Page:A book of the Pyrenees.djvu/44

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28
THE PYRENEES

d'Albret, whose lands adjoined Béarn, and who was himself then but a child. During the infancy of Catherine and Jean d'Albret Magdalen acted as regent. The Count of Grammont and others formed a plot to poison her in favour of Jean de Foix, Catherine's uncle. It was discovered, and the minor conspirators were executed at Pau; the instigators, being grandees, escaped scot-free.

Catherine, on growing to woman's estate, left no stone unturned in her attempt to obtain the kingdom of Navarre, but feebly supported by her amiable husband. "Would that I had been born John and you Catherine!" exclaimed the impetuous princess; "and then we would have secured Navarre." In the end Catherine died of disappointment at the failure of all her schemes, and in dying turned her eyes in the direction of Navarre.

The rest of the story of the viscounts of Béarn, counts of Foix, and titular kings of Navarre, shall be told when we come to Pau.

By some fatality, surely unjustly, the Gascons are credited throughout France with being braggarts, cowards, the makers of bad bulls and as bad Jokes. This is what a writer says of them in Le Passe-temps Agréable, Rotterdam, 1737:—

"If in France you would speak of a braggart and swashbuckler, whose magnanimity and courage are discoverable in his speech, and in his speech alone; who speaks of war, without having been in it; say but, He is a Gascon, and this explains everything. Those friends at the table who are faithful so long as it is spread with good cheer, but who vanish when the platter and the beaker are empty — say that they are Gascons, and that explains all. Should you encounter a fellow who boasts of his gallantries and the favours he has received from fair ladies, intimate that he is a Gascon, and all will know the worth of his statements. The word Gascon suffices to compre-