Naturally the most interesting room in the castle is that in which, on the 13th of December, 1553, the future Henry IV first saw the light. Suspended here, like the scale of a balance, before a piece of fine old tapestry, is a large tortoise-shell in which the royal infant is said to have been rocked. It is true, in 1792, a revolutionary mob attempted to destroy it, but it is now considered certain that the real cradle was shrewdly preserved through the substitution of a false one in its place, which was indeed broken and burned with every insult. Tradition asserts that when the child was born, his courageous mother, Jeanne d'Albret, sang an old Bearnese song, thus winning a wager from her father, the King of Navarre; and that the aged sovereign was so delighted at the advent of a boy, that he carried the infant in his arms, rubbed its lips with garlic, and even moistened its mouth with a few drops of the best Pyrenean wine. At all events, the child grew up to be a lusty lad, for his grandfather, reproaching his daughter and son-in-law with having lost several children through French luxury, retained him in these mountains, and let him run bareheaded and barefooted with the children of the peasantry. As a result, Henry arrived at manhood, manly and democratic in spirit and with a constitution of iron. At the age of sixteen he led in battle his first cavalry charge, and at nineteen became King of Navarre.
Owing perhaps to this early training Henry, to the end of his life, never lost his sense of comradeship with the common people. "I want my poorest subject," he said, "to have a fowl for his pot on Sundays." Accordingly his people used to say of him: "He wears a heart as well as a crown."
The Castle At Pau.
It is said that on the day that Henry was assassinated in Paris by Ravaillac, a fearful tempest broke over this peaceful valley, and that the lightning struck the castle twice and shivered into atoms the King's initials carved upon the gate.
Henry IV naturally cast into obscurity the other memories of this chateau. Yet two hundred years before his time a famous character of the Middle Ages made this place his home, Gaston Phoebus, sovereign of Beam and the adjoining county of Foix. Such was his fondness for the chase that he. is said to have kept no less than 1,600 hounds, and Froissart, in his Chronicles, says of him: "Although I have seen very many knights, kings, princes, and others, I have never seen any so handsome, either in the form of his limbs, or in countenance, which was fair and ruddy, with gray, amorous eyes, that gave delight whenever he chose to express affection." At the same time he states that though Gaston "reigned prudently and was constant in his devotions," he never spared those who offended him, but ordered them to be thrown over the walls or immured in dungeons. He is even said to have killed his own son in a fit of rage and to have tortured fifteen persons whom he suspected of being his son's accomplices. Strange as it seems to us, no doubt this singular combination of manly grace, ability, and devotion with cruelty, lust, and ferocity presents a truthful picture of that age. It was in this castle also that the Arab chieftain, Abd-el-Ka-der, was imprisoned for five years. He had defended Algeria against the French with wonderful ability, but was compelled in 1847 to yield to the overwhelming forces of the enemy, and was conveyed to France as a prisoner of war. Here he remained till 1852, when he was released by Louis Napoleon. Five of his children died here in exile, and Arabic inscriptions mark their graves.
It was with the most pleasurable anticipations that we started out from Pau one beautiful June morning for the mountains. Certain we were, from even a distant view, that we should thoroughly enjoy them. Moreover, they had the charm of being almost a terra incognita.
The Pyrenees are slighted by most European tourists. Americans especially, who throng to far more inaccessible parts of the Old World, seldom include these noble mountains in their tour. The reason must either be that they are not fashionable or that their beauties are unknown. It cannot be for lack of scenery that the traveler does not go there; for many of the Pyrenean peaks are worthy rivals of the Alps, and Pyrenean valleys, as a rule, on account of their richer southern vegetation, are lovelier than those of Switzerland. Nor is it that the slightest hardship or discomfort is involved in thoroughly exploring them. There are no better roadways in the world than those which France has made along this barrier wall of France and Spain; and many Pyrenean hotels, in furnishings, cuisine, and comfort, are worthy of comparison with the best in Paris, from which indeed they are but fourteen hours distant. The fact remains, however, that Switzerland is still the playground of the world, while southern France receives comparatively few American and German, and an inconsiderable number of English tourists. Even the travelers who go from France to Spain are usually satisfied with a distant view of the Franco-Spanish mountains, as they pass around them along the seacoast. Undoubtedly if the traveler were obliged to choose inexorably between the country dominated by Mont Blanc and that surmounted by the Maladetta, he would better see the former; but after one or two visits to the land of William Tell, rather than to continue going thither, why should he not for a novelty enjoy an exploration of the Pyrenees? From Pau the railway runs almost parallel to the mountain chain, and at right angles to the numerous valleys which descend northward from it into France. To understand the peculiar conformation of this region, one should compare the mountain range itself to the backbone of some huge skeleton, the ribs of which would correspond to the long parallel ridges projecting from it, while the intercostal spaces would be represented by the valleys thus divided from each other. Into these narrow valleys, each of which has its rushing mountain stream, as well as scenic features distinctively its own, the Pyr-enean tourist may ride in a com fortable carriage and over roads as perfectly macadamized and graded as the best in Switzerland. We found the air, however, so invigorating that we could not remain in the vehicle long at a time, but took delight in walking on, far in advance of the horses, and climbing here and there the wooded cliffs to see some waterfall whose music wooed us from the beaten path or to obtain some view denied us in the deep ravine. The first of these valleys which we explored contains, at a distance of about three miles from the entrance, the bathing establishment of Eaux Chaudes.