Virgin and Child stands in a niche just over the arch, and by it appears the prayer "Marie protege la ville!"

One of the charms of Vire is its cleanliness, for I can recall no unpleasant smells having interfered with the pleasure of exploring the old streets. There is a great market on the northern side of the town, open and breezy. It slopes clear away without any intervening buildings to a great expanse of green wooded country, suggestive of some of the views that lie all around one at Avranches. The dark old church of Notre Dame dates mainly from the twelfth century. Houses and small shops are built up against it between the buttresses in a familiar, almost confidential manner, and on the south side, the row of gargoyles have an almost humorous appearance. The drips upon the pavement and shops below were evidently a nuisance, and rain water-spouts, with plain pipes leading diagonally from them, have been attached to each grotesque head, making it seem that the grinning monsters have developed a great and unquenchable thirst. Inside, the church is dark and impressive. There are double rows of pillars in the aisles, and a huge crucifix hangs beneath the tower, thrown up darkly against the chancel, which is much painted and gilded. The remains of the great castle consist of nothing more than part of the tall keep, built eight hundred years ago, and fortunately not entirely destroyed when the rest of the castle came down by the order of Cardinal Richelieu. An exploration of the quaint streets of Vire will reveal two or three ancient gateways, many gabled houses, some of which are timber-framed visually, and most of them are the same beneath their skins of plaster. The houses in one of the streets are connected with the road by a series of wooden bridges across the river, which there forms one of the many pictures to be found in Vire.

Mortain is separated from Vire by fifteen miles of exceedingly hilly country, and those who imagine that all the roads in Normandy are the flat and poplar bordered ones that are so often encountered, should travel along this wonderful switch-back. As far as Sourdeval there seems scarcely a yard of level ground - it is either a sudden ascent or a breakneck rush into a trough-like depression. You pass copices of firs and beautiful woods, although in saying beautiful it is in a limited sense, for one seldom finds the really rich woodlands that are so priceless an ornament to many Surrey and Kentish lanes. The road is shaded by tall trees when it begins to descend into the steep rocky gorge of the Cance with its tumbling waterfalls that are a charming feature of this approach to Mortain. High upon the rocks on the left appears an enormous gilded statue of the Virgin, in the grounds of the Abbaye Blanche. Going downwards among the broken sunlight and shadows on the road, Mortain appears, picturesquely perched on a great rocky steep, and in the opening of the valley a blue haze suggests the great expanse of level country towards the south. The big parish church of the town was built originally in 1082 by that Robert of Mortain, who, it will be remembered, was one of the first of the Normans to receive from the victorious William a grant of land in England. The great tower which stands almost detached on the south-west side is remarkable for its enormously tall slit windows, for they run nearly from the ground to the saddle-back roof. The interior of this church is somewhat unusual, the nave and chancel being structurally one, and the aisles are separated by twenty-four circular grey pillars with Corinthian capitals. The plain surfaces of the walls and vaulting are absolutely clean white, picked out with fine black lines to represent stone-work - a scarcely successful treatment of such an interior! On either side of the High Altar stand two great statues representing St Guillaume and St Evroult.

To those who wish to "do" all the sights of Mortain there is the Chapel of St Michael, which stands high up on the margin of a great rocky hill, but the building having been reconstructed about fifty years ago, the chief attraction to the place is the view, which in tolerably clear weather, includes Mont St Michel towards which we are making our way.

A perfectly straight and fairly level stretch of road brings you to St Hilaire-du-Harcout. On the road one passes two or three large country houses with their solemn and perfectly straight avenues leading directly up to them at right angles from the road. The white jalousies seem always closed, the grass on the lawns seems never cut, and the whole establishments have a pathetically deserted appearance to the passer-by. A feature of this part of the country can scarcely be believed without actually using one's eyes. It is the wooden chimney-stack, covered with oak shingles, that surmounts the roofs of most of the cottages. Where the shingles have fallen off, the cement rubble that fills the space between the oak framing appears, but it is scarcely credible that, even with this partial protection, these chimneys should have survived so many centuries. I have asked the inmates of some of the cottages whether they ever feared a fire in their chimneys, but they seemed to consider the question as totally unnecessary, for some providence seems to have watched over their frail structures.

St Hilaire has a brand new church and nothing picturesque in its long, almost monotonous, street. Instead of turning aside at Pontaubault towards Mont St Michel, we will go due north from that hamlet to the beautifully situated Avranches. This prosperous looking town used, at one time, to have a large English colony, but it has recently dwindled to such small dimensions that the English chaplain has an exceedingly small parish. The streets seem to possess a wonderful cleanliness; all the old houses appear to have made way for modern buildings which, in a way, give Avranches the aspect of a watering-place, but its proximity to the sea is more apparent in a map than when one is actually in the town. On one side of the great place in front of the church of Notre Dame des Champs is the Jardin des Plantes. To pass from the blazing sunshine and loose gravel, to the dense green shade of the trees in this delightful retreat is a pleasure that can be best appreciated on a hot afternoon in summer. The shade, however, and the beds of flowers are not the only attractions of these gardens. Their greatest charm is the wonderful view over the shining sands and the glistening waters of the rivers See and Selune that, at low tide, take their serpentine courses over the delicately tinted waste of sand that occupies St Michael's Bay. Out beyond the little wooded promontory that protects the mouth of the See, lies Mont St Michel, a fretted silhouette of flat pearly grey, and a little to the north is Tombelaine, a less pretentious islet in this fairyland sea. Framed by the stems and foliage of the trees, this view is one of the most fascinating in Normandy. One would be content to stay here all through the sultry hours of a summer day, to listen to the distant hum of conversation among white-capped nursemaids, as they sew busily, giving momentary attention to their charges. But Avranches has an historical spot that no student of history, and indeed no one who cares anything for the picturesque events that crowd the pages of the chronicles of England in the days of the Norman kings, may miss. It is the famous stone upon which Henry II. knelt when he received absolution for the murder of Becket at the hands of the papal legate. To reach this stone is, for a stranger, a matter of some difficulty. From the Place by the Jardin des Plantes, it is necessary to plunge down a steep descent towards the railway station, and then one climbs a series of zigzag paths on a high grassy bank that brings one out upon the Place Huet. In one corner, surrounded by chains and supported by low iron posts, is the historic stone. It is generally thickly coated with dust, but the brass plate affixed to a pillar of the doorway is quite legible. These, and a few fragments of carved stone that lie half-smothered in long grass and weeds at a short distance from the railed-in stone, are all that remain of the cathedral that existed in the time of Henry II.

It must have been an impressive scene on that Sunday in May 1172, when the papal legate, in his wonderful robes, stood by the north transept door, of which only this fragment remains, and granted absolution to the sovereign, who, kneeling in all humbleness and submission, was relieved of the curse of excommunication which had been laid on him after the tragic affair in the sanctuary at Canterbury. In place of the splendid cathedral, whose nave collapsed, causing the demolition of the whole building in 1799, there is a new church with the two great western towers only carried up to half the height intended for them.

From the roadway that runs along the side of the old castle walls in terrace fashion there is another wonderful view of rich green country, through which, at one's feet, winds the river See. Away towards the north-west the road to Granville can be seen passing over the hills in a perfectly straight line. But this part of the country may be left for another chapter.