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A Hilltop on the Marne by Mildred Aldrich

The procession at Voisins was a primitive affair


In the evening there was a procession at Voisins, and from Meaux and the other towns on the hill there was an occasional rocket. It was not really an exciting day.

The procession at Voisins was a primitive affair, but, to me, all the prettier for that. It looked so quaint with its queer lanterns, its few flags, its children and men in blouses, strolling through the crooked, hilly streets of the old town, to the tap of the drum. No French procession, except it be soldiers, ever marches. If you ever saw a funeral procession going through the street, or one going about a church, you do not need to be told that.

I was glad that this little procession here kept so much of its old-time character, but I was sorry it was not gayer. Still, it was so picturesque that it made me regret anew, what I have so many times regretted of late years, that so many of the old habits of country life in France are passing away, as they are, for that matter, all over Europe, along with ignorance and national costumes.

I must tell you that up to three years ago it was the custom in this commune, which, simply because it is not on a railroad, has preserved its old-days air and habits, for wedding and baptismal parties to walk in procession through the streets from the house to the church and back again. Pere Abelard used to head the procession, playing on his violin. There has been but one event of that kind since I came, and I am afraid it will be the last. That was for the baptism of the first grandchild of a French officer who had married a woman born in this commune, and the older members of the family had a desire to keep up the old traditions. The church is at Quincy, just a step off the route nationale to Meaux. Pere walked ahead,--he could not be accused of marching,--fiddling away for dear life. The pretty young godmother carried the baby, in its wonderful christening finery, walking between the grandmother and the father, and the guests, all in their gayest clothes, followed on as they liked behind, all stepping out a little on account of the fiddle ahead. They came back from the church in the same way, only father carried the baby, and the godmother scattered her largesse among the village children.

It is a pity that such pretty customs die out. Wedding parties must have looked so attractive going along these country roads. The fashion that has replaced it is unattractive. To-day they think it much more chic to hire a big barge and drive down to Esbly and have a rousing breakfast and dance in the big hall which every country hotel has for such festivities. Such changes are in the spirit of the times, so I suppose one must not complain. I should not if people were any happier, but I cannot see that they are. However, I suppose that will come when the Republic is older. The responsibility which that has put on the people has made them more serious than they used to be.

I don't blame you for laughing at the idea of me in a donkey cart. You would laugh harder if you could see the cart and me. I do look droll. But this is the land where nothing astonishes any one, thank Heaven. But you wait until I get my complet de velours--which is to say my velveteens. I shall match up with the rig then, never fear. Rome was not built in a day, nor can a lady from the city turn into a country-looking lady in the wink of an eye. By the time you have sufficiently overcome your prejudices as to come out and see me with your own eyes, I'll fit into the landscape and the cart in great style.


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