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Calve At Cabrieres
by [?]

While I was making a “cure” last year at Lamalou, an obscure Spa in the Cevennes Mountains, Madame Calvé, to whom I had expressed a desire to see her picturesque home, telegraphed an invitation to pass the day with her, naming the train she could meet, which would allow for the long drive to her ch�teau before luncheon. It is needless to say the invitation was accepted. As my train drew up at the little station, Madame Calvé, in her trap, was the first person I saw, and no time was lost in getting en route.

During the hour passed on the poplar-bordered road that leads straight and white across the country I had time to appreciate the transformation in the woman at my side. Was this gray-clad, nunlike figure the passionate, sensuous Carmen of Bizet’s masterpiece? Could that calm, pale face, crossed by innumerable lines of suffering, as a spider’s web lies on a flower, blaze and pant with Sappho’s guilty love?

Something of these thoughts must have appeared on my face, for turning with a smile, she asked, “You find me changed? It’s the air of my village. Here I’m myself. Everywhere else I’m different. On the stage I am any part I may be playing, but am never really happy away from my hill there.” As she spoke, a sun-baked hamlet came in sight, huddled around the base of two tall towers that rose cool and gray in the noonday heat.

“All that wing,” she added, “is arranged for the convalescent girls whom I have sent down to me from the Paris hospitals for a cure of fresh air and simple food. Six years ago, just after I had bought this place, a series of operations became necessary which left me prostrated and anæmic. No tonics were of benefit. I grew weaker day by day, until the doctors began to despair of my life. Finally, at the advice of an old woman here who passes for being something of a curer, I tried the experiment or lying five or six hours a day motionless in the sunlight. It wasn’t long before I felt life creeping back to my poor feeble body. The hot sun of our magic south was a more subtle tonic than any drug. When the cure was complete, I made up my mind that each summer the same chance should be offered to as many of my suffering sisters as this old place could be made to accommodate.”

The bells on the shaggy Tarbes ponies she was driving along the Languedoc road drew, on nearing her residence, a number of peasant children from their play.

As the ruddy urchins ran shouting around our carriage wheels and scrambled in the dust for the sous we threw them, my hostess pointed laughing to a scrubby little girl with tomato-colored cheeks and tousled dark hair, remarking, “I looked like that twenty years ago and performed just those antics on this very road. No punishment would keep me off the highway. Those pennies, if I’m not mistaken, will all be spent at the village pastry cook’s within an hour.”

This was said with such a tender glance at the children that one realized the great artist was at home here, surrounded by the people she loved and understood. True to the “homing” instinct of the French peasant, Madame Calvé, when fortune came to her, bought and partially restored the rambling ch�teau which at sunset casts its shadow across the village of her birth. Since that day every moment of freedom from professional labor and every penny of her large income are spent at Cabrières, building, planning, even farming, when her health permits.

“I think,” she continued, as we approached the ch�teau, “that the happiest day of my life-and I have, as you know, passed some hours worth living, both on and off the stage-was when, that wing completed, a Paris train brought the first occupants for my twenty little bedrooms; no words can tell the delight it gives me now to see the color coming back to my patients’ pale lips and hear them laughing and singing about the place. As I am always short of funds, the idea of abandoning this work is the only fear the future holds for me.”