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Modern "Cadets De Gascogne"
by [?]

After witnessing the performance given by the Comédie Fran�aise in the antique theatre at Orange, we determined-my companion and I-if ever another opportunity of the kind offered, to attend, be the material difficulties what they might.

The theatrical “stars” in their courses proved favorable to the accomplishment of this vow. Before the year ended it was whispered to us that the “Cadets de Gascogne” were planning a tram through the Cevennes Mountains and their native Languedoc-a sort of lay pilgrimage to famous historic and literary shrines, a voyage to be enlivened by much crowning of busts and reciting of verses in the open air, and incidentally, by the eating of Gascony dishes and the degustation of delicate local wines; the whole to culminate with a representation in the arena at Béziers of Déjanire, Louis Gallet’s and Saint-Saëns’s latest work, under the personal supervision of those two masters.

A tempting programme, was it not, in these days of cockney tours and “Cook” couriers? At any rate, one that we, with plenty of time on our hands and a weakness for out-of-the-way corners and untrodden paths, found it impossible to resist.

Rostand, in Cyrano de Bergerac, has shown us the “Cadets” of Molière’s time, a fighting, rhyming, devil-may-care band, who wore their hearts on their sleeves and chips on their stalwart shoulders; much such a brotherhood, in short, as we love to imagine that Shakespeare, Kit Marlowe, Greene, and their intimates formed when they met at the “Ship” to celebrate a success or drink a health to the drama.

The men who compose the present society (which has now for many years borne a name only recently made famous by M. Rostand’s genius) come delightfully near realizing the happy conditions of other days, and-less the fighting-form as joyous and picturesque a company as their historic elders. They are for the most part Southern-born youths, whose interests and ambitions centre around the stage, devotees at the altar of Melpomene, ardent lovers of letters and kindred arts, and proud of the debt that literary France owes to Gascony.

It is the pleasant custom of this coterie to meet on winter evenings in unfrequented cafés, transformed by them for the time into clubs, where they recite new-made verses, discuss books and plays, enunciate paradoxes that make the very waiters shudder, and, between their “bocks,” plan vast revolutions in the world of literature.

As the pursuit of “letters” is, if anything, less lucrative in France than in other countries, the question of next day’s dinner is also much discussed among these budding Molières, who are often forced to learn early in their careers, when meals have been meagre, to satisfy themselves with rich rhymes and drink their fill of flowing verse.

From time to time older and more successful members of the corporation stray back into the circle, laying aside their laurel crowns and Olympian pose, in the society of the new-comers to Bohemia. These honorary members enjoy nothing more when occasion offers than to escape from the toils of greatness and join the “Cadets” in their summer journeys to and fro in France, trips which are made to combine the pleasures of an outing with the aims of a literary campaign. It was an invitation to join one of these tramps that tempted my friend and me away from Paris at the season when that city is at its best. Being unable, on account of other engagements, to start with the cohort from the capital, we made a dash for it and caught them up at Carcassonne during the fêtes that the little Languedoc city was offering to its guests.

After having seen Aigues Mortes, it was difficult to believe that any other place in Europe could suggest more vividly the days of military feudalism. St. Louis’s tiny city is, however, surpassed by Carcassonne!

Thanks to twenty years of studious restoration by Viollet le Duc, this antique jewel shines in its setting of slope and plain as perfect to-day (seen from the distance) as when the Crusaders started from its crenelated gates for the conquest of the Holy Sepulchre. The acropolis of Carcassonne is crowned with Gothic battlements, the golden polygon of whose walls, rising from Roman foundations and layers of ruddy Visigoth brick to the stately marvel of its fifty towers, forms a whole that few can view unmoved.