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CLARET AND OLIVES, 



FROM 

THE GAEONNE TO THE EHONE; 

OR, 

NOTES, SOCIAL, PICTURESQUE, AND LEGENDARY, 
BY THE WAY. 

By ANGUS b/^ACH, 

AUTHOR or " THE STOKT OP A BtJCCAUEEK," ETC. 



y Jfi'O 




lA 






.« 



/ 



LONDON : DAVID BOGUE, FLEET STREET. 



LONDON : 

HENHY VIZETELLT, PRINTER AND ENGRAVER, 

QOUGH SQUARE, FLEET STREKT. 



TO 



CHARLES MACKAY, Esq., LL.D., 



MY EARLIEST AND KINDEST LITERARY FRIEND, 



%^M f KgBS 



ARE AFFECTIONATELY INSCRIBED. 



CONTENTS. 



CHAPTER I. 

FAQE 

The Diligence — French Country Places — The English in 
Guienne — Bordeaux — Old Bordeaux — A Bordeaux 
Landlord — A Suburban Vintaging — The Vintage 
Dinner 1-20 

CHAPTER II. 

Claret v. Port— The Claret SoH— The Claret Vine— Popu- 
lar Appetite for Grapes — Variable qualities of the 
Claret Soil — French Veterans — The " Authorities" in 
France 21-38 

CHAPTER III. 

The Claret Vintage— The Treading of the Grape— The Last 
Drops of the Grape — "Wanderings amongst the Vine- 
yards — Wandering Vintagers — The Vintage Dinner — 
The Vintagers' Bedroom — The Claret Chateaux— The 
Chateau Margaux 39-57 

CHAPTER IV. 

The Landes — The Bordeaux and Teste Railway — M. Tetard 
and his Imitator — Start for the Landes — The Lan- 
guage of the Landes — A Railway Station in the Landes 
— The Scenery of the Landes — The Stilt- walkers of the 
Landes — A Glimpse of Green 58-76 



VI CONTENTS 



CHAPTER V. 



The Clear "Water of Arcachon — Legend of the Baron of 
Chatel-morant — The Resin Harvest — The "Witches of 
the Landes— The Surf of the Bay of Biscay — French 
Priests — Do the Landes Cows give Milk ? — The Amour 
Fatria of the Landes 77-101 

CHAPTER VI. 

Dawn on the Garonne — The Landscape of the Garonne — 
The Freaks of the Old "Wars in Guienne — Agen — Jas- 
min, the Last of the Trouhadours — Southern Cookery 
and Garlic — The Black Prince in a New Light — Cross- 
country Travelling in France 102-126 

CHAPTER VII. 

Pau — The English in Pau — English and Russians — The 
View of the Pyrenees — The Castle — The Statue of 
Henri Quatre — His Birth — A Vision of his Life — 
RocheUe — St. Bartholomew — Ivry— Henri and Sully 
— Henri and Gabrielle — Henri and Henriette d'Entra- 
gues— Ravaillac 127-136 

CHAPTER VIII. 

The Val d'Ossau — The Vin de Jurancon — Pyrenean Cot- 
tages — The Bernais Peasants — The Devil learning 
Basque — The "Wolves of the Pyrenees — The Bears of 
the Pyrenees — The Dogs of the Pyrenees — An Au- 
berge in the Pyrenees — Omens and Superstitions in 
the Pyrenees — The Songs of the Pyrenees . . . 137-155 



CONTENTS. 711 



CHAPTER IX. 



Wet "Weather in the Pyrenees — Eanx Chaudes out of 
Season, and in the Eain — Plucking the Indian Com 
at the Auberge at Laruns — The Legend of the "Wehr- 
wolf, and the Baron who was changed into a Bear . 156-166 

CHAPTER X. 

The Solitary Big Hotel — The Knitters of the Pyrenees — 
The "Weavers of the Pyrenees — Pigeon-catching in 
the Pyrenees — The Giant of the Pyrenean Dogs — 
Murray and Commts Voyageurs — The Eastern Pyrenees 
—The Legend of Orthon 167-186 

CHAPTER XL 

Languedoc — The "Austere South" — Beziers and the Albi- 
genses — The Fountain of the Greve — The Bishop and 
his Flock— The Canal du Midi— The Mistral— Rural 
Billiard-playing 187-199 

CHAPTER XIL 

Travelling by the Canal du Midi — Travelling French 
People — The Salt Harvest — Equestrian Thrashing 
Machines — Cette — The Mediterranean — The " Made " 
"Wines — The Priest on "Wines — La Cuisine Fran^aise . 200-218 

CHAPTER XIIL 

The Olive-gathering — A Night with the Mosquitoes — 
Aigues-Mortes — The Fever in Aigues-Mortes — My 
Cicerone in Aigues-Mortes — The Pickled Burgundians 
— Reboul's Poetry — The Lighthouse of Aigues-Mortes 219-235 



vm CONTENTS. 



CHAPTER XIV. 



Fen Landscape — Tavern Allegories — Roman Remains — 
Roman Architecture — Roman Theatricals — The Maison 
Carres — Greek Architecture — Catholic and Protestant 
—The Weaver's Caian^— Protestant and Catholic . 236-255 



CHAPTER THE LAST. 

Backward French Agriculture — French Rural Society — 
The Small Property System — French '' Encumbered 
Estates" ' . . . 256-264 




CLARET AND OLIVES. 

CHAPTER I. 

The Diligence— Old Guienne and 
THE English in France — Bordeaux 
AND A Suburban Vintaging. 

" Votla la voila ! La ville de Bordeaux / " 

The conductor's voice roused me from the dreamy 
state of dose in which I lay, luxuriously stretched 
back amid cloaks and old English railway-wrappers, 
in the roomy banquette of one of the biggest dili- 
gences which ever rumbled out of Caillard and Lafitte's 
yard. 

'•' Voila ! la Voila ! " The bloused peasant who 
drove the six stout nags therewith stirred in his place; 
his long whip whistled and cracked ; the horses flung 
up their heads as they broke into a canter, and their 
bells rang like a joy peal ; while Niniche, the con- 



a CLARET AND OLIVES. 

ductor's white poodle, which maintained a perilous 
footing in the leathern hood of the banquette, pat- 
tered and scratched above our heads, and barked in 
recognition of his master's voice. 

I rubbed my eyes and looked. We were on the 
ridge of a wooded hill. Below us lay a flat green 
plain, carpetted with vines. Right across it ran the 
broad, white, chalky highway, powdering with dust 
the double avenue of chesnuts which lined it. Beyond 
the plain glittered a great river, crowded with shipping, 
and beyond the river rose stretching, apparently for 
miles, a magnificent fa9ade of high white buildings, 
broken here and there by the foliage of public gardens, 
and the dark embouchures of streets ; while, behind 
the range of quays, and golden in the sunrise, rose 
high into the clear morning air, a goodly array of 
towering Gothic steeples, fretted and pinnacled 
up to the glancing weather- cocks. It was, indeed, 
Bordeaux. 

The Jong journey from Paris was all but over, yet 
though I had been tired enough of the way, I felt 
as if I could brave it again, rather than make the 
exertion of encountering octroi officers, and plunging 
into strange hotels. For after all, comfortable Dili- 
gence travelling makes a man lazy. It is slow, but 
you get accustomed to the slowness ; in the banquette, 
too, you are never cramped ; there is luxurious 
roominess behind, and you jolunge your legs in straw 
up to the knees. Then leaning supinely back, you 
indulge a serene passiveness, rolling lazily on with 
the rumbling mountain of a vehicle. The thunder 
of the heavy wheels, and the low monotonous clash. 



THE DILIGENCE. 3 

clash, clash, of the hundred grelots, form a soothing 
atmosphere of sound about you, and musingly, and 
dreamingly you watch the action of the team — these 
half dozen little but stout tough work-a-day horses, 
trotting manfully in their rough harness, while the 
driver — oh, how different from our old coaching dan- 
dies ! — a clumsy peasant, in sabots, and a stable- 
smelling blouse, sits slouched, and round-shouldered 
like a sack before you, incessantly flourishing that 
whistling whip, and shouting in the uncouth jargon of 
his province, to the jingling team below. And next 
you watch the country or the road. A French road, 
like a mathematical line, on, and on, and on, straight, 
straight, mournfully, dismally, straight, running like 
a tape laid across the bleak bare country, till it fades, 
and fades, and seems to tip over the horizon ; or if 
you are in an undulating wooded district, you catch 
sections of it as it climbs each successive ridge ; and 
you know that in the valleys it is just the same as on 
the hill tops. You see your dinner before you, as 
Englishmen say over roast mutton. You see your 
journey before you, as Frenchmen may say, over the 
slow trotting team. And how drear and deserted the 
country looks — open, desolate, and bare. Here and 
there a distant mite of a peasant or two bending 
over the sun-burnt clods. No cottages, but ever and 
anon a congregation of barns — the bourgs in which 
the small land-owners collect ; now a witch of an old 
woman herding a cow; anon a solitary shepherd all 
in rags, knitting coarse stockings, and followed by a 
handful of sheep, long in the legs, low in the flesh, 
with thin dirty fleeces as ragged as their guardian's 

b2 



4 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

coat. Upon the road travellers are scanty. The 
bronzed Cantonier stares as you pass, his brass-let- 
tered hat glittering, in the glare. There go a couple 
of soldiers on furlough, tramping the dreary way to 
their native village, footsore, weary and slow^ their 
hairy knapsacks galling their shoulders, and their 
tin canteens evidently empty. Another diligence, 
white with dust, meeting us. The conductors shout 
to each other, and the passengers crane their heads 
out of window. Then we overtake a whole caravan 
of roulage, or carriers, the well-loaded carts poised 
upon one pair of huge wheels, the horses, with their 
clumsy harness and high peaked collars, making a 
scant two miles an hour. Not an equipage of any 
pretension to be seen. No graceful phaeton, no 
slangy dog- cart, no cosey family carriage — only now 
and then a crawling local diligence, or M. le Cure 
on a shocking bad horse, or an indescribably dilapi- 
dated anomalous jingling appearance of a vague 
shandrydan. And so on from dawn till sunset, 
through narrow streeted towns, with lanterns swinging 
above our heads, and open squares with scrubby 
lime trees, and white- washed cafes all around ; and by 
a shabby municipality with gilded heads to the front 
railings, a dilapidated tricolor, and a short-legged, 
red-legged sentinel, not so tall as his firelock, keeping 
watch over it ; and then, out into the open, fenceless, 
hedgeless country, and on upon the straight unflinching 
road, and through the long, long tunnels of eternal 
poplar trees, and by the cantonnier, and the melan- 
choly hourgs, and the wandering soldiers, and the 
dusty carriers' carts as before. 



FRENCH COUNTRY PLACES. 5 

One thing strikes you forcibly in these little 
country towns — the marvellously small degree of dis- 
tinction of rank amid the j^eople. No neighbouring 
magnate rattles through the lonely streets in the well- 
known carriage of the Hall or the Grange, graciously 
receiving the ready homage of the townspeople. No 
retired man of business, or bustling land-agent, trots 
his smart gig and cob — no half-pay officer goes gos- 
sipping from house to house, or from shop to shop. 
There is no banker's lady to lead the local fashions — 
no doctor, setting off upon his well-worked nag for 
long country rounds — no assemblage, if it be market 
day, of stout full-fed farmers, lounging, booted and 
spurred, round the Ked Lion or the Plough. Work- 
ing men in blouses, women of the same rank in the 
peasant head-dress of the country, and here and there 
a nondescript personage in a cap and shooting jacket, 
who generally turns up at the scantily-attended table 
d'hote at dinner time — such are the items which make 
up the mass of the visible population. You hardly 
see an individual who does not appear to have been 
born and bred upon the spot, and to have no ideas 
and no desires beyond it. Left entirely to themselves, 
the people have vegetated in these dull streets from 
generation to generation, and, though clustered to- 
gether in a quasi town — perhaps with octroi and 
mairie, a w^ithered tree of liberty, and billiaud tables 
by the half-dozen — the population is as essentially 
rural as though scattered in lone farms, unvisited, ex- 
cept on rent-day, by either landlord or agent. It 
often happens that a large landed proprietor has not 
even a house upon his ground. He lets the land, 



6 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

receives his rent, and spends it in Paris or one of the 
large towns, leaving his tenants to go on cultivating 
the ground in the jog-trot style of their fathers and 
their grandfathers before them. The French, in fact, 
have no notion of what we understand by the life of 
a country gentleman. A proprietor may pay a sporting 
visit to his land when partridge and quail are to be 
shot ; but as to taking up his abode au fond de ses 
^erres, mingling in what we would call county business, 
looking after the proceedings of his tenants, becoming 
learned, in an amateur way, in things bucolic, in all 
the varieties of stock and all the qualities of scientific 
manures — a life, a character, and a social position of 
.this sort, would be in vain sought for in the rural 
districts of France. There are not, in fact, two more 
differing meanings in the world than those attached 
to our " Country Life," and the French Vie de 
Chateau. The French proprietor is a Parisian out 
of Paris. He takes the rents, shoots the quails, and 
the clowns do the rest. 

An Englishman ought to feel at home in the 
south-west of France. That fair town, rising beyond 
the yellow Garonne, was for three hundred years and 
more an English capital. Who built these gloriously 
fretted Gothic towers, rising high into the air, and 
sentinelled by so many minor steeples ? Why En- 
glishmen ! These towers rise above the Cathedral of 
St. Andrew, and in the Abbey of St. Andrew the Black 
Prince held high court, and there, after Poitiers, the 
captive King of France revelled with his conqueror, 
with the best face he might. There our Eichard the 
Second was born. There the doughty Earl of Derby, 



( 



THE ENGLISH IN GDIENNE. 7 

long the English seneschal of Bordeaux, with his 
retinue, "amused themselves," as gloriously gossipping 
old Froissart tells, "with the citizens and their wives;" 
and from thence Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, went 
forth, being eighty- six years of age, mounted upon a 
little palfrey, to encounter the Duke of Anjou, in those 
latter days when our continental dominions were 
shrinking, as we deserved that they should shrink, 
after the brutal murder of the glorious Maid of Dom- 
remy. It is true that we are at this moment in the 
department of the Dordogne, and that when we cross 
the river we shall be in that of the Gironde. But 
we Englishmen love the ancient provinces better than 
the modern departments, which we are generally as 
bad at recognising, as we are in finding out dates by 
Thermidors and Brumaires. No, no, departments 
may do for Frenchmen, but to an Englishman the 
rich land we are crossing will ever be Guienne, the 
'* Fair Dutchy," and part and parcel of old Aquitane, 
the dowry of Eleanor, when she wedded our second 
Henry. 

Is it not strange to think of those old times, in 
which the English were loved in the Bourdelois — fine 
old name — and the French were hated, in which the 
Gascon feudal chiefs around protested that they were 
the "natural born subjects of England, which was so 
kind to them?" Let us turn to Froissart : — The Duke 
of Anjou having captured four Gascon knights, forced 
them, nolens volens, to take the oath of allegiance to 
the King of France, and then turned them about their 
business. The knights went straight to Bordeaux, 
and presented themselves before the seneschal of the 



8 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

Landes, and the raayor of the city, saying, "Gentlemen, 
we will truly tell you that before we took the oath, 
we reserved in our hearts our faith to our natural lord, 
the king of England, and for anything we have 
said or done, we never will become Frenchmen." 
Our gallant forefathers appear on the whole, to have 
led a joyous life in Guienne. In truth, their days 
and nights were devoted very much to feasting them- 
selves, and plundering their neighbours: two pursuits 
into which their Gascon friends entered with heart 
and soul. It is quite delightful to read in Froissart, 
or Enguerrand de Monstrelet, how " twelve knights 
went forth in search of adventures," an announcement 
which may be fairly translated, into how a dozen of 
gentlemen with indistinct notions of meum and tuum, 
went foi-th to lay their chivalrous hands upon anything 
they could come across. Of course these trips were 
made into the French territory, and really they appear 
to have been conducted with no small degree of 
politeness on either side, when the English " harried" 
Limousin, or the French rode a foray into Guienne. 
The chivalrous feeling was strong on both sides, and 
we often read how such-and-such a French and En- 
glish knight or squire did courteous battle with each 
other; the fight being held in honour of the fair 
ladies of the respective champions. Thus, not in 
Guienne, but in Touraine, when the English and the 
Gascons beleaguered a French town, heralds came 
forth upon the walls and made this proclamation : — 
''Is there any among you gentlemen, who for love of 
his lady is willing to try some feat of arms ? If there 
be any such, here is Gauvin Micaille, a squire of 



THE ENGLISH IN GUIENNE. 9 

the Beauce, quite ready to sally forth, completely 
armed and mounted, to tilt three courses with the 
lance, give three blows with the battle-axe, and three 
strokes with the dagger. Now look you, English, if 
there be none among you in love." The challenge 
was duly accepted. Each combatant wounded the 
other, and the Earl of Shrewsbury sent to the squire 
of Beauce his compliments, and a hundred francs. 
This last present takes somewhat away from the 
Amadis de Gaul, and Palmerin of England vein ; but 
the student of the old chroniclers, particularly of 
the English in France, will be astonished to find how 
long the chivalric feeling and ceremonials co-existed 
with constant habits of jDlundering and unprovoked 
forays. 

Another curious trait of our forefathers in Guienne 
is the early development of the English hrusqueriey 
and haughtiness of manner to the Continentals. The 
Gascons put up, however, with many a slight, inas- 
much as their over sea friends were such valiant 
plunderers, and they, of course, shared the spoils. 
Listen to the frank declaration of a Gascon gentle- 
man who had deserted from the English to the 
French side. Some one asking him how he did, he 
answers : " Thank God, my health is very good ; but 
I had more money at command when I made war for 
the king of England, for then we seldom failed to 
meet some rich merchants of Toulouse, Condom, 
La Keole, or Bergerac, whom we squeezed, which 
made us gay and dehonnair ; but that is at an end." 
The questioner replies : " Of a truth, that is the life 
Gascons love. They willingly hurt their neighbour." 



]0 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

Not even all the plunder they got, however, could 
silence the grumblings of the native knights at the 
haughty reserve of the English warriors. "I," says 
the canon of Chimay, '' was at Bordeaux when the 
Prince of Wales marched to Spain, and witnessed the 
great haughtiness of the English, who are ajffable to 
no other nation than their own. Neither could any 
of the gentlemen of Gascogny or Acquitaine obtain 
office or appointment in their own country, for the 
English said they were neither on a level with them, 
nor worthy of their society." So early and so strongly 
did the proud island blood boil up ; while many an 
Englishman, to this good day, by his reserved and 
saturnine bearing among an outspoken and merry- 
hearted people, perpetuates the old reproach, and 
keeps up the old grievance. 

All sensible readers will be gratified when I state 
that I have not the remotest intention of describing 
the archaeology of Bordeaux, or any other town what- 
ever. Whoever wants to know the height of a steeple, 
the length of an aisle, or the number of arches in a 
bridge, must betake themselves to Murray and his 
compeers. I will neither be picturesquely profound 
upon ogives, triforia, clerestorys, screens, or mould- 
ings ; nor magniloquently great upon the arched, the 
early pointed, the florid, or the flamboyant schools. 
1 will go into raptures neither about Virgins nor Holy 
Families, nor Oriel windows, in the fine old cut- 
and-dry school of the traveller of taste, which means, 
of course, every traveller who ever packed a shirt into 
a carpet bag; but, leaving the mere archaeology and 
carved stones alone in their glory, I will try to sketch 



BORDEAUX. 11 

living, and now and then historical, France — to move 
gossippingly along in the by-ways rather than the 
highways — always more prone to give a good legend 
of a grey old castle, than a correct measurement of 
the height of the towers; and always seeking to bring 
up, as well as I can, a varying, shifting picture, well 
thronged with humanity, before the reader's eye. 

When I got to Bordeaux, the vintage time had 
just commenced, and having ever had a special notion 
that vintages were very beautiful and poetic affairs, 
and a still more confirmed taste and reverence for 
claret, it was my object to see as much of the vintage 
as I could — to see the juice rush from the grape, 
which makes so good a figure in the bottle. Letters 
of introduction I had none. But there is a knack of 
making one's own way — of making one's own friends 
as you go — in which I have tolerable confidence, and 
which did not fail me in the present conjuncture. 
First, to settle and make up my notions, I strolled 
vaguely about the city, buying local maps and little 
local guide-books. Bordeaux is emphatically what 
the French call a riant town, with plenty of air, and 
such pure, soft, bright, sunny air. In the centre of a 
broad grand Place, — dotted with very respectable trees 
for French specimens, emblazoned with gay parterres, 
sprinkled with orange shrubs in bloom, and holed 
with no end of round stone basins, in which dolphins 
and Neptunes spout from their bronze mouths the 
live-long day, and urns, and pillars, and Dianas, and 
Apollos stand all around — there rises upon his massive 
pedestal the graven image of a fat comfortable gen- 
tleman in the ample cloak and doublet of Louis 



12 



CLARET AND OLIVES. 



Quatorze, knots of carven ribbons decorating his 
shoulders, and flowing locks descending from under 
his broad-brimmed, looped- up hat. This is the statue 
of a M. de Tournay, an ancient intendant of the pro- 
vince, who was almost the creator of modern Bordeaux. 
Under his auspices the whole tribe of dolphins and 
heathen gods and goddesses were invoked to decorate 
the city. He reared great sweeps of pillared and 
porticoed buildings, and laid out broad streets and 
squares, on that enormous scale so characteristic of 




BOEDEAUX. 



the grand monarque. He made Bordeaux, indeed, 
at once vast, prim, and massively magnificent. The 
mercantile town got quite a courtly air; and when 
the tricolor no longer floated in St. Domingo, and the 
commerce of the Gironde declined, so that not much 
was left over and above the wine trade, which, as all 
the world knows, is the genteelest of all the traffics. 



OLD BORDEAUX. 13 

Bordeaux became what it is — a sort of retired city, 
having declined business — quiet, and clean, and prim, 
and aristocratic. Such, at least, is the new town. 
With old Bordeaux, M. de Tournay meddled not; 
and when you plunge into its streets you leap at once 
froq^ eighteenth century terraces into fourteenth cen- 
tury lanes and tortuous by-ways. Below you, rough, 
ill-paved, unclean, narrow thoroughfares ; above, the 
hanging old houses of five ages ago, peaked gables, 
and long projecting eaves, and hanging balconies; 
quaint carvings in blackened wood and mouldering 
stone; — the true middle-age tenements, dreadfully 
ricketty, but gloriously picturesque — charming to 
look at, but woful to live in • deep black ravines 
of courts plunging down into the masses of piled 
up, jammed together dwellings; squalid, slatternly 
people buzzing about like bees; bad smells permea- 
ting every street, lane, and alley; and now and 
then the agglomeration of darksome dwellings clus- 
tering round a great old church, with its vast Gothic 
portals, and, high up, its carven pinnacles and grin- 
ning goutieres, catching the sunshine far above the 
highest of these high-peaked roofs. This is the 
Bordeaux of the English and the Gascons — the Bor- 
deaux which has rung to the clash of armour — the 
Bordeaux which was governed by a seneschal — the 
Bordeaux through whose streets defiled, 

" "With many a cross -bearer before, 
And many a spear behind," 

the christening procession of King Eichard the 
Second. 



14 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

We shall step into one church, and only one, that 
of the Feuillans. There, upon a dark and massive 
pedestal, lies stretched the effigy of an armed man. 
His hands are clasped, his vizor up shows his peaked 
beard, and he is clad cap-d-pied in steel. Who was 
the doughty warrior, thus resting in his mail ? 
Strange to say, no warrior at all; but the quietest 
and most peaceable of God's beings. He had an 
odd, pedantic father, who brought him up in strange 
Pagan wise. The boy was never addressed but in 
Latin. He never had a mother-tongue. He was 
surrounded with a blockade of Latin speakers to keep 
afar off the profanation of French ; he was mentally 
fed upon the philosophers and the poets of old Rome, 
and taught to weep for Seneca in the tub, as the 
nearest catastrophe which could touch his sympathies. 
Furthermore, his father, out of respect for his nerves, 
had him awakened every morning by the sound of 
soft music. Happily, even this sublimity of pedantry 
and pedagoguism was insufficient to ruin the native 
genius of Michael, Seigneur of Montaigne, whose 
" essays ought to lie in every cottage window." 

I have said that I was in search of some one to 
introduce me to the vineyards and the vintagers. In 
a day or two I had pitched upon my landlord as my 
protector. His hotel was a very modest one, where 
never before, I do believe, had Englishmen come to 
make everything dear and disagreeable. The red 
boards of the aristocratic Murray were unknown in 
his salle a manger. He had n't an ounce of tea in 
his house, and very probably, if he had, he would 
have fried it with butter, and served it a la something 



A BORDEAUX LANDLORD. 15 

or Other. When I say he, however, I oiean madame, 
not monsieur. The latter would have made a capital 
English innkeeper, but he was a very bad French 
one. My gentleman, who was more than six feet 
high, and a stately personage, was cut out for a 
" mine host." He would have presided in a bar — 
which means drinking a continued succession of 
glasses of ale — with uncommon effect, for his tem- 
perament was convivial and gossippy; but he had no 
vocation for the kitchen, which is the common sphere 
of a French innkeeper not of the first class, and 
where, under the proud denomination of the chef, 
and clad in white like a grimly ghost, he bustles 
among pipkins and stew-pans and skillets, and lifts 
little trap-doors in his smoky range, and peers down 
them at blue charcoal furnaces — over which the plats 
are simmering. Now my good landlord never troubled 
himself about these domestic matters; but he was 
very clever at standing on the outer steps of his door, 
smoking cigars; and, indeed, would stay very will- 
ingly there all day — at least, until he heard his wife's 
voice, upon which he would make a precipitate retreat 
to a neighbouring cafe, where he would drink eau 
sucree and rattle dominoes on a marble table till 
dinner-time. With this worthy I formed a personal 
acquaintance, by buying from him, at the reasonable 
rate of six sous a-piece, a number of quaint brass-set 
flat stones, very like red and grey cornelians, and just 
as pretty, which it was the fashion in the days of the 
Directory to mount in watch-keys, and wear two at a 
time, one dangling from each fob. These stones arc 
picked up in great quantities from the hght shingly 



16 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

soil, "whereon ripens the grape, which is pressed into 
claret wine ; and handsorne and lustrous in them- 
selves, they thus become a species of mementos of 
chateau Margaux and chateau Lafitte. To the landlord, 
then, I stated that I wished to see some vine-gathering. 

" Could anything be more lucky ? His particular 
friend M. So-and-so was beginning his harvesting 
that very day, and was going to give a dinner that 
very night on the occasion. I should go — he should 
go. A friend of his was M. So-and-so's friend ; in 
fact, we were all friends together." The truth I suspect 
to be, that my ally was dreadfully m want of an excuse 
to go to the dinner, and he welcomed my application 
as the Israelites did manna in the desert. It was meat 
and drink and amusement to him, and ofif w^e went. 

As I shall presently describe the real claret vintage 
upon a large scale, I shall pass the more quickly over 
my first initiation into the plucking of the grapes. 
But I passed a merry day, and eke a busy one. 
There are no idle spectators at a vintage — all the 
world must work; and so I speedily found myself, 
after being naost cordially welcomed by a fat old gen- 
tleman, hoarse with bawling, in a pair of very dirty 
shirt-sleeves and a pouring perspiration — with a huge 
pair of scissors in my hand cutting off the bunches, 
in the midst of an uproarious troop of young men, 
young women, and children — threading the avenues 
between the plants — stripping, with wonderful dex- 
terity, the clustered branches — their hands, indeed, 
gliding like dirty yellow serpents among the broad 
green leaves — and sometimes shouting out merry 
badinage, sometimes singing bits of strongly rhythmed 



A SUBURBAN VINTAGING. 17 

melody in chorus, and all the time, as far as the feat 
could be effected, eating the grapes by handfuls. 
The whole thing was very jolly; I never heard more 
laughing about nothing in particular, more open and 
unblushing love-making, and more resolute quizzing 
of the good man, whose grapes were going partly 
into the baskets, tubs, pots, and pans, carried every 
few moments by the children and old people out of 
the green alleys to the pressing-tub, and . partly into 
the capacious stomachs of the gatherers. At first I 
was dainty in my selection of the grapes to be chosen, 
eschewing the under-ripe and the over-ripe. A damsel 
beside me observed this. From her woolly hair and 
very dark but merry face, I imagined her to have a 
touch of Guadeloupe or Martinique blood. " Cut 
away," she said ; *' every grape makes wine." 

" Yes — ^but the caterpillars — " 

" They give it a body." 

*' Yes — but the snails — " 

" O, save the snails, please do, for me !" said a 
little girl, holding out her apron, full of painted shells. 

" What do you do with them ?" I inquired. 

" Boil them and eat them," said my juvenile 
friend. 

I looked askance. 

"You can't think how nice they are with vine- 
gar !" said the mulatto girl. 

I remembered our own appetite for periwinkles, 
and said nothing ; but added my mite of snail-flesh to 
the collection. 

I was talking to the lord of the vineyard, when 
some onC' — there was petticoats m the case — dashed 

c 



18 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

at him from behind, and instantly a couple of hands 
clasped his neck, and one of them squashed a huge 
bunch of grapes over his mouth and nose, rubbing in 
the burtrt and bleeding fruit as vigorously as if it were 
a healing ointment, while streams of juice squirted 
from between the fingers of the fair assailant, and 
streamed down the joatron's equivocal shirt. After 
being half burked, the good man shook his fist at the 
girl as she flew, laughing, down the alley ; and then 
resuming his talk with me, he said : " We call that, 
Faire des moustaches. We all do it at vintage time." 
And ten minutes thereafter I saw the jolly old boy go 
chasing an ancient crone of a pail-bearer, a bunch of 
very ripe grapes in his hand, amid the delighted 
hurrahs of all assembled. 

Dinner was late, for it behoves vintagers to make 
the best of the daylight. The ordinary hired labour- 
ers dined, indeed, soon after noon ; but I am talking 
of the feast of honour. It was served in a thinly- 
furnished, stone-paved, damp and dismal salle a 
manger. A few additional ladies with their beaux, 
grand provincial dandies, all of whom tried to outstrip 
each other in the magnificence of their waistcoats, had 
arrived from Bordeaux. It had been very hot, close 
weather for a day or two past, and everybody was 
imprecating curses on the heads of the musquitos. 
The ladies, to prove the impeachment, stripped their 
sleeves, and showed each other the bites on their 
brown necks ; and the gentlemen swore that the 
scamps were biting harder and harder. Then came 
the host, in a magnificently ill-cut coat — all the agri- 
cultural interest could not have furnished a worse — 



THE VINTAGE DINNER. 19 

and his wife, very red in the face, for she had cooked 
dinner for the vintagers and for us ; and then our 
host's father, a reverend old man in a black velvet 
scull cap, and long silver hair. The dinner was 
copious, and, as may he conceived, by no means 
served in the style of the cafe de Paris. But soupe, 
houilli, roti, the stewed and the fried, speedily went 
the way of all flesh. Everybody trinque-ed with every- 
body : the jingle of the meeting glasses rose even 
over the clatter of the knives and forks ; the jolly 
host's heart grew warmer at every glass, and he issued 
imperious mandates for older and older wine. His 
comfortable wife, whose appetite had been affected 
by the cooking, made up for the catastrophe at the 
dessert. The old grandfather garrrulously narrated 
tales of wondrous vintages long ago. The waistcoats 
had all the scandal of Bordeaux at their finger ends ; 
and the young ladies with the mosquito bites took to 
" making moustaches" on their male friends, with 
pancakes instead of grapes — a process by which the 
worthy host was, as usual, an especial sufferer. 

As may be conceived, my respected landlord was 
far more in his element than at home with his wife. 
He eat more, drank more, talked more, and laughed 
more than any two men present. Afterwards he grew^ 
tender and sentimental, and professed himself to be 
an ardent lover of his kind — a proposition which I 
suspect he afterwards narrowed specially in favour of 
a most mosquito-ridden lady next him — to the high 
wrath of a waistcoat opposite, who said sarcastic and 
cutting things, which nobody paid any attention to ; 
and the landlord, being really a good-looking and 

c2 



20 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

plausible fellow, went on conquering and to conquer, 
and drinking and being drunk to ; until, under a glo- 
rious outburst of moonlight w^hich paled the blinking 
candles on the table, the merry company broke up ; 
and mine host of Bordeaux, after certain rather un- 
steady walking, suddenly stopped on the centre of 
the bridge, and refused to go further until he had 
told me a secret. This was said with vast solemnity 
and aplomb, so we paused together on the granite 
pavement, and, after looking mysteriously at the 
Garonne, the moon, and the dusky heights of Floriac, 
my companion informed me in a hoarse whisper that 
he should leave France, his native and beloved land, 
where he felt svu'e that he was not apj^reciated, and 
pitch his tent, " la has, en Angleterre, parceque les 
Anglais etaient si hons enfants !" 

'* So ho !" thought I ; '* a strange reminiscence of 
the old Gascons." But on the morrow, my respect- 
able entertainer had a bad headach, a yellow visage, 
and an entire forgetfulness of how he had got home 
at all. 



r^ 




MOCSTACHE AT THE VINTAOE 



CHAPTER II. 

Claret — and the Claret Country. 

That our worthy forefathers in Guienne loved good 
wine, is a thing not to be doubted — even by a tee- 
totaller. When the Earl of Derby halted his detach- 
ments, he always had a pipe set on broach for the 
good of the company ; and it is to be presumed that 
he knew their tastes. The wines of the Garonne 
were also, as might be expected, freely imported into 
England : 

" ^^Tiit wyn of Oseye, and of Gascoyne, 
Of the Ruele, and of the Rochel wyn." 

As far down, indeed, as Henry VIII.'s time you 
might get Gascony and Guienne wine for eigKtpence 
a gallon, and the comfortable word " claret" was well 
known early in the seventeenth century. One of its 
admirers, however, about that time gave odd reasons 
for liking it, to wdt — '" Claret is a noble wine, for it 
is the same complexion that noblemen's coats be of." 
This gentleman must have been a strenuous admirer 
of the aristocracy. The old Gascon growth was, 
however, in all probability, what we should now call 
coarse, rough wine. The district which is blessed by 
the growth of Chateau Margaux and Chateau Lafitte, 
was a stony desert. An old French local book gives 
an account of the "savage and solitary country of 



22 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

Medoc ;" and the wines of the Bordelois, there is 

every reason to believe, were grown in the strong, 

loamy soil bordering the river. By the time that the 

magic spots had been discovered, blessed with the 

mystic properties which produce the Queen of Wine 

we had been saddled with — our tastes perverted, and 

our stomachs destroyed — by the woful Methuen treaty 

— heavy may it sit on the souls of Queen Anne, and 

all her wigged and powdered ministers — if, indeed, men 

who preferred port wine to claret can be conceived to 

have had any souls at all, worth speaking about — 

and thenceforth John Bull burnt the coat of his 

stomach, muddled the working of his brain, made 

himself bilious, dyspeptic, headachy, and nationally 

stupid, by imbibing a mixture of strong, coarse, 

wines, with a taste but no flavour, and bedevilled with 

every alcoholic and chemical adulteration, which could 

make its natural qualities worse than they were. 

See how our literature fell off. The Elizabethans 

quaffed sack, or " Gascoyne, or Rochel wyn ;" and we 

had the giants of those days. The Charles II. 

comedy writers worked on claret. Port came into 

fashion — port sapped our brains — and, instead of 

Wycherly's Country Wife, and Vanbrugh's Relapse, 

we had Mr. Morton's Wild Oats, and Mr. Cherry's 

Soldier^ s Daughter. It is really much to the credit 

of Scotland, that she stood staunchly by her old ally, 

France, and would have nothing to do with that dirty 

little slice of the worst part of Spain — Portugal, or 

her brandified potations. In the old Scotch houses 

a cask of claret stood in the hall, nobly on the tap. 

In the humblest Scotch country tavern, the pewter 



CLARET V. PORT. 23 

tappit hen, holding some three quarts — think of that, 
Master Slender, — " reamed," Anglice mantled, with 
claret just drawn from the cask, and you quaffed it, 
snapping your fingers at custom-houses. At length, 
in an evil hour Scotland fell: 

" Bold and erect the Caledonian stood, 

Firm was his mutton, and his claret good ; 

* Let him drink port ! ' the English statesman cried. 

He drank the poison, and his sphit died ! " 

But enough of this painful subject. As Quin 
used to say, " Anybody drink port ? No ! I thought 
so : Waiter, take away the black , strap, and throw it 
out." 

Upon the principle, I suppose, of the nearer the 
church, the further from God, Bordeaux is by no 
means a good place for good ordinary wine ; on the 
contrary, the stufi" they give you for every-day tipple 
is positively poor, and very flavourless. In southern 
Burgundy, the most ordinary of the wines is capital. 
At Macon, for a quarter of a handful of sous they give 
you nectar ; at the little town of Tain, where the 
Rhone sweeps gloriously round the great Hermitage 
rock, they give you something better than nectar for 
less. But the ordinary Bordeaux wine is very ordi- 
nary indeed ; not quite so red-inky, perhaps, as the Vin 
de Surenne, which, Brillat Savarin says, requires three 
men to swallow a glassfull — the man who drinks, and 
the friends who uphold him on either side, and coax, 
and encourage him ; but still meagre and starveling, 
as if it had been strained through something which 
took the virtue out of it. Of course, the best of 



24 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

■wine can be had by the simple process of paying for 
it, but I am talking of the ordinary work-a-day tipple 
of the place. 

A few days' lounging in Bordeaux over, and hear- 
ing that the vintage was in full operation, I put 
myself into a respectable little omnibus, and started 
for the true claret country. In a couple of hours I 
was put down at the door of the only auberge in the 
tiny village of Margaux, and to any traveller who 
may hereafter wish to visit the famous wine district, 
I cordially commend '*' The Rising Sun," kept by 
the worthy " Mere Cadillac." There you will have 
a bedroom clean and bright as a Dutch parlour ; a 
grand old four-poster of the ancient regime, something 
between a bed and a cathedral ; a profusion of linen 
deliciously white and sweet smelling ; and la Mere 
will toss you up a nice little potage, and a cotelette 
done to a turn, and an omelette which is perfection ; 
and she will ask you, in the matter of wine, whether 
you prefer ordinaire or vieux ? and when you reply, 
Vieux et du meilleur, she will presently bustle in 
with a glorious long-necked, cobwebby flask, the first 
glass of which will induce you to lean back in a 
tranquil state of general happiness, and contemplate 
with satisfaction even the naughty doings of the 
wicked Marguerite of Burgundy, and her sisters 
Blanche and^ Henriette, with Buridan and Gaulnay, 
in the' Tour de Nesle — illusti'ations of which popular 
tragedy deck the walls 'on every side. 

While thus agreeably employed, then, I may 
enlighten you with a few topographical words about 
the claret district. Look at the map, and you will 



THE CLARET SOIL. 25 

observe a long tract of country, dotted with very few 
towns or villages, called the Landes, stretching along 
the sea coast from the Pyrenees to the mouth of 
the Gironde. At one place the Landes are almost 
sixty miles broad, but to the north they fine grad- 
ually away, the great river Garonne shouldering 
them, as it were, into the sea. Now these Landes 
(into which we will travel presently) are, for the 
most part, a weary wilderness of pine-wood, morasses, 
sand-deserts, and barren shingle. On the other hand, 
the low banks of the Garonne are generally of a fat, 
loamy, and black soil, called, locally, Palus. Well, 
between the Palus and the Landes, there is a longish 
strip of country from two to five miles broad, a low 
ridge or backbone, which may be said to be the 
neutral and blending point of the sterile Landes and 
the fat and fertile Palus. And truth to tell, the earth 
seems as if the influence of the latter had much to 
do to bear up against the former. A Norfolk farmer 
would turn with a contemptuous laugh from the poor- 
looking stony soil. *' Why," says he, "it's all sand, 
and gravel, and shingle, and scorched with the sun. 
You would not get a blade of chickweed to grow 
there." The proprietors of Medoc would be very,glad 
if this latter assertion were correct, for the weeding 
of the vineyards form no inconsiderable item in the 
expense of cultivation ; but this much may be safely 
predicted of this strange soil, that it would not afford 
the nourishment to a patch of oats, which that modest 
grain m^ages to extract from the bare hill- side of 
some cold, bleak. Highland croft, and yet that it 
furnishes the influence which produces grapes yielding 



26 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

the most truly generous and consummately flavoured 
wine ever drank by man since Noah planted the first 
vine slip. 

You have now finished the bottle of Vieux. Up, 
and let us out among the vineyards. A few paces 
clears us of the little hamlet of Margaux, with its 
constant rattle of busy coopers, and we are fairly in 
the country. Try to catch the general coup d^ceil. 
We are in an unpretending pleasant-looking region, 
neither flat nor hilly — the vines stretching away 
around in gentle undulations, broken here and there 
by intervening jungles of coppice-wood, by strips of 
black firs, or by the stately avenues and ornamental 
woods of a first-class chateau. Gazing from the 
bottoms of the shallow valleys, you seem standing 
amid a perfect sea of vines, which form a monotonous 
horizon of unvaried green. Attaining the height 
beyond, distant village spires rise into the air — the 
flattened roofs and white walls of scattered hamlets 
gleam cheerfully forth from embowering woods of 
walnut trees — and the expanse of the vineyards is 
broken by hedged patches of meadow land, affording 
the crops of coarse natural hay, upon which are fed 
the slowly-moving, raw-boned oxen which you see 
dragging lumbering wains along the winding dusty 
way. 

And now look particularly at the vines. No- 
thing romantic in their appearance, no trellis 
work, none of the embowering, or the clustering, 
which the poets are so fond of. Here, in two words, 
is the aspect of some of the most famous vineyards in 
the world. 



THE CLARET VINE. 27 

Fancy open and unfenced expanses of stunted- 
looking, scrubby busbes, seldom rising two feet above 
the surface, planted in rows upon the summit of deep 
furrow ridges, and fastened with great care to low, 




fence- like lines of espaliers, which run in unbroken 
ranks from one end of the huge fields to the other. 
These espaliers or lathes are cuttings of the walnut- 
trees around, and the tendrils of the vine are attached to 
the horizontally running stakes with withes, or thongs 
of bark. It is curious to observe the vigilant pains 
and attention with which every twig has been sup- 
ported without being strained, and how things are 
arranged so as to give every cluster as fair a chance 
as possible of a goodly allowance of sun. Such, then, 
is the general appearance of matters ; but it is by no 
means perfectly uniform. Now and then you find a 
patch of vines unsuj^ported, drooping, and straggling, 
and sprawling, and intertwisting their branches like 
beds of snakes ; and again, you come into the district 
of a new species of bush, a thicker, stouter affair, a 
grenadier vine, growing to at least six feet, and sup- 



28 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

ported by a corresponding stake. But the low, two- 
feet dwarfs are invariably the great wine givers. If 
ever you want to see a homily, not read, but grown 
by nature, against trusting to appearances, go to 
Medoc and study the vines. Walk and gaze, until 
you come to the most shabby, stunted, w^eazened, 
scrubby, dwarfish, expanse of snobbish bushes, 
ignominiously bound neck and crop to the espaliers 
like a man on the rack — these utterly poor, starved, 
and meagre-looking growths, allowing, as they do, 
the gravelly soil to show in bald patches of grey 
shingle through the straggling branches — these con- 
temptible-looking shrubs, like paralysed and withered 
raspberries, it is w^hich produce the most priceless, 
and the most inimitably flavoured wines. Such are 
the vines which grow Chateau Margaux at half a 
sovereign the bottle. The grapes themselves are 
equally unpromising. If you saw a bunch in Covent 
Garden you would turn from them with the notion 
that the fruiterer was trying to do his customer, with 
over-ripe black currants. Lance's soul would take 
no joy in them, and no sculptor in his senses would 
place such meagre bunches in the hands and over 
the open mouths of his Nymphs, his Bacchantes, 
or his Fauns. Take heed, then, by the lesson, and 
beware of judging of the nature of either men or 
grapes by their looks. Meantime, let us continue 
our survey of the country. No fences or ditches you 
see — the ground is too precious to be lost in such 
vanities — only, you observe from time to time a rudely 
carved stake stuck in the ground, and indicating the 
limits of properties. Along either side of the road 



POPULAR APPETITE FOR GRAPES. 29 

the vines extend, utterly unprotected. No raspers, 
no ha-ha's, no fierce denunciations of trespassers, no 
polite notices of spring guns and steel traps constantly 
"in a state of high go-offism — only, when the grapes 
are ripening, the people lay prickly branches along 
the way-side to keep the dogs, foraging for par- 
tridges among the espaliers, from taking a refreshing 
mouthful from the clusters as they pass ; for it seems 
to be a fact that everybody, every beast, and every bird, 
whatever may be his, her, or its nature in other parts 
of the world, when brought among grapes, eats grapes. 
As for the peasants, their appetite for grapes is perfectly 
preposterous. Unlike the surfeit- sickened grocer's 
boys, who, after the first week loathe figs, and turn 
poorly when sugar-candy is hinted at, the love of 
grapes appears literally to grow by what it feeds on. 
Every garden is full of table vines. The people eat 
grapes with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and supper, and 
between breakfast, lunch, dinner, and supper. The 
labourer plods along the road munching a cluster. 
The child in its mother's arms is tugging away with 
its toothless gums at a bleeding bunch ; while as 
for the vintagers, male and female, in the less im- 
portant plantations. Heaven only knows where the 
masses of grapes go to, which they devour, labour- 
ing incessantly at the metier, as they do, from dawn 
till sunset. 

A strange feature in the wine country is the won- 
drously capricious and fitful nature of the soil. A 
forenoon's walk will show you the earth altering in its 
surface qualities almost like the shifting hues of shot 
silk-— gravel of a light colour fading into gravel of a 



30 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

dark — sand blending with the mould, and bringing it 
now to a dusky yellow, now to an ashen grey — strata 
of chalky clay every now and then struggling into 
light only to melt away into beds of mere shingle — or 
bright semi-transparent pebbles, indebted to the action 
of water for shape and hue. At two principal points 
these blending and shifting qualities of soil put forth 
their utmost powers — in the favoured grounds of 
Margaux, and again, at a distance of about fifteen 
miles further to the north, in the vineyards of Lafitte, 
Latour, and between these latter, in the sunny slopes 
of St. JuUien. And the strangest thing of all is, that 
the quality — the magic — of the ground changes, 
without, in all cases, a corresponding change in the 
surface strata. If a fanciful and wilful fairy had flown 
over Medoc, flinging down here a blessing and there 
a curse upon the shifting shingle, the effect could not 
have been more oddly various. You can almost jump 
from a spot unknown to fame to another clustered 
with the most precious vintage of Europe. Half-a- 
dozen furrows often make all the difference between 
vines producing a beverage which will be drunk in 
the halls and palaces of England and Russia, and 
vines yielding a harvest which will be consumed in 
the cabarets and estaminets of the neighbourhood. It 
is to be observed, however, that the first-class wines 
belong almost entirely to the large proprietors. 
Amid a labyrinth of little patches, the property of 
the labouring peasants around, will be a spot apper- 
taining to, and bearing the name of, some of the 
famous growths ; while, conversely, inserted, as if by 
an accident, in the centre of a district of great name, 



VARIABLE QUALITIES OF THE CLARET SOIL. 31 

and producing wine of great price, will be a perv^erse 
patch, yielding the most commonplace tipple, and 
worth not so many sous per yard as the surrounding 
earth is worth crowns. 

How comes this ? The peasants will tell you that 
it doesn't come at all. That it is all cant and blague 
and puff on the part of the big proprietors, and that 
their wine is only more thought of because they have 
more capital to get it bragged about. Near Chateau 
Lafitte, on a burning afternoon, I took refuge beneath 
the emblematic bush; for the emblem which good wine 
is said not to require, is still, in the mid and southern 
districts of France, in universal use ; in other words, I 
entered a village public-house. 

Two old men, very much of the general type of 
the people of the country — that is, tall and spare, with 
intelligent and mildly- expressive faces and fine black 
eyes, were discussing together a sober bottle. One of 
them had lost an arm, and the other a leg. As I 
glanced at this peouliarity, the one-legged man caught 
my eye. 

" Ah ! " he said, " looking at our misfortunes ; I 
left my leg on Waterloo." 

"And I," chimed in his companion, " left my arm 
at Trafalgar." 

'' Sacre!" said the veteran of the land. " One of 
the cursed English bullets took me in the knee, and 
spoiled as tight a lancer as they had in the gallant 
10th." 

"And I," rejoined the other, "was at the fourth 
main-deck gun of the Pluton when I was struck with 
the sphnter while we were engaging the Mars. But 



32 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

we had our revenge. The Pluton shot the Mars' 
captaift's head off ! " — a fact which I afterwards 
verified. Captain Duff, the officer alluded to, was 
thus killed upon his quarter-deck, and the same ball 
shattered two seamen almost to pieces. 

" SacreV said the ci-devant lancer, " I 'd like to 
have a rap at the English again — I would — the 
English — nom de tonnerre — tell me — did n't they 
murder the emperor ? " 

A rising smile, which I could not help, sto23ped 
him. I had spoken so few words, that the fact that a 
son oiperjide Albion was before them was only mani- 
fested by the expression of my face. 

" Tiens ! " continued the Waterloo man, " You are 
an Englishman." 

The old sailor, who was evidently by no means so 
keen a hand as his comrade, nudged him ; a hint, I 
suppose, in common phrase, to draw it mild ; but the 
ex-lancer of the 10 th was not to be put down. 

** Well, and if you are, what then, eh ? I say I 
would like to have another brush with you." 

" No, no ! We have had enough of brushes !" said 
the far more pacific man of the sea. " I think — mon 
voisiji — that you and I have had quite enough of 
fighting." 

" But they killed the emperor. Sacre nom de tons 
les diahles — they killed the emperor." 

My modest exculpation on behalf of Great Britain 
and Ireland was listened to with great impatience by 
the maimed lancer, and great attention by the maimed 
sailor, who kept up a running commentary : 

" Eh ! eh ! entendez cela. Now, that 's quite 



FRENCH VETERANS. 33 

different (to his friend) from what you tell us. Come 
— that's another story altogether ; and what I say is, 
that that 's reasonable." 

But the lancer was not to be convinced — '^ Sacre 
bleu ! — they killed the emperor." 

All this, it is to be observed, passed without the 
slightest feeling of personal animosity. The lancer, 
who, I suspect, had passed the forenoon in the 
cabaret, every now and then shook hands with me 
magnanimously, as to show that his wrath was national 
— not individual; and when I proposed a bottle of 
rather better wine than they had been drinking, 
neither soldier nor sailor had a word to say in 
objection. The wine was brought, and very good it 
was, though not, of course, first-class claret. 

" What do you think of that ?" said the sailor. 

" I wish I had as good every day in England," I 
replied. 

" And why have n't you ? " said the fierce lancer. 
" You might, if you chose. But you drink none of 
our wines." 

I demurred to this proposition ; but the Waterloo 
man was down on me in no time. " Yes, yes ; the 
wines of the great houses — the great proprietors. 
Sacre ! — the farceurs — the hlageurs — who pufi" their 
wines, and get them puffed, and great prices for them, 
when they're not better thaa ours — the peasant's 
wines — when they're grown in the same ground — 
ripened by the same sun ! Mille diahles ! Look at 
that bottle ! — taste it ! My son-in-law grew it. My 
son-in-law sells it ; I know all about it. You shall 
have that bottle for ten sous, and the Lafitte people 



34 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

and the Larose people would charge you ten francs 
for it; and it is as good for ten sous as theirs for 
ten francs. I tell you it grew side by side with their 
vines; but they have capital — they have power. They 
crack off their wines, and we — the poor people ! — we, 
who trim and dig and work our little patches — no one 
knows anything about us. Our wine — bah ! — what is 
it ? It has no name — no fame ! Who will give us 
francs ? No, no ; sous for the poor man — francs^ for 
the rich. Copper for the little landlord ; silver — silver 
and gold for the big landlord ! As our cure said last 
Sunday : * Unto him \yho has much, more shall be 
given.' Sacre Dieu de dieux! — Even the Bible goes 
against the poor ! " 

All this time, the old sailor was tugging his com- 
rade's jacket, and uttering sundry deprecatory ejacu- 
lations against such unnecessary vehemence. The 
Trafalgar man was clearly a take-it- easy personage; 
not troubled by too much thinking, and by no means 
a professional greivance-monger. So he interj)osed 
to bring back the topic to a more soothing subject, 
and said that what he would like, would be to see lots 
of English ships coming up the Gironde with the 
good cottons and woollens and hardwares we made in 
England, and taking back in exchange their cheap and 
wholesome wines — not only the great vintages fcrusj 
for the great folk, but the common vintages for the 
common folk. '' Indeed, I think," he concluded, "that 
sitting here drinking this good ten sous' wine with this 
English gentleman — who's going to pay for it — is far 
better than fighting him and hacking him up, or his 
hacking us up, with swords and balls and so forth." 



FRENCH VETERANS. 35 

To this most sensible opinion we had all the pains 
in the world to get the doughty lancer to incline. He 
couldn't see it at all. He would like to have another 
brush. He was n't half done for yet. It was all very 
well ; but war was grand, and glory was grand. " Vive 
la guerre ! " and " Vive la gloire ! " 

" But," said the sailor, " there is death in glory !" 

" Eh bien /" shouted the warrior, with as perfect 
French sentiment as ever I heard, " Vive la mortP^ 

In the end, however, he was pleased to admit that, 
if we took the peasant wines, something might be 
made of us. The case was not utterly hopeless ; and 
when I rose to go, he proposed a stirrup-cup — a coup 
de Vetrier — to the washing down of all unkindness ; 
but, in the very act of swallowing it, he did n't exactly 
stop, but made a motion as if he would, and then 
slowly letting the last drop run over his lips, he put 
down the glass, and said, bitterly and coldly, " Mais 
pourtant, vous avez tue V Empereur /" 

I have introduced this episode principally for the 
purpose of showing the notions entertained by the 
small proprietary as to the boasted superiority of the 
large vineyards ; but the plain truth is, that the great 
growers are perfectly in the right. I have stated that 
the quality of the soil throughout the grape country 
varies almost magically. Well, the good spots have 
been more or less known since Medoc was Medoc ; 
and the larger and richer residents have got them, by 
inheritance, by marriage, and by purchase, almost 
entirely into their own hands. Next they greatly 
improved both the soil and the breed of plants. They 
studied and experimentalized until they found the 

D 2 



36 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

most proper manures and the most promising cul- 
tm:es. They grafted and crossed the vine plants till 
they got the most admirably bearing bushes, and 
then, generation . after generation, devoting all their 
attention to the quality of the wine, without regard to 
the quantity — scrupulously taking care that not a 
grape which is unripe or over-ripe finds its way to 
the tub — that the whole process shall be scrupulously 
clean, and that every stage of fermentation be assidu- 
ously attended to — the results of all this has been 
the perfectly-perfumed and high-class clarets, which 
fetch an enormous price ; while the peasant pro- 
prietors, careless in cultivation, using old vine plants, 
anxious, at the vintage, only for quantity, and con- 
fined to the worst spots in the district, succeed in 
producing wines which, good as they are, have not the 
slightest pretence to enter into competition with the 
liquid harvests of their richer and more enlightened 
neighbours. 

But it is high time to sketch, and with more ela- 
boration than I have hitherto attempted, the claret 
vintage and the claret vintagers. Yet still, for a 
moment, I must pause upon the threshold. Will it 
be believed — whether it will or not it is, nevertheless, 
true — that the commencement of the vintage in France 
is settled, not by the opinion or the convenience of 
the projjrietors, but by the autorites of each arron- 
dissement? As September wanes and the grape ripens, 
the rural mayor assembles what he calls a jury of 
experts ; which jury proceed, from day to day, 
through the vineyards, inspecting and tasting the 
grapes and cross- questioning the growers ; after 



THE ^*^ authorities" IN FRANCE. 37 

which, they report to the mayor a special day on 
which, having regard to all the vineyards, they think 
that the vintage ought lio commence. One proprietor, 
in a very sunny situation and a hot soil, may have 
been ready to begin a fortnight before; another, in 
a converse locality, may not be ready to commence 
for a fortnight afterwards. NHmporte — the French 
have a great notion of uniform symmetry and symme- 
trical uniformity, and so the whole district starts to- 
gether — the mayor issuing, par autorite, a highly- 
official-looking document, which is duly posted by 
yellow-breeched gens-d'armes, and, before the appear- 
ance of which, not a vine-grower can gather, for wine 
purposes, a single grape. Now, what must be the com- 
mon sense of a country which permits, for one instant, 
the continuance of this wretched little tyrannical 
humbug ? Only think of a trumpery little mayor and 
a couple of beadles proclaiming to the farmers of 
England that now they might begin to cut their 
wheat ! The mayor's mace would be forced down the 
beadle's throat, and the beadle's staff down the mayor's. 
But they manage these things — not exactly — better in 
France. What would France be without les autorites 9 
Could the sun rise without a prefect ? Certainly not. 
Could it set without a sub-prefect? Certainly not. 
Could the planets shine on France unless they were 
furnished with passports for the firmament ? Clearly 
not. Could the rain rain on France unless each drop 
came armed with the vise of some wonderful bureau 
or other ? Decidedly not. Well, then, how could the 
vintage begin until the people, who know nothing 
about the vintage, command it ? It is quite clear. 



38 



CLARET AND OLIVES. 



that if you have any doubt about these particulars, 
you know very little of the privileges, the rights, the 
functions, and the j)owers, of the "authorities" in 
France. 



f^'^^ 






m% 








THE VINTAGE. 



CHAPTER HI. 



The Vintage and the Vintagers. 



So much, then, for preliminary information. Let us 
now proceed to the joyous ingathering of the fruits of 
the earth — the great yearly festival and jubilee of the 
property and the labour of Medoc. October, the "wine 
month," is approaching. For weeks, every cloud in 
the sky has been watched — every cold night breeze 
felt with nervous apprehension. Upon the last bright 
weeks in summer, the savour and the bouquet of the 
wine depend. Warmed by the blaze of an unclouded 
sun, fanned by the mild breezes of the west, and 
moistened by morning and evening dews, the grapes 
by slow degrees attain their perfect ripeness and their 
culminating point of flavour. Then the vintage im- 
plements begin to be sought out, cleaned, repaired. 



40 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

and scoured and sweetened with hot brandy. Coopers 
work as if their lives depended upon their industry ; 
and all the anomalous tribe of lookers- out for chance 
jobs in town and country pack up their bag and bag- 
gage, and from scores of miles around pour in ragged 
regiments into Medoc. 

There have long existed pleasing, and in some 
sort poetical, associations connected with the task of 
securing for human use the fruits of the earth; and to 
no species of crop do these picturesque associations 
apply with greater force than to the ingathering of 
the ancient harvest of the vine. - From time imme- 
morial, the season has typified epochs of plenty and 
mirthful-heartedness — of good fare and of good-will. 
The ancient types and figures descriptive of the 
vintage are still literally true. The march of agricul- 
tural improvement seems never to have set foot amid 
the vines. As it was with the patriarchs in fhe East, 
so it is with the modern children of men. The 
goaded ox still bears home the high-pressed grape- 
tub, and the feet of the treader are still red in the 
purple juice which maketh glad the heart of man. 
The scene is at once full of beauty, and of tender and 
even sacred associations. The songs of the vintagers, 
frequently chorussed from one part of the field to the 
other, ring blithly into the bright summer air, 
pealing out above the rough jokes and hearty peals 
of laughter shouted hither and thither. All the green 
jungle is alive with the moving figures of men and 
women, stooping among the vines or bearing pails 
and basketfuls of grapes out to the grass-grown cross- 
roads, along which the labouring oxen drag the rough 



THE CLARET VINTAGE. 41 

vintage carts, groaniDg and cracking as they stagger 
along beneath their weight of purple tubs heaped 
high with the tumbling masses of luscious fruit. The 
congregation of every age and both sexes, and the 
careless variety of costume, add additional features of 
picturesqueness to the scene. The white-haired old 
man labours with shaking hands to fill the basket 
which his black-eyed imp of a grandchild carries 
rejoicingly away. Quaint broad -brimmed straw and 
felt hats — handkerchiefs twisted like turbans over 
straggling elf locks — swarthy skins tanned to an 
olive-brown — black flashing eyes — and hands and 
feet stained in the abounding juices of the precious 
fruit — all these southern peculiarities of costume and 
appearance supply the vintage with its pleasant cha- 
racteristics. The clatter of tongues is incessant. A 
fire of jokes and jeers, of saucy questions, and more 
saucy retorts — of what, in fact, in the humble and 
unpoetic but expressive vernacular, is called " chaff," 
— is kept up with a vigour which seldom flags, except 
now and then, when the butt-end of a song, or the 
twanging close of a chorus strikes the general fancy, 
and procures for the morceau a lusty encore. Mean- 
time, the master wine-grower moves observingly from 
rank to rank. No neglected bunch of fruit escapes 
his watchful eye. No careless vintager shakes the 
precious berries rudely upon the soil, but he is 
promptly reminded of his slovenly work. Sometimes 
the tubs attract the careful superintendent. He turns 
up the clusters to ascertain that no leaves nor useless 
length of tendril are entombed in the juicy masses, 
and anon directs his steps to the pressing- trough, 



42 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

anxious to find that the lusty treaders are persevering 
manfully in their long-continued dance. 

Thither we will follow. The wine-press, or cuvier 
de pressoir, consists, in the majority of cases, of a 
massive shallow tub, varying in size from four squ'are 
feel to as many square yards. It is placed either upon 
wooden trestles or on a regularly-built platform of 
mason-work under the huge rafters of a substantial 
outhouse. Close to it stands a range of great butts, 
their number more or less, according to the size of 
the vineyard. The grapes are flung by tub and cask- 
fuls into the cuvier. The treaders stamp diligently 
amid the masses, and the expressed juice pours plen- 
tifully out of a hole level with the bottom of the 
trough into a sieve of iron or wickerwork, which stops 
the passage of the skins, and from thence drains into 
tubs below. Suppose, at the moment of our arrival, 
the cuvier for a brief space empty. The treaders — 
big, perspiring men, in shirts and tucked-up trowsers 
— spattered to the eyes with splatches of purple juice, 
lean upon their wooden spades, and wipe their fore- 
heads. But their respite is short. The creak of 
another cart-load of tubs is heard, and immediately 
th,e waggon is backed up to the broad open window, 
or rather hole in the wall, above the trough. A 
minute suffices to wrench out tub after tub, and to 
tilt their already half-mashed clusters splash into the 
reeking pressoir. Then to work again. Jumping 
with a sort of spiteful eagerness into the mountain of 
yielding quivering fruit, the treaders sink almost to 
the knees, stamping and jumping and rioting in the 
masses of grapes, as fountains of juice spurt about 



THE TREADING OF THE GRAPE. 43 

their feet, and rush bubbUng and gurgling away. 
Presently, having, as it were, drawn the first sweet 
blood of the new cargo, the eager trampling subsides 
into a sort of quiet, measured dance, which the treaders 
continue, while, with their wooden spades, they turn 
the pulpy remnants of the fruit hither and thither, so 
as to expose the half-squeezed berries in every pos- 
sible way to the muscular action of the incessantly 
moving feet. All this time, the juice is flowing in a 
continuous stream into the tubs beneath. When the 
jet begins to slacken, the heap is well tumbled with 
the wooden spades, and, as though a new force had 
been applied, the juice-jet immediately breaks out 
afresh. It takes, perhaps, half or three-quarters of 
an hour thoroughly to squeeze the contents of a 
good- sized cuvier, sufficiently manned. When at 
length, however, no further exertion appears to be 
attended with corresponding results, the tubfuls of 
expressed juice are carried by means of ladders to the 
edges of the vats, and their contents tilted in; while 
the men in the trough, setting- to with their spades, 
fling the masses of dripping grape-skins in along 
with the juice. The vats sufficiently full, the fer- 
mentation is allowed to commence. In the great 
cellars in which the juice is stored, the listener at 
the door — he cannot brave the carbonic acid gas to 
enter further — may hear, solemnly echoing in the cool 
shade of the great darkened hall, the bubblings and 
seethings of the working liquid — the inarticulate 
accents and indistinct rumblings which proclaim that 
a great metempsychosis is taking place — that a natural 
substance is rising higher in the eternal scale of things, 



44 CLAKET AND OLIVES. 

and that the contents of these great giants of vats 
are becoming changed from floods of mere mawkish, 
sweetish fluid to noble wine — to a Hquid honoured 
and esteemed in all ages — to a medicine exercising 
a strange and potent effect upon body and soul — 
great for good and evil. Is there not something 
fanciful and poetic in the notion of this change taking 
place mysteriously in the darkness, when all the doors 
are locked and banned — for the atmosphere about the 
vats is death — as if Nature would suffer no idle 
prying into her mystic operations, and as if the grand 
transmutation and projection from juice to wine had 
in it something of a secret and solemn and awful 
nature — fenced round, as it were, and protected from 
vulgar curiosity by the invisible halo of stifling gas ? 
I saw the vats in the Chateau Margaux cellars the day 
after the grape-juice had been flung in. Fermentation 
had not as yet properly commenced, so access to the 
place was possible; still, however, there was a strong 
vinous smell loading the atmosphere, sharp and subtle 
in its influence on the nostrils ; while, puttfng my ear, 
on the recommendation of my conductor, to the vats, 
I heard, deep down, perhaps eight feet down in the 
juice, a seething, gushing sound, as if currents and 
eddies were beginning to flow, in obedience to the 
influence of the working Spirit, and now and then a 
hiss and a low bubbling throb, as though of a pot 
about to boil. Within twenty-four hours, the cellar 
would be unapproachable. 

Of course, it is quite foreign to my plan to enter 
upon anything like a detailed account of wine-making. 
I may only add, that the refuse-skins, stalks, and so 



THE LAST DROPS OF THE GRAPE. 45 

forth, which' settle into the bottom of the fermentation 
vats, are taken out again after the wine has been drawn 
off and subjected to a new squeezing — in a press, how- 
ever, and not by the foot — the products being a. small 
quantity of fiery, ill-flavoured wine, full of the bitter 
taste of the seeds and stalks of the grape, and pos- 
sessing no aroma or bouquet. The Bordeaux press 
for this purpose is rather ingeniously constructed. It 
consists of a sort of a skeleton of a cask, strips of 
daylight shining through from top to bottom between 
the staves. In the centre works a strong perpendicular 
iron screw. The rape, as the refuse of the treading is 
called, is piled beneath it ; the screw is manned cap- 
stan fashion, and the unhappy seeds, skins, and stalks, 
undergo a most dismal squeezing. Nor do their trials 
end there. The wine-makers are terrible hands for 
getting at the very last get-at-able drop. To this end, 
somewhat on the principle of rinsing an exhausted 
spirit bottle, so as, as it were, to catch the very 
flavour still clinging to the 'glass, they plunge the 
doubly-squeezed rape into water, let it lie there for a 
short time, and then attack it with the pre^ again. 
The result is a horrible stuff called piquettOy which, in 
a wine country, bears the same resemblance to wine 
as the very dirtiest, most wishy-washy, and most 
contemptible of swipes bears to honest porter or ale. 
Piquette, in fact, may be defined as the ghost of wine ! 
— wine minus its bones, its flesh, and its soul ! — a 
liquid shadow ! — a fluid nothing I— -an utter negation 
of all comfortable things and associations ! Neverthe- 
less, however, the peasants swill it down in astounding 
quantities, and apparently with sufficient satisfaction. 



46 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

And now a word as to wine-treading. The process 
is universal in France, with the exception of the cases 
of the sparkling wines of the Rhone and Champagne, 
the grapes for which are squeezed by mechanical 
means, not by the human foot. Now, very venerable 
and decidedly picturesque as is the process of wine- 
treading, it is unquestionably rather a filthy one ; and 
the spectacle of great brown horny feet, not a whit 
too clean, splashing and sprawling in the bubbling 
juice, conveys at first sight a qualmy species of feeling, 
which, however, seems only to be entertained by those 
to whom the sight is new. I looked dreadfully askance 
at the operation when I first came across it ; and when 
I was invited — by a lady, too — to taste the juice, of 
which she caught up a glassful, a certain uncomfort- 
able feeling of the inward man warred terribly against 
politeness. But nobody around seemed to be in the 
least squeamish. Often and often did I see one of the 
heroes of the tub walk quietly over a dunghill, and 
then jump — barefooted, of course, as he was — into the 
juice ; and even a vigilant proprietor, who was parti- 
cularly careful that no bad grapes went into the tub, 
made no objection. When I asked why a press was 
not used, as more handy, cleaner, and more conve- 
nient, I was everywhere assured that all efibrts had 
failed to construct a wine-press capable of performing 
the work with the perfection attained by the action 
of the human foot. No mechanical squeezing, I was 
informed, would so nicely express that peculiar pro- 
portion of the whole moisture of the grape which forms 
the highest flavoured wine. The manner in which 
the fruit was tossed about was pointed out to me, and 



WANDERINGS AMONGST THE VINEYARDS. 47 

I was asked to observe that the grapes were, as it 
were, squeezed in every possible fashioa and from 
every possible side, worked and churned and mashed 
hither and thither by the ever-moving toes and 
muscles of the foot. As far as any impurity went, 
the argument was, that the fermentation flung, as 
scum to the surface, every atom of foreign matter held 
in suspension in the wine, and that the liquid ulti- 
mately obtained was as exquisitely pure as if human 
flesh had never touched it. 

In the collection of these and such like particu- 
lars, I sauntered for days among the vineyards 
around; and, utterly unknown and unfriended as I 
was, I met everywhere the most cordial and pleasant 
receptions. I would lounge, for example, to the door 
of a wine- treading shed, to watch the movements of 
the people. Presently the proprietor, most likely 
attired in a broad-brimmed straw hat, a strange faded 
outer garment, half shooting-coat half dressing gown, 
would come up courteously to the stranger, and, 
learning that I was an English visitor to the vintage, 
would busy himself with the most graceful kindness, 
to make intelligible the rationale of all the operations. 
Often I was invited into the chateau or farm-house, as 
the case might be ; a bottle of an old vintage produced 
and comfortably discussed in the coolness of the dark- 
ened, thinly-furnished room, with its old-fashioned 
walnut-tree escrutoires, and beaufiets, its quaintly- 
pannelled walls, and its polished floors, gleaming like 
mirrors and slippery as ice. On these occasions, the 
conversation would often turn upon the general 
rejection, by England, of Erench wines — a sore point 



48 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

•with the growers of all save the first-class vintages, and 
in which I had, as may be conceived, very little to say 
in defence either of our taste or our policy. In the 
evenings, which were getting chill and cold, I occa- 
sionally abandoned my room with illustrations from 
the Tour de Nesle for the general kitchen and parlour 
of Madame Cadillac, and, ensconcing myself in the 
chimney corner — a fine old-fashioned ingle, crackling 
and blazing with hard wood logs — listened to the chat 
of the people of the village ; they were nearly all 
coopers and vine- dressers, who resorted there after the 
day's work was over to enjoy an exceedingly modest 
modicum of very thin wine. I never benefitted very 
much, however, by these listenings. It was my bad 
luck to hear recounted neither tale nor legend — to pick 
up, at the hands of my compotatores , neither local trait 
nor anecdote. The conversation was as small as the 
wine. The gossip of the place — the prospects of the 
vintage — elaborate comparisons of it with other vin- 
tages — births, marriages, and deaths — a minute list 
of scandal, more or less intelligible when conveyed in 
hints and allusions — were the staple topics, mixed up, 
however, once or twice with general denunciations of 
the niggardly conduct of certain neighbouring pro- 
prietors to their vintagers — giving them for breakfast 
nothing but coarse bread, lard, and not even piquette 
to wash it down with, and for dinner- not much more 
tempting dishes. 

In Medoc, there are two classes of vintagers — the 
fixed and the floating population ; and the latter, 
which makes an annual inroad into the district just 
as the Irish harvesters do into England and Scotland, 



WANDERING VINTAGERS. 49 

comprising a goodly proportion of very dubious and 
suspicious -looking characters. The gen-d^armerie 
have a busy time of it when these gentry are collected 
in numbers in the district. Poultry disappear with the 
most miraculous promptitude ; small linen articles 
hung out to dry have no more chance than if Fal- 
staff's regiment were marching by ; and garden-fruit 
and vegetables, of course, share the results produced 
by a rigid application of the maxim that la propriete 
c^est le vol. Where these people come from is a puzzle. 
There will be vagrants and strollers among them from 
all parts of France — from the Pyrenees and the Alps 
— from the pine-woods of the Landes and the moors 
of Brittany. They unite in bands of a dozen or a 
score men and women, appointing a chief, who bar- 
gains with the vine-proprietor for the services of the 
company, and keeps up some degree of order and 
subordination, principally by means of the unconsti- 
tutional application of a good thick stick. I fre- 
quently encountered these bands, making their way 
from one district to another, and better samples of 
" the dangerous classes" were never collected. They 
looked vicious and abandoned, as well as miserably 
poor. The women, in particular, were as brazen- 
faced a set of slatterns as could be conceived ; and 
the majority of the men — tattered, strapping-looking 
fellows, with torn slouched hats, and tremendous 
cudgels — were exactly the sort of persons a nervous 
gentleman would have scruples about meeting at dusk 
in a long lane. It is when thus on the tramp that 
the petty pilfering and picking and stealing to which 
I have alluded to goes on. When actually at work, 

E 



50 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

they have no time for picking up unconsidered trifles. 
Sometimes these people pass the night — all together, 
of course — in out-houses or barns, when the chef can 
strike a good bargain ; at other times they bivouac 
on the lee- side of a wood or wall, in genuine gipsy 
fashion. You may often see their watchfires glim- 
mering in the night ; and be sure that where you do, 
there are twisted necks and vacant nests in many a 
neighbouring hen-roost. One evening I was saun- 
tering along the beach at Paulliac — a little town on 
the river's bank, about a dozen of miles from the 
mouth of the Gironde, and holding precisely the same 
relation to Bordeaux as Gravesend does to London — 
when a band of vintagers, men, women, and children, 
came up. They were bound to some village on the 
opposite side of the Gironde, and wanted to get fer- 
ried across. A long parley accordingly ensued be- 
tween the chief and a group of boatmen. The com- 
mander of the vintage forces offered four sous per 
head as the passage-money. The bargemen would 
hear of nothing under five ; and after a tremendous 
verbal battle, the vintagers announced that they were 
not going to be cheated, and that if they could not 
cross the water, they could stay where they were. 
Accordingly, a bivouac was soon formed. Creeping 
under the lee of a row of casks, on the shingle of the 
bare beach, the women were placed leaning against 
the somewhat hard and large pillows jn question ; 
the children were nestled at their feet and in their 
laps ; and the men formed the outermost ranks. A 
supply of loaves was sent for and obtained. The chief 
tore the bread up into huge hunks, which he distri- 



THE VINTAGE DINNER. 51 

buted to his dependents ; and upon this supper the 
whole party went coolly to sleep — more coolly, indeed, 
than agreeably ; for a keen north wind was whistling 
along the sedgy banks of the river, and the red blaze 
of high-piled faggots was streaming from the houses 
across the black, cold, turbid waters. At length, 
however, some arrangement was come to; for, on 
visiting the spot a couple of hours afterwards, I found 
the party rather more comfortably ensconced under 
the ample sails of the barge which was to bear them 
the next morning to their destination. 

The dinner-party formed every day, when the 
process of stripping the vines is going on, is, particu- 
larly in the cases in which the people are treated well 
by the proprietor, frequently a very pretty and very 
picturesque spectacle. It always takes place in the 
open air, amongst the bushes, or under some neigh- 
bouring walnut-tree. Sometimes long tables are 
spread upon tressles ; but in general no such fornaality 
is deemed requisite. The guests fling themselves in 
groups upon the ground — men and women pictur- 
esquely huddled together — the former bloused and 
bearded personages — the latter showy, in their bright 
short petticoats of home- spun and dyed cloth, with 
glaring handkerchiefs twisted like turbans round their 
heads — each man and woman with a deep plate in 
his or her lap. Then the people of the house bustle 
about, distributing huge brown loaves, which are torn 
asunder, and the fragments chucked from hand to 
hand. Next a vast cauldron of soup, smoking like 
a volcano, is painfully lifted out from the kitchen, 
and dealt about in mighty ladlefuls ; while the founder 

e2 



52 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

of the feast takes care that the tough, thready houilli 
— like lumps of boiled-down hemp — shall be fairly 
apportioned among his guests. Piquette is the ge- 
neral beverage. A barrel is set abroach, and every 
species of mug, glass, cup, and jug about the esta- 
blishment is called in to aid in its consumption. A 
short rest, devoted to chatting, or very often sleeping 
in the shade, over, the signal is given, and the work 
recommences. 

" You have seen our salle a manger" said one of my 
courteous entertainers — he of the broad-brimmed straw 
hat ; " and now you shall see our chamhre a coucher." 
Accordingly, he led me to a barn close to his wine- 
cellars. The place was littered deep with clean, fresh 
straw. Here and there rolled-up blankets were laid 
against the wall ; while all round, from nails stuck in 
between the bare bricks, hung by straps and strings 
the little bundles, knapsacks, and other baggage of 
the labourers. On one side, two or three swarthy 
young women were playfully pushing each other aside, 
so as to get at a morsel of cracked mirror stuck 
against the w^all — their long hair hanging down in 
black elf-locks, in the preliminary stage of its arrange- 
ment. 

" That is the ladies* side," said my cicerone, point- 
ing to the girls; "and that" — extending his other 
hand — " is the gentlemen's side." 

" And so they all sleep here together ?" 

*' Every night. I find shelter and straw ; any 
other accommodation they must procure for them- 
selves." 

'* Rather unruly, I should suppose ?" 



THE VINTAGERS BEDROOM. 63 

" Not a bit. They are too tired to do anything 
but sleep. They go off, sir, like dormice." 

" Oh, sil plait a Mossieu!" put in one of the 
damsels. " The chief of the band does the police." 
(Fait la gen-d^armerie.) 

" Certainly — certainly," said the proprietor ; " the 
gentlemen lie here, with their heads to the wall; the 
ladies there ; and the chefde la hande stretches himself 
all along between them." 

" A sort of living frontier ? " 

"Truly; and he allows no nonsense." 

'* // est meme excessivement severe ^"^ interpolated 
the same young lady. 

" He need be," replied her employer. " He allows 
no loud speaking — no joking ; and as there are no can- 
dles, no light, why, they can do nothing better than 
go quietly to sleep, if it were only in self-defence." 

One word more about the vintage. The reader 
will easily conceive that it is on the smaller properties, 
where the wine is intended, not so much for commerce 
as for household use, that the vintage partakes most 
of the festival nature. In the large and first-class 
vineyards the process goes on under rigid superin- 
tendence, and is as much as possible made a cold 
matter of business. He who wishes to see the vint- 
ages of books and poems — the laughing, joking, 
singing festivals amid the vines, which we are accus- 
tomed to consider the harvests of the gi'ape — must 
betake him to the multitudinous patches of peasant 
property, in which neighbour helps neighbour to 
gather in the crop, and upon which whole families 
labour merrily together, as much for the amusement 



54 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

of the thing, and from good neighbourly feeling, as 
in consideration of francs and sous. Here, of course, 
there is no tight discipline observed, nor is there any 
absolute necessity for that continuous, close scrutiny 




aETLKNIJiG FROM THE VINTAGE. 



into the state of the grapes — all of them hard or 
rotten, going slap-dash into the cuvier — which, in the 
case of the more precious vintages, forms no small 
check upon a general state of careless jollity. Every 
one eats as much fruit as he pleases, and rests when 
he is tired. On such occasions it is that you hear to 
the best advantage the joyous songs and choruses of 
the vintage — many of these last being very pretty 
bits of melody, generally sung by the women and 
girls, in ^rill treble unison, and caught up and con- 
tinued from one part of the field to another. 

Yet, discipline and control it as you will, the 
vintage will ever be beautiful, picturesque, and full 



THE CLARET CHATEAUX. 55 

of association. The rude wains, creaking beneath 
the reeking tubs — the patient faces of the yoked 
oxen — the half-naked, stalwart men, who toil to help 
the cart along the ruts and furrows of the way — the 
handkerchief- turbaned women, their gay, red-and-blue 
dresses peeping from out the greenery of the leaves — 
the children dashing about as if the whole thing were 
a frolic, and the grey-headed old men tottering cheer- 
fully adown the lines of vines, with baskets and pails 
of gathered grapes to fill the yawning tubs — the whole 
picture is at once classic, venerable, and picturesque, 
not more by association than actuality. 

And now, Eeader, luxuriating amid the gorgeously 
carven and emblazoned fittings of a Palais Koyal or 
Boulevard restorateur, Vefours, the Freres, or the 
Cafe de Paris; or perhaps ensconced in our quieter 
and more sober rooms — dim and dull after garish 
Paris, but ten times more comfortable in their ample 
sofas and carpets, into which you sink as into quag- 
mires, but with more agreeable results, — snugly, Header, 
ensconced in either one or the other locality, after 
the waiter has, in obedience to your summons, pro- 
duced the carte de vins, and your eye wanders down 
the long list of tempting nectars, Spanish and Portu 
guese, and better, far better, German and French — 
have you ever wondered as you read, *' St. Jullien, 
Leoville, Chateau la Lafitte, Chateau la Kose, 
and Chateau Margaux, what these actual vineyards, 
the produce of which you know so well — what those 
actual chateaux, which christen such glorious growths, 
resemble ? If so, listen, and I will tell you. 

As you traverse the high road from Bordeaux to 



66 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

Pauillac, some one mil probably point out to you a 
dozen tiny sugar-loaf turrets, each surmounted by a 
long lightning-conductor, rising from a group of 
noble trees. This is the chateau St. Jullien. A little 
on, on the right side of the way, rises, from the top of a 
tiny hill overlooking the Gironde, a new building, with 
all the old crinkum-crankum ornaments of the ancient 
fifteenth century country house. , That is the chateau 
Latour. Presently you observe that the entrance to 
a wide expanse of vines, covering a series of hills and 
dales, tumbling down to the water's edge, is marked 
by a sort of triumphal arch or ornamented gate, 
adorned with a lion couchant, and a legend, setting 
forth that the vines behind produce the noted wine 
of Leoville. The chateau Lafitte rises amid stately 
groves of oak and walnut-trees, from amid the terraced 
walks of an Italian garden — its white spreading wings 
gleaming through the trees, and its round-roofed, 
slated towers rising above them. One chateau, the 
most noted of all, remains. Passing along a narrow, 
sandy road, amid a waste of scrubby- looking bushes, 
you pass beneath the branches of a clump of noble 
oaks and elms, and perceive a great white structure 
glimmering garishly before you. Take such a coun- 
try house as you may still find in your grandmothers' 
samplers, decorated with a due allowance of doors 
and windows — clap before it a misplaced Grecian 
portico, whitewash the whole to a state of the most 
glaring and dazzling brightness, carefully close all 
outside shutters, painted white likewise — and you 
have chateau Margaux rising before you like a wan, 
ghastly spectre of a house, amid stately terraced 



CHATEAU MARGAUX. 



67 



gardens, and trimmed, clipped, and tortured trees. 
But, as I have already insisted, nothing, in any land 
of vines, must be judged by appearances. The first 
time I saw at a distance Johannesberg, rising from its 
grape-clustered domains, I thought it looked very 
much like a union workhouse, erected in the midst 
of a field of potatoes. 





ULNDES SHEFHEKDS. 



CHAPTER IV. 



The Landes — The Bordeaux and Teste Railway — 
NiNiCHE — The Landscape of the Landes — The People 
OF the Landes — How they walk on Stilts, and 
Gamble. 

Turn to the map of France — to that portion of it 
which would be traversed by a straight line drawn 
from Bordeaux to Bayonne — and you will observe 
that such a line would run through a vast extent of 
bare-looking country — of that sort, indeed, where 

" Geographers on pathless downs 
Place elephants, for want of towns." 

Roads, you will observe, are few and far between ; 
the names of far-scattered towns will be unfamiliar 
to you ; and, indeed, nine- tenths of this part of the 
map consists of white paper. The district you are 



THE LANDES. 59 

looking at is the Landes, forming now a department 
by itself, and anciently constituting a portion of Gas- 
cony and Guienne. These Landes form one of the 
strangest and wildest parts of France. Excepting 
here and there small patches of poor, ill- cultivated 
land, the whole country is a solitary desert — black 
with pine- wood, or white with vast plains of drifting 
sand. By these two great features of the district, occa- 
sionally diversified by sweeps of green morass, inter- 
sected by canals and lanes of stagnant and often 
brackish water, the Landes take a goodly slice out 
of La Belle France. Their sea-line bounds the French 
side of the Bay of Biscay, stretching from Bayonne 
to the mouth of the Gironde ; and at their point of 
greatest breadth they run some sixty miles back into 
the country ; thence gradually receding away towards 
the sea, as though pushed back by the course of the 
Garonne, until, towards the mouth of the river, they 
fade away altogether. 

So much for the physique of the Landes. The 
inhabitants are every whit as rugged, strange, and 
uncultivated. As the Landes were four centuries 
ago, in all essential points, so they are now ; as the 
people were four centuries ago, in all essential points, 
so they are now. What should the tide of progress or 
of improvement do in these deserts of pine and sand? 
The people live on French soil, but cannot be called 
Frenchmen. They speak a language as unintelligible 
to a Frenchman as an Englishman ; they have none 
of the national characteristics — little, perhaps, of the 
national blood. They are saturnine, gloomy, hypo- 
chondriac, dismally passing dismal lives in the depths 



60 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

of their black forests, their dreary swamps, and their 
far-spreading deserts of white, fine sand. Such an 
odd nook of the world was not to be passed un visited ; 
besides, I wanted to see the Biscay surf; and accord- 
ingly I left Bordeaux for the Landes — not in some 
miserable cross-country vehicle — not knight- errant- 
wise, on a Bordelais Eosinante — not pilgrim-wise, with 
a stafi" and scrip — but in a comfortable railway- 
carriage. 

Yes, sir, a comfortable railway- carriage ; and the 
railway in question — the Bordeaux and Teste line — is 
the sole enterprise of the kind undertaken and achieved 
in the south-west of France. 

"Kailways!" said the conductor of the Paris and 
Bordeaux diligence to me, with that magnificent con- 
descension wdth which a Frenchman explains to a 
Briton all about Perfide Albion ! — *' Kailways, mon- 
sieur," he said, " as all the world knows, have achieved 
the ruin of the Old England, and presently they will 
do as much for France. Tenez; they are cursed inven- 
tions — particularly the Paris and Bordeaux Railway." 

But if the ruin of France is to be consummated by 
railways, France, like bankrupt linendrapers, will take 
a long time to ruin. The Bordeaux line crawls but 
slowly on. In 1850, we left the rails and took to the 
road at Tours; and, barring the bits of line leading 
down from some of the Mediterranean towns to Mar- 
seilles, the Bordeaux and Teste fragment was the 
sole morsel of railway then in operation south of 
Lyons. The question comes, then, to be. What 
earthly inducement caused the construction of this 
wilderness line, and how it happens that the only 



THE BORDEAUX AND TESTE RAILWAY. 61 

locomotives in fair Guienne whistle through the 
almost uninhabited Landes ? The fact seems to be, 
that, once upon a time, the good folks of Bordeaux 
were taken with an inappeasable desire to have a 
railway. One would have thought that the natural 
course of such an undertaking would have been 
northward, through the vines and thickly-peopled 
country of Medoc to the comparatively-important 
towns of PauUiac and Lesparre. The enterprising 
Bordelais, however, had another scheme. Some forty 
miles to the west of the city, the sands, pines, and 
morasses of the Landes are broken by a vast shallow 
basin, its edges scolloped with innumerable creeks, 
bays, and winding friths, into which, through a breach 
in the coast line of sand-hills, flow the waters of the 
Atlantic. On the southern side of this estuary lie 
two or three scattered groups of hovels, inhabited by 
fishermen and shepherds — the most important of the 
hamlets being known as Teste, or Teste-la-buch. 
Between Teste and Bordeaux, the only line of com- 
munication was a rutty road, half sand and half 
morass, and the only trafl&c was the occasional pil- 
grimage to the salt water of some patient sent thither 
at all risks by the Bordeaux doctors, or now and then 
the transit towards the city of the Garonne of the 
products of a day's lucky fishing, borne in ]3anniers 
on the backs of a string of donkeys. Folks, however, 
were sanguine. The speculation " came out," shares 
got up, knowing people sold out, simple people held 
on, and the line was actually constructed. No doubt 
it was cheaply got up. Ground could be had in the 
Landes almost for the asking, and from terminus to 



B2 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

terminus there is not an inch of tunnel- cutting or 
embankment. The line, moreover, is single, and the 
stations are knocked up in the roughest and most 
primitive style. The result, however, astonished no 
one, save the shareholders. The traffic does not half 
pay the working expenses. Notwithstanding that 
some increase in the amount of communication cer- 
tainly did take place, consequent upon the facility 
with which Teste can now be reached — a facility 
which has gone some way to render it a summer 
place of sea-side resort — the two trains which run j^er 
diem seldom convey more than a dozen or so of 
third-class passengers, and the shareholders at length 
flung themselves into the hands of the Government ; 
and, insisting upon the advantages which would 
accrue to the State as soon as the Paris and Bordeaux 
line was finished, by a direct means of communication 
between the metropolis and a harbour in the Bay of 
Biscay, they succeeded in hypothecating their line to 
the Government for a small annual subvention. Such 
is the present agreeable position of the single railway 
in the south-west of France. 

I was somewhat late, as I feared, for the train, 
and, calling a citadine, got the man to urge his horse 
to a galloj), so that we pulled up at the terminus with 
the animal in a lather. A porter approached, and 
grinned. " Monsieur has made haste, but the winter 
season begins to-day, and the train does not go for an 
hour and a half." There was no help for it, and I 
sauntered into the nearest cafe to read long disqui- 
sitions on what was then all the vogue in the political 
world — the " situation." I found the little marble 



M. TETARD AND HIS IMITATOR. 63 

slabs deserted — even the billiard- table abandoned, 
and all the guests collected round the white Fayence 
stove. Joining them, I perceived the attraction. On 
one of the velvet stools sat an old gentleman of parti- 
cularly grave and reverend aspect — a most philosophic 
and sage-like old gentleman — and between his legs 
was a white poodle, standing erect with his master s 
cane in his paws. All the company were in raptures 
with Niniche, who was going through his perform- 
ances. 

" Niniche," said the patriarch, " what does Mon- 
sieur Tetard do when he comes home late ?" 

The dog' immediately began to stagger about on 
its hind legs, sometimes losing its balance and then 
getting up again, looking all the time with a sort of 
stupid blinking stare at its master. It was clear that 
M. Tetard, when he came home late, did not come 
home sober. 

^^ Tiens! c* est admirable!" shouted the spectators 
— burly fellows, with black beards, and honest trades- 
man-looking people, with glasses of eau sucree in 
their hands. 

" And now," said the old gentleman, the poodle's 
proprietor and instructor, "what does Madame Tetard 
do when Monsieur Tetard comes home late ? " 

The dog straightway began to utter, with won- 
derful volubility, a series of loud, shrill, yelping snaps, 
jerking itself up and down on its haunches, and 
flinging its paws about as if it had the hydrophobia. 
The spectators were enraptured. " It is actually her 
voice," said one. " Only the dog is too good-looking 
for her," said another. " Voila petite !'^ vociferated 



64 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

a third, holding a huge piece of bluish- tinted beetroot 
sugar to the performer, when suddenly the group was 
broken by a fussy, fat old gentleman with a white 
baggy cravat, very snuffy, and a pair of heavy gold 
spectacles. 

"«7e dis — moi!" shouted the new comer, in violent 
wrath ; " que c^est abominable ce que vous faites Id 
Pere Grignon^'' A murmur of suppressed laughter 
went through the group. Pere Grignon looked con- 
siderably taken aback, and the speaker aimed a hearty 
kick at Niniche, who dodged away round the stove. 
It was evident that he was no other than the injured 
and maligned Tetard himself. Instantly he broke 
into loud objurgations. He knew how that atrocious 
old Pere Grignon had taught his dog to malign him, 
the bete miserable ! But as for it, he would poison 
it — shoot it — drown it ; and as for Pere Grignon, who 
ought to have more sense, all the quartier knew what 
he was — an imbecille, who was always running about 
carrying tales, and making mischief. But he would 
appeal to the authorities; he would lay his complaint 
before the commisary of the quartier ; he would — 
he would — . At this moment the excited orator 
caught sight of the offending poodle slipping to the 
door, and instantly sprung vigorously after him : — 

" Tenez-tenez ; don't touch Niniche — it's not his 
fault ! " exclaimed the poodle's proprietor. But the 
dog had bolted, with Tetard in hot chase of his imi- 
tator, and vowing that he should be ecrased and 
abimed as soon as caught. There was, of course, 
great laughter at the whole proceeding; and then the 
group betook themselves to the marble slabs and 



START FOR THE LANDES. 65 

dominoes — the instructor of the offending quadruped 
coolly lighting his pipe, as he muttered that old Tetard 
was, after all, a hon enfant , and that over sl petit verre 
he would always listen to reason. 

At length the tedious hour and a half wore away, 
and I entered the terminus — a roughly built wooden 
shed. The train consisted of a first, second, and 
third-class carriage ; but there were no first-class 
passengers, only one solitary second-class, and about 
a dozen third-classes, with whom I cast my lot. Mi- 
serable as the freight was, the locomotive whistled as 
loud and panted as vehemently as if it were yoked to 
a Great Western express ; and off we went through 
the broad belt of nursery gardens, which encircles every 
French town, and where the very best examples of 
the working of the small proprietary system are to be 
seen. A rapid run through the once greatly famed 
and still esteemed vineyards' of Hautbrion, and we 
found ourselves scurrying along over a negative sort 
of country — here a bit of heath, there a bit of vine- 
yard — now a bald spot of sand, anon a plot of irregu- 
larly-cut stubble; while a black horizon of pine-wood 
rose gradually on the right and left. On flew the 
train, and drearier grew the landscape ; the heath 
was bleaker — the pines began to appear in clumps — 
the sand- stretches grew wider — every thing green, and 
fertile, and riant disappeared. He, indeed, who en- 
ters the Landes, appears to have crossed a French 
frontier, and left the merry land behind. No more 
bright vineyards — no more rich fields of waving corn 
— no more clustered villages — no more chateau- tur- 

F 



66 CLA.RET AND OLIVES. 

rets — no more tapering spires. You look up to heaven 
to see whether the sky has not changed, as well as the 
land. No; all there is blue and serene as before, 
and the keen, hot sun glares intensely down upon 
undulating wastes of marsh, fir, and sand, among 
which you may travel for leagues without seeing a 
man, hearing a dog bark, or a bird sing. At last we 
were fairly among the woods, shooting down what 
seemed an eternal straight tunnel, cleft by lightning 
through the pines. The trees stood up stark and 
stifi*, like cast-iron ; the fir is at once a solemn and 
a rigid tree — the Puritan of the forest ; and down the 
side of each Puritan I noticed a straight, yellowish 
gash, running perpendicularly from the spread of the 
branches almost to the earth, and turned for explana- 
tion to an intelligent-looking man, evidently a citizen 
of Bordeaux, opposite me. 

"Ah !" he said, " you are new to our Landes." 

I admitted it. 

" And these gashes down the trees — these, mon- 
sieur, give us the harvest of the Landes." 

'' The harvest ! What harvest ?*' 

" What harvest ? Kesin, to be sure." 

" Ay, resin," said an old fellow with a blouse and 
a quick eye ; " resin, monsieur; the only harvest that 
man can grow in sand." 

" Tenez" said my first interlocutor ; " the pea- 
sants cut that gash in the tree ; and at the root they 
scoop a little hollow in the ground. The resin per- 
spires out of the wood, flows slowly and glutinously 
down the gash, and in a month or so, according to the 



THE LANGUAGE OF THE LANDES. 67 

heat of the weather, the hole is full, and the man who 
rents the trees takes up the sticky stuff, like soup, 
with a ladle." 

"That's a very good description," said the old 
bloused gentleman. *' And then, sir" (addressing 
me), ''we barrel our crop of the Landes. Yes, in- 
deed, we barrel it, as well as they do the crop of the 
Medoc." 

" Only you wouldn't like to drink it so well," said 
the Bordeaux man. 

Presently we pulled up at a station — a mere shed, 
with a clearing around it, as there might have been 
in Texas or Maine. I observed the name — Tohua- 
CoHOA, and remarked that it did not look like a 
French one. 

*' French one !" said he of Bordeaux ; " you don't 
expect to find French in this chaos ? No, no ; it is 
some of the gibberish the savages hereabout speak." 

'•' No such gibberish, and no such savages either," 
said the little keen-eyed man. " Moi, je suis de 
Landes; and the Landes language is a far finer 
language than French. French ! phoo, phoo !" 

And he took a pinch of snuff indignantly and 
triumphantly. The Bordeaux gentleman winked 
blandly at me, as if the keen- eyed man was a cha- 
racter to be humoured, and then looked doubtful and 
unconvinced. 

'* Tohua-Oohoa," he said ; " it has a sacre tonnerre 
of a barbarous sound ; has it any meaning ?" 

" Meaning !" exclaimed the man of the Landes ; 
" I should think so. Tohua-Cohoa means, in French, 
Allez doucement ; and the place was so called be- 

r2 



68 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

cause there was there a dangerous swamp, in which 
many a donkey coming up from Teste with fish to 
you of Bordeaux was smothered ; and so it got to be 
quite proverbial among the drivers of the donkeys, 
and they used to shout to each other, 'Tohua-Cohoa !' 
whenever they came near the slough ; meaning to 
look out, and go gently, and take care of the soft 
places." 

The man with the blouse, who was clearly the 
champion of the Landes, then turned indignantly 
from the Bordeaux man and addressed himself to me. 
"The language which the poor people here speak, 
monsieur, is a fine and expressive language, and liker 
the Spanish than the French. The people are poor, 
and very ignorant. They believe, monsieur, in ghosts, 
and witches, and sorceries, just as all France did two 
or three hundred years ago. Very few of them can 
read, monsieur, and they have bad food and no wine. 
But nevertheless, monsieur, they are bons enfants — 
braves gens, monsieur. They love their pine- woods 
and their sands as much as other people do their 
corn-fields and their vines, monsieur. They would 
die, monsieur, if you took them away from the sand 
and the trees. They are not like the Auvergnats, who 
go in troops to Paris to carry water from the fountains, 
and who are betes — betes — Men betes ! They stay at 
home, monsieur. They wear their sheep-skins and 
walk upon their stilts, like their forefathers before 
them, monsieur; and if you are coming here to see 
the Landes, and if you lose yourself in the woods, and 
see a light glimmering through the trees, and rap at 
the cottage door, monsieur, you will be welcomed, 



A RAILWAY STATION IN THE LANDES. 69 

monsieur, and have the best they can offer to eat, and 
the softest they can offer to sleep on. Tenez, tenez ; 
nous sommes pauvres et ignorants mais nous sommes, 
loyals et hons ! " 

The tears fairly stood in the keen black eyes of 
the Landes man as he concluded his harangue, of 
which I have only reported the main points; for, truth 
to tell, the poor fellow's vehemence was so great, 
and his utterance so rapid, that I lost nearly as much 
as I caught. The Bordeaux gentleman hammered 
the floor with his umbrella in satirical approbation, 
the rest of the passengers looked curiously on, and, 
the engine whistling, we pulled up again at a station 
similar to the first — a shed — a clearing, and black 
pine all around. There were just three persons on 
the rough platform — the station-master in a blouse, 
and two yellow-breeched gens-d'armes. What could 
they find to occupy them among these drear pine- 
woods? What thief, who had not made a vow of 
voluntary starvation, or who had not a morbid taste 
for living upon resin, would ever have ventured among 
them ? But the authorities ! Catch a bit of France 
without an " authority ! " As they certainly are omni- 
potent, and profess to be omniscient, it is only to be 
supposed that they should be omnipresent. One man 
left the train at the station in question — a slouching, 
stupid, swarthy peasant, the authorities pounced 
upon him, evidently in prodigious glee at catching 
somebody to be autoritised over, and we left them, 
spelling and squabbling over the greasy-looking 
"papers" presented by the profoundly respectful 
Jacques or Pierre. 



70 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

And now, before proceeding further, I roay be 
allowed to describe, with some minuteness, the land- 
scape which will greet the traveller in the Landes. 
Its mere surface-aspect I have already sketched ; but 
general terms go but a small way towards indicating 
the dreary grandeurs of that solemn wilderness. Over 
all its gloom and barrenness — over all its *' blasted 
heaths" and monotonous pine-woods, and sodden 
morasses, and glaring heaps of shifting sand — there is 
a strong and pervading sense of loneliness, a grandeur 
and intensity of desolation, which, as it were, clothes 
the land with a sad, solemn poetry peculiar to itself. 
Emerging from black forests of fir, the wanderer may 
find himself upon a plain, flat as a billiard- table, and 
apparently boundless as the ocean, clad in one un- 
varied, unbroken robe of dusky heath. Sometimes 
stripes and ridges, or great ragged patches of sand, 
glisten in the fervid sunshine; sometimes belts of 
scraggy young fir-trees appear rising from the horizon 
on the left, and fading into the horizon on the right. 
Occasionally a brighter shade of green, with jungles 
of willows and coarse water-weeds, giant rushes, and 
marish- mosses, and tangled masses of dank vegetation, 
will tell of the unfathomable swamp beneath. Dark 
veins of muddy water will traverse the flat oozy land, 
sometimes, perhaps, losing themselves in broad 
shallow lakes, bordered again by the endless sand- 
banks and stretches of shadowy pine. The dwellings 
which dot this dreary, yet, in its way, solemnly poetic 
landscape, are generally mere isolated huts, sepa- 
rated sometimes by. many miles, often by many 
leagues. Round them the wanderer will descry a 



THE SCENERY OF THE LANDES. 71 

miserable field or two, planted with a stunted crop of 
rye, millet, or maize. The cottages are mouldering 
heaps of sod and unhewn and unmortared stones, 
clustered round with ragged sheds composed of 
masses of tangled bushes, pine stakes, and broad- 
leaved reeds, beneath which cluster, when not 
seeking their miserable forage in the woods, two or 
three cows, mere skin and bone, and a score or two 
of the most abject- looking sheep which ever browsed. 
Proceeding through the Landes towards the coast, 
a long chain of lakes and water- courses, running 
parallel to the ocean, breaks their uniformity. The 
country becomes a waste of shallow pools, and of 
land which is parched in summer and submerged 
in winter. Running in devious arms and windings 
through moss and moor and pine, these " lakes of the 
dismal swamp" form labyrinths of gulfs and morasses 
which only the most experienced shepherds can safely 
thread. Here and there a village, or rather bourg, 
will be seen upon their banks, half hidden in the 
pine-woods; and a roughly-built fishing-punt or two 
will be observed floating like the canoe of a savage in 
the woodland lakes. Sometimes, as in the case of the 
basin of Arcachon, which will be presently described, 
these waters are arms of the sea ; and the retreating 
tide leaves scores of square miles of putrid swamp. 
Sometimes they are mere collections of surface-drain- 
age, accumulating without any means of escape to 
the ocean, and perilous in the extreme to the dwellers 
on their shores. For, forming the extreme line of 
coast, there runs, for near two hundred miles, from 
the Adour to the Garonne, a range of vast hills of 



72 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

white sand, as fine as though it had been sifted for 
an hour-glass. Every gale changes the shape of 
these rolling mountains. A strong wind from the 
land flings millions of tons of sand per hour into 
the sea, to be washed up again by the surf, flung on 
the beach, and in the first Biscay gale blown in 
whirlwinds inland. A winter hurricane again from 
the west has filled up with sand square miles of 
shallow lake, driving the displaced waters inland, 
dispersing them in gleaming lakes among the pine- 
woods, flooding, and frequently destroying the scat- 
tered hamlets of the people, and burying for ever 
their fields of millet and rye. I shall presently have 
occasion to touch upon some disasters of this sort. 
Meantime, having made the aspect of the Landes 
familiar to the reader, I pursue the thread of my 
journey. 

The novelty of a population upon stilts — men, 
women, and children, spurning the ground, and 
living habitually four or five feet higher than the 
rest of mankind — ^irresistibly takes the imagination, 
and I leant anxiously from the carriage to catch the 
first glimpse of a Landean in his native style. I 
looked long in vain. We passed hut after hut, but 
they seemed deserted, except that the lean swine 
burrowing round the turf walls gave evidence that 
the pork had proprietors somewhere. At last I was 
gratified ; as the train passed not very quickly along 
a jungle of bushes and coppice-wood, a black, shaggy 
figure rose above it, as if he were standing upon the 
ends of the twigs. The efi'ect was quite eldritch. 
We saw him but as a vision, but the high conical 



THE STILT-WALKERS OF THE LANDES. 73 

hat with broad brims, like Mother Red-cap's, the 
swarthy, bearded face, and the rough, dirty sheep- skin, 
which hung fleecily from the shoulders of the appa- 
rition, haunted me. He was come and gone, and 
that was all. Presently, however, the natives began 
to heave in sight in sufficient profusion. There 
were three gigantic-looking figures stalking together 
across an expanse of dusky heath. I thought them 
men, and rather tall ones ; but my companions, more 
accustomed to the sight, said they were boys on com- 
paratively short stilts, herding the sheep, which were 
scattered like little greyish stones all over the waste. 
Anon, near a cottage, we saw a woman, in dark, coarse 
clothes, with shortish petticoats, sauntering almost 
four feet from the ground, and next beheld at a 
distance, and on the summit of a sand-ridge, relieved 
against the sky, three figures, each leaning back, and 
supported, as it seemed, not only by two daddy long- 
legs' limbs, but by a third, which appeared to grow 
out of the small of their backs. The phenomenon was 
promptly explained by my bloused cicerone, who 
seemed to feel especial pleasure at my interest in the 
matter. The third leg was a pole or staff the people 
carry, with a new moon-shaped crutch at the top, 
which, applied to the back, serves as a capital prop. 
With his legs spread out, and his back- stay firmly 
pitched, the shepherd of the Landes feels as much at 
home as you would in the easiest of easy chairs. 

*'' He will remain so for hours, without stirring, 
and without being wearied," said my fellow-passenger. 
"It is away of sitting down in the Landes. Why, 
a shepherd, could stand so, long enough to knit a 



74 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

pair of stockings, ay, and not have an ache in his 
back. Sometimes they play cards, so, without once 
coming off their stilts." 

"Ay, and cheat ! Mon Dieu ! how they cheat!" 
said the Bordeaux gentleman. The native of the 
Landes reluctantly admitted that that was the truth, 
and the other went on : — 

" These fellows here on the stilts are the most 
confounded gamblers in Europe. Men and women, 
it 's all the same — play, play, play ; they would stake 
their bodies first, and their souls after. Tenez ; I 
once heard of a lot of the fellows playing in a wood 
till they were all but starved. In the day they played 
by daylight, and when night came, they kindled a 
bonfire and played in the glare. They played on 
and on, in spite of hunger and thirst. They staked 
their money — not that they had much of that — and 
their crops — not that they were of great value either 
— and their pigs, and their sheep, and their Landes 
ponies, and then their furniture, and then their clothes, 
and, last of all, their stilts — for a Landes man thinks 
his stilts the principal part of his wardrobe ; and, 
sacre! monsieur, three of the fellows were ruined 
out and out, and had to give up their hats, and sheep- 
skins, and sabots, while the man who was the greatest 
winner walked home on his own stilts, with the stilts 
of all his comrades tucked under his arm." 

"' Gaming is their fault — their great fault," meekly 
acknowledged the blouse. 

" Not at all !" said his antagonist. " Cheating is 
their great fault. A Landes shepherd would cheat 
the devil with a greasy pack of cards." 



A GLIMPSE OF GREEN. 75 

" The fact is," replied the apologist, " that they 
count cheating part of the game. Their motto is, 
win anyhow ; so it is no worse for one than the other. 
Cards is chance ; but cheating needs skill, and voila 
tout" 

We were fast approaching Teste, and had passed 
two or three clusters of poor huts, and a party of 
women up to their waists in a sluggish stream wash- 
ing fleeces, while yellow patches of ripening maize 
began to recur quicker and quicker, showing that 
we had reached a comparatively thickly-peopled dis- 
trict, when all at once there burst upon my eyes a 
glorious- looking prairie of gently undulating land, 
of the brightest green I ever looked upon. The 
green of the greenest lawns of England, the green of 
the softest bogs of Ireland, the green even of the 
most intensely green patches of the Curragh of 
Kildare, were brown, and fuzzy, and rusty, compared 
to this wonderful hue. The land looked like one 
huge emerald, sparkling in the sun. The brightness, 
the freshness, the radiance of the tint, was almost 
supernatural, and the eye, nursed for it, as it were, 
after our joiu'ney over the brown moors and black 
pines, caught the bright fresh beauty of the colour 
with rapture. 

" Come," I thought, " there are, at least, oases in 
the Landes. Never was turf so glorious ; never was 
sward so bewitching." And then, gazing far and wide 
upon the prairie, I saw it dotted with human figures 
labouring at the soil, and great wains and carts drawn 
by oxen, looking like black specks upon a great, fresh, 
green leaf. But, in a moment, I saw something more. 



76 CLA.RET AND OLIVES. 

Could I believe my eyes? A ship ! Yes, verily, a ship, 
fast aground, high and dry upon the turf! and not 
only one, but two, three, four, good-sized schooners 
and chasse marees, with peasants digging about them, 
and country carts high heaped with green rural- 
looking burdens. 

The Landes man saw my bewilderment. " The 
green-looking land," he said, " is the flat bottom of 
part of the bay of Arcachon. It is now dead low- 
water, and the country people have come down with 
their carts to fill them with that green slimy sea- 
weed, which makes capital manure ; and some of 
them, perhaps, have brought casks of resin for those 
ships which principally belong to Bordeaux, Eochelle, 
and Nantes, and come here and into other bays along 
the coast for the harvest of the Landes." 

The engine whistled. We were at Teste — a shabby, 
ancient little village, with a deep stream flowing slug- 
gishly around it, and dividing itself into a many-forked 
delta along the level sand ; fishermen's hovels scattered 
on the beach, brown boats drawn up beneath them, 
nets drying, a considerable fishy smell pervading the 
atmosphere, with, beyond again, the black, unvarying 
mantle of pine-woods. There is a very good hotel at 
Teste; thanks to its being one of the Bordeaux water- 
ing-places ; and there, for dinner, was provided red 
mullets, which would have made the red mullet-loving 
Duke of Devonshire crazy, as he noted the difierence 
between the fish from the bay of Arcachon and their 
brethren from the coast of Weymouth. 



CHAPTER V. 

The Landes— The Bay of Arcachon and its Fishers— 
The Legend of Chatel-Morant — The Pine-woods — 
The Resin-gatherer — The Wild Horses — The Surf 
OF THE Bay of Biscay — The Witches of the Landes 
— Popular Beliefs, and Popular Customs. 

The Sim was low in the heavens next morning when 
I was afoot and down to the beach, the glorious bay 
now brimming full, and the schooners and chasse 
marees, like the swan on St. Mary's Loch, floating 
double, ships and shadows. The scene was very 
strange. The green meadow had disappeared, and 
where it had been, a gleaming lake stretched brilliant 
in the sunshine, set in the pine-woods like a mirror 
in an ebony frame, cutting slices of sweeping bay out 
of their dusky margins, and piercing their depths with 
silent, weedy water-veins. 

Where the villages lie, there have been clearings 
made in the wood, precisely as one would expect to 
see in a New Zealand or Australian bay. Close to 
high-water mark, rows of rounded huts serve as store- 
houses for nets, and spars, and sails. Before them 
straggling jetties run on piles far to seaward ; behind, 
huddled amid scanty vineyards and patches of broad- 
leaved Indian corn, groups of houses — their roofs 
nearly flat, and their walls not above six feet, in some 
places not four feet, high — seem cowering away from 



78 



CLARET AND OLIVES. 



observation. For every cottage built of stone, there 
are half-a-dozen out-houses, sheds, pig-sties, and so 
forth, piled up with old oars, broken masts, furze, 
pine- cuttings, and Irish-looking sod. I made my 
way to what seemed the principal landing-place — a 
bleached jetty. A dozen or so of boats floated round 
it, roughly built, very narrow, and very light, lying 
upon the very top of the water, and just, in fact, as 
like canoes as the scene about resembled some still 
savage country. Three boats were starting for the 
oyster fishery, manned each by four as buxom, blithe, 
and debonnaire wenches as you would wish to see. 
They had short petticoats — your Nereides of all shores 
have — and straw hats, shaped like a man's. In the 




stern-sheets of each boat a venerable, ancient mariner 
held the tiller; and as I approached, the damsel^, 
who were getting their clumsy oars inserted between 
the thole-pins, clamoured out in a torrent of voci- 
ferous gabble, offering me a day's oyster-fishing, if I 



THE CLEAR WATER OF ARCACHON. 79 

would go with them. They were evidently quite au 
fait to ridding the Bordeaux loungers ©f their spare 
francs, in the shape of passage-money, for a frolic on 
the oyster-banks ; but I had determined to pass the 
day in another fashion. I wanted a sail on the bright, 
still bay, a walk in the pine-woods, and a glance at 
the surf tumbling in from the Bay of Biscay; so I 
scrutinized the faces of two or three lounging boat- 
men, with as much reference to Lavater's principles 
as I might, and selecting the most intelligent-looking 
of the lot — a mild, grey-eyed man, who spoke gently 
and slowly — we soon made a bargain, and were 
speedily afloat in the bean-cod looking canoe of which 
he was the skipper. I was gazing doubtfully at the 
heavy oars, and the expanse of water, when a flying 
cat's-paw made just a pretence of ruffling it. 

" Merci, le hon vent !" said the fisherman. Up 
went a mast; up went a light patch of thin white 
canvass, and straightway the bubbles flew fast and 
faster by the gunwale, and there arose a sweet gurgle 
from the cleaving bow. 

"You can see how fast we're going by the bottom," 
said the boatman. I leant over the gunwale, and 
looked down. Oh, the marvellous brightness of that 
shining sea ! T gazed from the boat upon the sand 
through the water, almost as you might through the 
air upon the earth from a balloon. Ghost-like fish 
gleamed in the depths, and their shadows followed 
them below upon the ribbed sea-sand. Long flowing 
weeds, like rich green ribbons, waved and streamed 
in the gently running tidal current. You could see 
the white pebbles and shells — here a ridge of rocks, 



80 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

* there a dark bed of sea- weed ; and now and then a 
great flat-fisk, for all the world like a burnished 
pot-lid set in motion — went gleaming along the 
bottom. 

" Once," said the boatman, " all the bottom of 
this great bay that you are looking at was dry land, 
and there were cottages upon it, and an ancient 
chateau. That was the chateau of Arm and de Chatel- 
morant, an old baron of these parts, a wicked man 
and a great magician,^ who had a familiar spirit, which 
came when he blew a horn, and who was able, by his 
sorceries, to rule the winds that blow. Only, once he 
raised a storm he could not quell; and it was that 
storm which made the Bay of Arcachon ; for the wind 
blew the sand of the sea-shore up the country, like a 
snow-storm, iand the sand-hills rolled before it ; and 
what the wind began, the coup de mer finished, and 
the ocean came bursting through the breach it had 
battered in the sand-ridges of the coast, and swallowed 
up the chateau and drowned the magician, and there 
was an end of him." 

" Well," said I, " so be it; he deserved his fate." 
" For many a year after the flood the baron had 
made," tJie boatman continued, *' you could see, out 
of a boat, the pointed tops of the towers of the chateau 
below you, with the weather-cocks still pointing to the 
west, and the green sea-weed hanging to them, like 
pennons from a ship's vanes." 

" But I fear it is not to be seen now." 
" Oh ! no. Ages and ages ago it rotted and rotted 
away; but the old men of the village have heard from 
their fathers that the fishermen only ventured there 



LEGEND OF THE BARON OF CPIATEL-MORANT. 81 

in calm summer weather and in good day-light ; for, 
in the dark, look you, and when a Biscay wind 
was blowing, they said they heard the sounding 
of Chatel-morant's magic horn, and they saw his 
imp flying above them and wailing like a hurt sea- 
bird." 

Of course, I was on thorns to hear all the story ; 
and so my boatman recounted a rude, disjointed tale, 
which I have hitched, legendwise, into the following 
narrative : — 

The Baron Armand de Chatel-morant sat in his 
dim studio high up in the most seaward tower of the 
chateau of Chatel-morant- His hair and his beard 
were white, but his eyes were keen, and his cheeks as 
ruddy as the eyes and the cheeks of a young man. 
He had a furnace beside him, with implements of 
projection, crucibles, and powders. On the table 
were astrological instruments, and the magic crystal, 
which his Familiar had given him, and in which — 
only, however, when the Familiar pleased^the baron 
could read the future ; but, for every reading of the 
future, the baron was a year older — the Familiar had 
a year of his life. The baron was clothed in a long 
furred robe, and he wore red shoes, with peaked toes, 
as long again as his feet. His face was moody, and 
clouds went driving along his brow. He took up his 
instruments, and laid them down, and opened a big 
book, full of spells and cantrips, and shut it ; then 
he walked about the room ; and then he stopped and 
blew a silver whistle. ^ 

Very prompt at the sound came an old man — 
reverent and sorrowful looking — with a white wand ; 

G 



82 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

for he was the seneschal of the chateau of Chatel- 
morant. 

" Your niece/' said the baron, " who comes hither 
from the town of Bordeaux to visit you, and whom I 
saw but yester even, — has she returned ?" 

" She went this morning, monseigneur," said the 
seneschal ; " she has preparations to make ; for, God 
save the pretty child ! she is to be married on the 
day of Blessed St. John." 

The baron frowned ; for he was not an admirer 
of the saints, being quite, indeed, on the other side 
of the hedge. 

*' Say the number of the day, and the name of the 
month," he replied, angrily ; " and do not torment 
me with that shaveling jargon which they talk in 
the monastery of Andrew, whom they call St. Andrew 
at Bordeaux." 

The seneschal, who was accustomed to be bullied, 
particularly upon religious subjects, crossed himself 
behind his back ; for he was a prudent man, and, 
owing to the absence of mind of the baron, who was 
always experimentalizing in the black art, managed, 
one way or other, to pick up so much as to make his 
jilace a tolerably profitable one. 

''' Married !" said the baron ; " and to whom ?" 

"Just to honest and brave Jacques Fort — the 
stoutest mariner who sails out of the Garonne. He 
has got a ship of his own, now — the Sainte Vierge ; 
and to-day he sails upon his first voyage, as far as 
Bayonne." 

" He sails to-day — so ; and the maiden's name — 
vour niece's name — what is that ?" 



LEGEND OF THE BARON OF CHATEL-MORANT. 83 

*' Toinette, so please you, sir." 

" You may go." 

And go the seneschal did, wondering very much 
at the uncommon interest his master seemed to be 
taking in vulgar, sublunary things. 

Then Baron Armand de Chatel-morant paced the 
room a long time in gloomy meditation. At length 
he sat down again, and said aloud : " There is no 
doubt of it — I am in love. That face haunts me ; 
Toinette's face is ever floating opposite to me. 'T is 
an odd feeling; I was never so before. But, since 
it is so, I must even have the maiden — she will cheer 
me — I love her face. I will send to-morrow to Bor- 
deaux, as from her uncle ; and when she comes here, 
by the star of Aldeboran, she stays here, Jacques Fort 
to the contrary notwithstanding !" 

" Wrong — quite wrong !" said a voice. 

The baron turned coolly round, and saw, sitting 
upon the arm of the chair close to him, the figure of 
a very thin dwarf, with a long, unearthly face, and 
fingers like hawis* claws. This was the imp — the 
baron's Familiar. 

" How, Klosso !" said Armand ; " you come with- 
out being called ?" 

" Yes; but you would have called me soon." 

" You know what I am thinking of — of Toinette. 
I love her — I must have her." 

" You will not have her." 

" Why so ?" 

" Because it is so decreed." 

*' Klosso," said the baron, '•' I do n't believe you. 

G 2 



84 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

You know the future ; but you lie about it when you 
speak." 

" Will you, then," answered the demon, " look 
into the crystal : that can t' lie. Come — it 's only 
another year — give yourself a treat — come !" 

"I have given you many years already," said the 
baron, musing ; " look how grey my hair is !" 

" Dye it," said the imp, who, if he was a Familiar, 
certainly behaved as such. But the baron took no 
notice of his impertinence. He was dreadfully smitten 
by Toinette, and said he 'd have a twelvemonths' 
worth of knowledge of futurity for her sake. The 
thin dwarf grinned, and then made a motion of relief, 
as one who saw before him the speedy end of a long, 
long watch. So he took the crystal, uttered, as may 
be supposed, some magic words ; and the baron 
looked upon the clear surface. 

" Malediction !" he exclaimed, as he saw in the 
crystal a huge hearth, with pots on the fire, and poul- 
try roasting before it, and Toinette tending the cook- 
ery, and a stalwart fellow helping her clumsily. 

" That is Toinette !" cried the baron ; " but who 
is the rascal with her ?" 

" Her husband, Jacques Fort." 

" Curses on him !" 

Here the baron saw Jacques fling his arm round 
Toinette's waist, and kiss her so naturally, that he 
ground his teeth. 

" Domestic felicity," said the imp ; *' a charming 
picture, baron — they 're cooking the christening 
feast for young Jacques." 



LEGEND OF THE BARON OF CHATEL-MORANT. 85 

The baron flung the crystal down. 

** Pay me," said the imp ; and he passed the 
bird-hke hand over the baron's face, and each of his 
fingers drew a wrinkle. A shudder went over the 
sorcerer's frame, and then he breathed heavily, and 
looked wistfully at the imp. He was a year older. 

*' Klosso !" shouted Armand, leaping to his feet, 
" I will fight fate !" 

"Better not," said Klosso. 

" Curse the future !" exclaimed the baron ; ** I 
will alter the future, and give the lie to the crystal, as 
to you !" 

''If you try," replied the imp, coolly, ^*you will 
belong to me before the morning." 

" Silence, slave !" cried Armand, who was not a 
man to be put out of his way; " you rule the winds — 
I rule you. Make the west wind blow." 

The imp raised its hand, and they heard the 
whistling of a strong, gusty wind, and the creaking 
of the weather-cocks, as they all turned towards the 
sea. 

" Stronger — stronger — stronger !" shouted the 
baron ; and the whistle became a roar, and the roar 
a howl ; and the castle shook and swayed in the blast. 

" Good — good !" laughed the baron; " something 
more than a puff there— ha ! ha ! — as Jacques Fort 
has found by this time on the deck of his new ship 
in the Bay of Biscay." 

The Familiar geritly remarked that the weather 
was roughish, when the seneschal rushed into the 
room in a dreadful state of terror at the storm. 

" My lord — my lord !" he said, " we shall all be 



86 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

blown away ; the air is full of sand ; you would be 
suffocated outside. The wind is tearing up the pines ; 
and oh, poor Jacques Fort is at sea, and drowned — 
drowned, by this time, to a certainty !" 

"Yes," said Armand, "I should rather think so. 
Toinette must take up with somebody else. — 
Stronger !" 

The last injunction was addressed to the imp, and 
instantly complied with. The tempest roared like 
the up-bursting of a volcano, aud screeched and 
screamed through the sugar-loaf turrets and the lat- 
tices, which it had burst in, and the loop-holes, like 
a hundred thousand devils' whistles. The seneschal 
fell on his knees. 

" Stronger still !" said the baron. 

And meantime what was Jaques Fort doing in 
his new ship ? With every rag of canvass torn out of 
the bolt-ropes, the Sainte Vierge was flying on the very 
top, as it seemed, of the driving spray, on to the 
breakers. Jacques was the only man left on deck— 
every one of the rest had been washed overboard, 
and were already sleeping in the sea ; and he knew 
that in a moment he would follow them. The stag- 
gering ship rose on the back of a mighty breaker; 
and the captain knew that with its fall upon the 
beach his vessel would be ground to powder. 

" Oh, Toinette !" he murmured, as the ship was 
hove forward like a bolt from a bow, and then fell 
shooting into a creaming current of rushing water, 
while the sand-hills appeared right and left for a 
moment, and then were left astern. The last grand 
wave had burst the barrier, and the frail ship and the 



LEGEND OF THE BARON OF CHATEL-MORANT. 87 

kneeling mariner were borne onward on the ridge of 
the advancing flood, which formed the lake of Ar- 
cachon. Jacques Fort saw a light, and steered towards 
it : it was the light in the baron's chamber at the 
chateau of Chatel-morant. 

There, by the burst-in lattice, stood the baron, 
his grey hair flying above his head, and ever shouting 
to the imp, "Stronger, Klosso — stronger!" And 
every time he used the words, the hurricane burst 
louder and louder upon the rocking turrets. And 
still Armand clung to the stone-work of the burst-in 
lattice, through which the flying sand drove in, and 
clustered in his robes and hair. 

And now the terrified domestics began to rush up 
to the chamber of the baron. 

"My lord, such a storm was never heard of!" 
" My lord, the devil is loose, and riding on the 
wind !" 

" My lord, the end of the world is at hand !" 
"Klosso !" shouted the baron, "stronger!" 
As he spoke, the wind burst like a thunder-clap 
over them, and they heard the crash of a falling tower. 
The serving men and women grovelled in terror on 
the floor ; the baron clung by the window ; the imp, 
visible only to him, sat on the back of the arm-chair, 
as he had sat since his appearance. 

But hush ! Another sound, mingling with the 
roar of the wind, and deeper and more awful still. 
It rapidly increased, and the baron found his face 
besprinkled with driving drops of water — they were 
salt. 

" My lord — my lord !" screamed the seneschal, 



88 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

sinking, as he spoke, at the baron's knees ; " my lord 
— the sea!" 

A cry was heard without; the lights of the ham- 
let beneath disappeared ; and then a shock from below 
made the chateau swing and rock, and white waves 
were all around them. 

** The sea, my lord," said the seneschal, " has 
burst the sand-banks ; the castle stands on low ground. 
We are all dead men — the sea — the sea !" 

The Baron Armand turned to Klosso : " Does he 
speak truth ?" 

" The worthy gentleman," said the imp, " is per- 
fectly in the right ; you are all dead men ; and, Mon- 
seigneur le Baron, when you gave me last a year of 
your life, you gave me the last you had to give." 

Up rose the water, and higher dashed the waves. 
Up, foot by foot, and yard by yard ; and still the 
baron stood erect amid the raving of the elements — 
his face as white as his hair, but his eyes as bright 
and keen as ever. 

" Klosso," he said, " I am yours ; and the future 
is the future." 

He looked at the iron lamp swinging above his 
head. 

" It will soon be out," said Klosso. 

Jacques Fort still steered to the light. It came 
nearer and nearer ; and he saw, even through the 
gloom and the driving spray, that it shone from a 
castle- turret, and he seized the tiller to change the 
course of the vessel ; but as he did so, the grand, 
triumphant, finishing blast of the hurricane fell upon 
the seething flood like iron — heaved up one bristling. 



LEGEND OF THE BARON OF CHATEL-MORANT. 89 

foaming sea, which caught the SainteVierge upon its 
crest, and flung the ship almost into the air. The 
light gleamed for a moment almost beneath him ; and 
Jacques, rushing to the bow, saw below it, as in a 
prison, a fierce convulsed face, and staring eyes, and 
flying white hair ; and the eyes saw him. As Jacques 
recognised the sorcerer Armand of Chatel-morant, so 
did Armand recognise the face and form he had seen 
helping Toinette to cook the christening feast. 

The next instant the SainteVierge was borne over 
and over the highest turret of the chateau, her keel 
a fathom good above the loftiest and the gaudiest of 
all the gilt weather-cocks. 

The event foreshadowed in the crystal duly took 
place on the anniversary of the day which saw the 
chateau de Chatel-morant swallowed in the Bay of 
Arcachon. 

The legend of the submerged chateau, with which 
I plead guilty to having taken a few liberties, but 
" only with a view" (as the magistrate said when he 
put his neighbour into the stocks) — " only with a view 
towards improvement," occupied us during the greater 
part of our smooth and pleasant sail. Dismissing 
matters legendary, we talked of the fishermen of the 
bay, and their neighbours, the shepherds on stilts. 
The man of the sea held the men of the land cheap. 
The peasants were never out of the forests and the 
sand, he said ; the fishermen often went to Bordeaux, 
and sometimes to Kochelle, and sometimes even to 
Nantes. They (the boatmen) never used stilts; but 
as soon as the peasant's children were able to toddle, 
they were clapped upon a pair of sticks, and many a 



90 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

tumble, and many a broken face they caught, before 
they could use them easily. " They are a good set of 
people, but very ignorant, and they believe -whatever 
you tell them. They are frightened out of their wits 
if you speak of witches or sorcerers ; but we know 
that all these old tales are nothing but nonsense. 
We go to Bordeaux very often as pilots, and to 
Kochelle, and even to Nantes." I was further in- 
formed, that in the winter time the fishermen pursued 
their occupation in the bay in such boats as that in 
which I was sailing ; and that in summer they went 
out into the Atlantic ; but never ventured more than 
a few miles to sea, and never, if they could help it, 
stayed out a night. 

This kind of conversation brought us tolerably 
well to the narrow passage, all fenced with intri- 
cate sand-banks, which leads to the open sea. A 
white, graceful lighthouse rose above the sand-banks 
on our right, into which the pine -woods were 
stretching in long, finger-like projections ; and the 
boat, beginning to rise and fall upon the slow, ma- 
jestic heave which the swell without communicated 
to the shallow water within the bar, assured me that 
if we went further, the surf would prevent our landing 
at all. We ran the boat upon the beach, and draw- 
ing her up high and dry, plunged into, not the green- 
wood, but the black-wood tree. It was hard walking. 
The pines grew out of fine bright sand, bound here 
and there together by carpets of long bent grass, and 
the air was sickly with the peculiar resinous smell of 
the rich sap of the tree fermenting and distilling dow^n 
the gashes. In our ramble, we encountered two of 



THE RESIN HARVEST. 91 

the peasants, whose dreary work it is to hack the 
pines and ladle up the flowing proceeds. We heard 
the blows of the axe echoing in the hot silence of 
the mid- day, and made our way to whence the sound 
proceeded, speedily descrying the w^orkman, perched 
upon a slight bending ladder, gashing the tree. This 
man, and, indeed, all his brethren whom I saw, were 
miserable-looking creatures — their features sunken 
and animal-like — their hair matted in masses over 
their brows — their feet bare, and their clothing pain- 
fully wretched. Their calling is as laborious as it is 
monotonous. Starting with the dawn, they plunge — 
a ladder in one hand, and an adze in the other — into 
the recesses of the pine-wood, repeating the same 
process to every tree. The ladder in question is very 
peculiar, consisting 'of a single strip of elastic wood, 
about ten feet long, dotted with knobs cut plain upon 
one side for the foot to rest upon, and thus serving 
instead of rounds or steps. This primitive ladder is 
sliced away towards the top, so as to rest more com- 
modiously upon the tree. When in use, it is placed 
almost perpendicularly, and the workman ascends it 
like a monkey, never touching the tree, but keeping 
the ladder in its position by the action of his legs, 
which, from the knee downward, seem to cling round 
and round the bending wood, and keep it in its place, 
even when the top, laid perhaps against the rounded 
side of the trunk, appears to be slipping off every 
moment. 

" Well," said my guide, the Teste boatman, " I 
would rather reef topsails in a gale of wind than go 
up there, at any rate." 



92 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

The ladder, its proprietor told me, could not be 
used except with naked feet. The instrument with 
which he cut the tree was as sharp as a razor, and 
required long practice to acquire the knack of using 
it. I wondered that the gashing did not kill the trees, 
as some of the largest were marked with half-a-dozen 
cuts from the ground to the fork. Here and there, 
indeed, you found one which had succumbed to the 
process, rotted, and fallen ; but the majority seemed 
in very good case, nevertheless. 

" Look at that tree," said a resin-gatherer. More 
than half the bark had certainly gone in these perpen- 
dicular stripes, and yet it looked strong and stately 
" That tree is more than a hundred years old ; and 
that is not a bad age for either a man or a fir." 

Leaving the peasant behind,** w^e pushed steadily 
towards the sea. The ground, thanks to the debris 
of the pines, was as slippery as ice, except where we 
plunged into fine hot sand, half way to the knees. 
Every now and then we crossed what I cannot de- 
scribe better than by calling it a perfectly bald spot 
in the woods — a circular patch of pure white sand — 
in certain lights, you might have taken it for snow. 
All around were the black pines; but not a blade 
or a twig broke the drifted fineness of the bald 
white patch. You could find neither stone nor shell 
— nothing but subtle, powdery sand — every particle 
as minute and as uniform as those in an hour-glass. 

" That," said my guide, when we came in view of 
the first of these singular little saharas — " that is a 
devil's garden." 

*' And what does he grow there ? " I asked. The 



THE WITCHES OF THE LANDES. 93 

man lowered his voice : ^' It is in these spots of fine 
white sand that all the sorcerers and witches, and 
warlocks in France — ay, and I have heard, in the 
whole world — meet to sing, and dance, and frolic ; and 
the devil sits in the middle. So, at least," he added, 
after a pause, and in a more sprightly tone — " so the 
peasants say.'' 

"And do you say it ?" 

"Well, I do not know. There's witches, for 
certain, in the Landes, — old women — but whether 
they come flying out here to dance round the devil or 
no — the peasants say so for certain — but I don't think 
1 believe it." 

" I should hope you did n't." 

" They enchant people, though ; there 's no doubt 
of that. They can give you the fever so bad that no 
doctor can set you to rights again ; and they can curse 
a place, and keep the grass from growing on it ; but 
I don't believe they fly on broomsticks, or dance 
round the devil." 

" Are there any young women witches ?" 

" Well, I do hear of one or two. Mais elles ne 
sont pas hien fortes. It is only the old ones make 
good witches, and the uglier they are the better." 

" Well, now, did they ever do any harm to you ?" 

The man paused, and looked at me with a puzzled 
expression. " Our little Marie," he said, " has fits ; 
and my wife does say — " Here he stopped. " No, 
monsieur," he said, " I do not believe in witches." 

But ho did, as firmly as King Jamie; only now 
and then, in the bright sunlight, and with an incre- 
dulous person, he thought he did not. 



94 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

On, however, we went mile after mile, over the 
slippery ground, and in the shadow of the pines, ere 
we saw gleaming ahead, the region of fine sand, and 
heard — although the little breeze which blew was off 
the shore — the low thunder of the " coup de mer" — 
the breaking surf of the ocean. Presently, passing 
through a zone of stunted furze, and dry thin-bladed 
grass, we emerged into the most fearful desert I ever 
looked upon — a sea of heights and hollows, dells and 
ridges, long slopes and precipitous ravines — all of 
them composed of pure white, hot, drifting sand. 
The labour of walking was excessive. I longed for 
the stilts I had seen the day before. Every puff of 
breeze sent the sand, like dry pungent powder, into 
our faces, and sometimes we could see it reft from the 
peaks of the ridges, and blown like clouds of dust far 
out into the air. All at once my guide touched my 
arm, " Votla ! done, voila ! des chevaux sauvages .'" 
It certainly only required a breed of wild horses to 
make the country an exact counterpart of Arabia ; 
and I eagerly turned to see the steeds of the desert, 
just succeeding in catching a glimpse of a ruck of 
lean, brown, shaggy ponies, disappearing round a 
hill, in a whirlwind of sand. There is, undoubtedly, 
something romantic and Mazeppaish in the notion of 
•wild horses of the desert; but stern truth compels me 
to add, that a more stunted, ragged lot of worthless 
brutes, not bigger than donkeys, than were the troop 
of desert steeds of the Landes which I had the fortune 
to see, could be nowhere met with. My fisherman 
told me that, when caught and tamed, they were useful 
in carrying sacks and panniers along the sandy ways ; 



THE SURF OF THE BAY OF BISCAY. 95 

but that there were not more vicious, stubborn brutes 
in nature than Landes ponies. 

A doubly fatiguing trudge, unbroken by any fur- 
ther episodical visions of desert steeds, but enlivened 
by the fast increasing thunder of the surf, at length 
brought us to its foam. Winding through a succession 
of sand valleys, we climbed a steepish bank, sinking 
to our knees at every step, and from this last ridge 
beheld a long, gentle slope, as perfectly smooth as 
though the sand had been smoothed by a ruler — 
fining away down to the white creaming sheets of 
water which swept, with the loud peculiar hiss of 
the agitated sea, far up and down the level banks. 
The full force of the great heaving swells was ex- 
pended in breakers, roaring half a mile from the 
land ; and from their uttermost verge to the tangled 
heaps of seaweed washed high and dry upon the 
beach, was a vast belt of foaming water, extending 
away on either hand in a perfectly straight line as far 
as the eye could reach, and dividing the shipless 
expanse of water from the houseless expanse of land. 
The scene was very solemn. There was not even a 
sea-bird overhead — not an insect crawling or humming 
along the ungrateful sand. Only the grand organ 
of the surf made its incessant music, and the sharp 
thin rustle of the moving sand came fitfully upon 
the ear. I sat down and listened to it, and as I sat, 
the continually shifting sand gradually rose around 
me, as the waters rose round the chateau of Chatel- 
moraut. Had I stayed there long enough, only my 
head would have been visible, like the head of the 
sphinx. 



96 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

I dined that day at the hotel, tete-h-tete with 
a young priest, who was returning to Bordeaux from 
a visit to his brother, one of the officers of the Pre- 
ventitive Service, whose lonely barracks are almost the 
only human habitations which break the weary 
wilderness stretching from the Adour to the Gironde. 
One would have thought that there could be but 
little smuggling on such a coast ; but the Duaniers 
are always autorites, and the waves of the Gulf of 
Gascony could not, of course, break on French ground 
without autorites to help them. With respect to 
the priest, however, he had one of the finest heads 
and the most perfectly chiselled features I ever saw. 
The pale high brow — the keen bright eyes, with 
remarkably long eye-lashes — the tenuity of the car- 
tilage of the nose, and the perfect delicacy of the 
mouth — all told of intellect in no common develop- 
ment; while the meek sweetness of the noble face had 
something in it perfectly heavenly. Fling in imagi- 
nation an aureole round that head, and you had the 
head of a youthful martyr, or a saint canonized for 
early virtues. There was devotion and aspiration 
in every line of the countenance — a meek, mild 
gentleness, beautifully in keeping with every word he 
uttered, and every movement he made. I was the 
more struck with all this, inasmuch as there is not 
an uglier, meaner, nor, I will add, dirtier, set of worthy 
folks in all the world, than the priests of France. 
Nine times out of ten, they are big-jo^vled, coarse, 
animal-looking men, with mottled faces, and skins 
which do not take kindly to the razor. The arrange- 
ments about the neck show a decided scarcity of 



FRENCH PRIESTS. 97 

linen, and a still greater lack of soap and water. 
They are seldom or never gentlemen, their figures 
are ungainly, their motions uncoutli, and — barring, of 
course, their scholastic and theological knowledge — 
I found the majority wjth whom I conversed stupid, 
illiterate, and unintelligent. Now, the young priest 
at Teste was the reverse of all this. With manners 
as polished as those of any courtly ahhe of the courtly 
old regime, there was a perfect atmosphere of frankness 
and quiet good-humour about my companion, and his 
conversation was delightfully easy, animated, and 
graceful. I do not know if my friend belonged to 
the College of Jesus ; but, if he did, he was cut out 
for the performance of its highest and subtlest diplo- 
macy. 

We talked of the strange part of the world I was 
visiting, and I found he knew the people and the 
country well. I mentioned the submerged chateau 
and its legend, and he replied that it was an un- 
doubted fact, that both chateaux and villages had 
been overwhelmed — both by the inbursting of the sea, 
and by great gales blowing vast hills of sand down 
into the existing lakes, and so forcing them out of 
their ancient beds. The sand, indeed, he said, was 
more dangerous than the water. Often and often 
the coast-guard stations had to be dug out after a 
gale ; and he believed that, on one occasion, a small 
church near the mouth of the Gironde had been over 
whelmed to such a height that only a few feet of the 
spire and the weathercock were left apparent. The 
story put me forcibly in mind of the remarkably 
heavy fall of snow experienced by my old friend, 

H 



98 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

Baron MunchauseD ; but, for all that, I see no reason 
why it should not be literally correct. The pines, the 
priest informed me, were the saving of the country, by 
fixing the unstable soil, and the Government had en- 
gineers busily engaged in laying out plantations all 
along the coast — the object being to get the trees 
down to high-water mark. I mentioned the supersti- 
tions of the people. 

"Alas!" said the priest, "What you have heard 
is perfectly true. We are improving a little, perhaps. 
The boys and girls we get to come to school are 
taught to laugh at the notion of their old grand- 
mothers being witches, and in another generation or 
two there will be a great change." 

"And how do your witches work?" I asked. 
"As ours in England used to do — by spell and 
charm ? " 

" Precisely. They are said to make clay figures 
of their victims, and to stick pins in them, or bake 
them in a fire ; and then they have rhymes and caba- 
listical incantations, and are greatly skilled in the 
magic power of herbs. The worst of it is, that a year 
seldom passes without an outrage on some poor old 
woman. A lout, who thinks himself bewitched by 
such a person, will attack her and beat her; and occa- 
sionally a bullet has been fired at night through the 
cottage-window." 

" The Landes people have, or had, other queer 
notions, as well as the witch ones ? " 

" Oh, yes ! They long held out against potatoes, 
which, they said, gave them apoplexy, and they have 
only lately begun to milk their cows.'' 



DO THE LANDES COWS GIVE MILK? 99 

" Why so ? As a pastoral people, they ought to 
be great in butter and cheese." 

"On the contrary, they dislike them, and use lard 
or goose-grease instead. Indeed, for centuries and 
centuries, they religiously believed that Landes cows 
gave no milk." 

" But was not the experiment ever tried ?" 
" Scores of times. An anxious reformer would go 
to a Landes farmer, and urge him to milk his cows. 
'Landes cows give no milk,' would be the answer. 
' Will you let me try ? ' would, perhaps, be replied. 
The Landes man would have no objection ; and the 
cow would be brought and milked before him." 
** Well, seeing that would convince him." 
"Ah, you don't know the Landes people — not 
in the least ; why, the farmer would say, ' Ay, there 
are a few drops, j)erhaps ; but it's not worth the trou- 
ble of taking. Our fathers never milked their cows, 
and they were as wise as we are. And next day he 
would have relapsed into the old creed, that Landes 
cows never gave milk at all." 

I inquired about the rate at which the stilt- walt:ers 
progressed — whether they could, as one sometimes 
hears, keep up with a horse at the gallop ; and found, 
as I expected, that six or seven miles an hour was 
as much as they ever managed to achieve. The priest 
went on succinctly to sketch the costume and life of 
the people. When in regular herding dress, the 
shepherd of the Landes appears one uncouth mass 
of dirty wool. On his body he wears a fleece, cut in 
the fashion of a rude paletot, and sometimes flung 
over one shoulder, like a hussar's jacket. His thighs 

H 2 



100 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

and legs are defended on the outside by cuisses and 
greaves of the same material. On his feet he wears 
sabots and coarse worsted socks, covering only the 
heels and the instep. His remaining clothing gene- 
rally consists of frayed and tattered homespun cloth ; 
and altogether the appearance of the man savours 
very strongly of that of a fantastically costumed 
scarecrow. 

So attired, then, with a gourd containing some 
wretched piquette hung across his shoulders, and 
provided with a store of rye-bread, baked, perhaps, 
three weeks before, a few dry sardines, and as many 
onions or cloves of garlic, the Landes shepherd sallies 
forth into the wilderness. He reckons himself a rich 
man, if his employer allows him, over and above his 
food, sixty francs a-year. From the rising to the setting 
of the sun, he never touches the ground, shufl&ing 
backwards and forwards on his stilts, or leaning 
against a pine, plying the never-pausing knitting- 
needle. Sometimes he drives his flock home at even- 
tide ; sometimes he bivouacs in the wild. Unbuckling 
his stilts, and producing his flint and steel, he has 
soon a rousing fire of fir-branches, when, gathering 
his sheep- skins round him, he makes himself com- 
fortable for the night, his only annoyances being the 
mosquittoes and the dread of the cantrips of some 
unchancy old lady, who may peradventure catch a 
glimpse of him in the moonlight, as she rides 
buxomly on her besom to a festal dance in a 
devil's garden. 

" Yet still," continued the young priest, " they 
are a good, honest-hearted, open-handed people. For 



THE AMOUR PATRI^ OF THE LANDES. 101 

their wild, solitary life they have a passionate love. 
The Landes peasant, taken from his dreary plains, 
and put down in the richest landscape of France, 
would pine for his heath, and sand, and woods, like 
a Swiss for his hills. But they seldom leave their 
home here in the forests. They live and die in the 
district where they were horn, ignorant and careless 
of all that happens beyond their own lonely bounds. 
France may vibrate with revolution and change — 
the shepherds of the Landes feel no shock, take no 
heed, but pursue the daily life of theu' ancestors, 
perfectly happy and contented in their ignorance, 
driving their sheep, or notching their trees in the 
wilderness." 



CHAPTER VI. 

Up the Garonne — The old Wars on its Banks— Its Boats 
AND its Scenery — Agen — Jasmin, the last of the 
Troubadours — Southern Cookery and Garlic — The 
Black Prince in a New Light— A Dreary Pilgrim- 
age TO Pau. 

A SOLEMN imprecation is on record, uttered against 
the memory of the man who invented getting up by 
candle-light ; to which some honest gentleman, fond 
of long lying, has appended a fellow curse, fulminated 
against the man who invented getting up at all. 
Whatever we may think of the latter commination, I 
suppose we shall all agree in the propriety of the for- 
mer. At all events, no one ever execrated with more 
sincere good will the memory of the ingenious origi- 
nator of candle-light turnings-out than I did, when 
a red ray shone through the keyhole of my bedroom, 
and the knuckles of — one would call him boots at 
home — rattled at the door, while his hoarse voice 
proclaimed, " Trots heures et demi/^ — a most unsea- 
sonable and absurd hour certainly ; but the Agen 
steamer, having the strong stream of the Garonne to 
face, makes the day as long as possible ; and starts 
from the bridge — and a splendid bridge it is — of 
Bordeaux, crack at half-past four. There was no help 
for it ; and so, leaving my parting compliments for 
my worthy host, I soon found myself following the 
truck which conveyed my small baggage, modestly 



DAWN ON THE GARONNE. 103 

stuck into the interstices of an Alp-like pile of ricketty 
boxes and faded valises, the property of an ancient 
commis voyageur, my fellow-lodger ; and pacing, 
for the last time, the stately quays of the city of the 
Black Prince. 

Early as it was, and pitch-dark, the steam-boat 
pier was crowded and bustling enough. Men "with 
lanterns and luggage were rushing breathlessly about 
— and gentlemen with brushy black beards were 
kissing each other with true French effusion — while 
a crowd of humble vintagers were being stowed away 
in the fore part of the boat. On the pier I observed 
a tent, and looking in, found myself in a genuine 
early breakfast shop, where I was soon accommodated 
with a seat by a pan of glowing charcoal. The 
morning was bitter cold ; and a magnificent bowl of 
smoking coifee, bread hot from the oven, and just a 
nip of cognac, at the kind suggestion of the jolly 
motherly-looking old lady in no end of shawls, who 
presided over the establishment, and who pronounced 
it " Bo7i pour Vestomac, du monsieur le voyageur.^^ 
Then aboard ; and after the due amount of squab- 
bling, bell-ringing, and contradictory orders, we 
launched forth upon the black, rushing river. 

A dreary time it is waiting for the daylight of an 
autumnal morning, watching the pale negative light- 
ing of the east — then the spreading of the dim ap- 
proaching day — stars going out, and the outlines of 
hills coming in — and houses and trees, faint and 
comfortless, looming amid the grey, cold mist. The 
Garonne gradually turned from black to yellow — the 
genuine pea-souppy hue — and bit by bit the whole 



]04 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

landscape came clearly into stark-staring view — ^but 
still cold and dreary -looking — until the cheering fire 
stood upon the hill-tops, and announced the rising 
sun. In half an hour the valley of the Garonne was 
a blaze of warmth and cheerfulness, and nothing 
could be more picturesquely beautiful, seen under 
such auspices, than the fleet of market-boats through 
which we threaded our way, and which were floating 
quietly down to Bordeaux. I dismiss the mere vege- 
table crafts ; but the fruit-boats would have made 
Mr. Lance leap and sing for joy. They were piled — 
clustered — heaped over — with mountains of grapes 
bigger than big gooseberries — peaches and apricots, 
like thousands of ladies' cheeks — plums like pulpy, 
juicy cannon-balls — and melons big as the head of 
Gog or Magog. I could not understand how the 
superincumbent fruit did not crush that below ; but 
I suppose there is a knack in piling. At all events, 
the boats were loaded to the gunwales with the lus- 
cious, shiny, downy, gushing-looking globules, purple 
and yellow, and both colours mellowed and softened 
by the grateful green of the clustering leaves. These 
boats looked like floating cornucopias. Amongst 
them sometimes appeared a wine-boat — one man at 
the head, one at the stern, and a Pyrenees of wine 
casks between them — while here and there we would 
pass a huge Noah's ark of a barge, towed by a string 
of labouring oxen, and steered from a platform amid- 
ships by a tiller a great deal longer, thicker, and hea- 
vier than the mast. 

And now for a bit of the landscape. We have 
Gascony to our right, and Guienne to our left. 



THE LANDSCAPE OF THE GARONNE. 105 

Here and there, then, particularly in Guienne, 
the Garonne is not unlike the tamer portions of the 
Rhine. The green vine-clothed hanks rise into pre- 
cipitous ridges, whitened by streaks of limestone cliff, 
cottages nestling in the crevices and ravines, and an 
occasional feudal tower crowning the topmost peak. 
The villages passed near the water's edge are doleful- 
looking places, ruinous and death-like ; whitish, 
crumbling houses, with outside shutters invariably 
closed ; empty and lonesome streets, and dilapidated 
piers, the stakes worn and washed away by the con- 
stant action of the river. Take Langon and Castres 
as specimens of these places : two drearier towns — 
more like sepulchres than towns — never nurtured owls 
and bats. They seem to be still lamenting the old 
English rule, and longing for the jolly times when 
stout English barons led the Gascon knights and 
men-at-arms on profitable forays into Limousin and 
Angoumais. Occasionally, however, we have a more 
promising and pleasing looking town. These, for 
the most part, are tolerably high up the river, and 
possess some curious and characteristic features. You 
will descry them, for instance, towering up from a 
mass of perpendicular cHffs ; the open-galleried and 
bartizaned red houses, reared upon arches and pillars, 
rising from the rock ; flights of stairs from the water's 
edge disappearing among the buildings, and strips 
of terraced gardens laid out on the narrow shelves 
and ledges of the precipice. 

The ruins of old feudal castles are numerous on 
both sides of the river ; and if the red mossy stone 
could speak, many a tale of desperate siege and assault 



106 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

it could, no doubt, tell — for these strongholds were 
perpetually changing masters in the wars between 
the French and the English and Gascons ; and often, 
when peace subsisted between the crowns, were they 
attacked and harried by moss-trooping expeditions 
led by French Watts Fire-the-Braes, or by English 
Christies of the Clinthill. While, then, the steamer 
is slowly plodding her way up stream, turning reach 
after reach, and showing us another and yet another 
pile of feudal ruins, let us sit down here with Frois- 
sart beneath the awning, and try to gain some inkling 
into the warlike customs of the times when these 
thick-walled towers — no doubt built, as honest King 
James remarked, by gentlemen who were thieves in 
their hearts — alternately displayed the Lion Rampant 
and the Fleur-de-Lis. 

In all the fighting of the period — I refer generally 
to the age of the Black Prince — there would appear 
to have been a great deal of chivalric courtesy and 
forbearance shown on either side. It was but seldom 
that a place was defended a outrance. If the besiegers 
appeared in very formidable force, the besieged 
usually submitted with a very good grace, marched 
honourably out, and had their turn next time. I 
cannot find that there was anything in the nature of 
personal animosity between the combatants, but there 
was great wantonness of life ; and though few men were 
killed in downright cold blood, a man was frequently 
made the victim of a sort of murderous frolicsome- 
ness, the manner of his death being suggested by the 
circumstances of the moment. For instance, on one 
occasion, an English and Gascon garrison was be- 



THE FREAKS OF THE OLD WARS IN GUIENNE. 107 

sieged in Auberoche — the French having " brought 
from Toulouse four large machines, which cast stones 
into the fortress night and day, which stones demo- 
Hshed all the roofs of the towers, so that none within 
the walls dared to venture out of the vaulted rooms 
on the ground-floor." In this strait, a "varlet" 
undertook to carry letters, requesting succour, to the 
Earl of Derby, at Bordeaux. He was unsuccessful 
in getting through the French lines, and being ar- 
rested, the letters were found upon him, hung round 
his neck, and the poor wretch bound hand and foot, 
inserted in one of the stone-throwing machines. 
His cries for mercy all unheeded, the engine made 
two or three of its terrific swings, and then launched 
the screaming "varlet" into the air, right over the 
battlements of Auberoche, " so that he fell quite dead 
amid the other varlets, who were much terrified at 
it ;" and presently, the French knights, riding up to 
the walls, shouted to the defenders : " Gentlemen, 
inquire of your messenger where he found the Earl 
of Derby, seeing that he has returned to you so 
speedily." But the Earl of Derby did come, and 
took signal vengeance. The battle, which Froissart 
tells in his best manner, resulted in the capture by 
the English of nine French viscounts, and " so many 
barons, squires, and knights, that there was not a 
man-at-arms among the Enghsh that had not for his 
share two or three." 

The captains of the pillaging bands, who preyed 
both upon the English and the French, and the hired 
auxiliaries, who transferred their services from one 
side to the other, were, however, miserable assassins. 



108 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

thirsting for blood. These men were frequently 
Bretons; and, says Froissart, '* the most cruel of all 
Bretons was Geofiirey Tete-Noire." With this Geoff- 
rey Tete-Noire, continues the old chronicler, " there 
was a certain captain, who performed many excellent 
deeds of arms, namely, Aimerigot Marcel, a Limousin 
squire, attached to the side of the English." One 
of the " deeds of arms " performed under this worthy's 
auspices is narrated as follows : — 

" Aimerigot made one day an excursion, with only 
twelve companions, to seek adventures. They took 
the road towards Aloise, near St. Fleur, which has 
a handsome castle in the bishopric of Clermont. 
They knew the castle was only guarded by the porter. 
As they were riding silently towards Aloise, Aimeri- 
got spied the porter sitting upon the branch of a tree 
without side of the castle. The Breton, who shot ex- 
traordinary well with a cross-bow, says to him, ' Would 
you Hke to have that porter killed at a shot V — 'Yea,' 
repHed Aimerigot ; " and I hope you will do so.' 
The cross-bow man shoots a bolt, which he drives 
into the porter's head, and knocks him down. The 
porter, feeling himself mortally wounded, regains 
the gate, which he attempts to shut, but cannot, and 
falls down dead." 

This delectable anecdote, Froissart — probably as 
kind-hearted a man by nature as any of liis age — 
tells as the merest matter of course, and mthout a 
word of compunction or reproof. The fact is, that 
the gay and lettered canon of Chimay cared and 
thought no more of the spilling of blood which was 
not gentle, than he would of the scotching of a rat 



JASMIN THE LAST OF THE TROUBADOURS. 109 

or a snake. Lingeringly and wofuUy does he record 
the deaths of dukes, and viscounts, and even simple 
knights and squires, who have done their devoirs 
gallantly ; but as to the life-blood of the varlets — the 
vilains — the kernes — the villagios — the Jacques 
Bonhommes — foh ! the red puddle — ^let it flow; blood 
is only blood when it gushes from the veins of a 
gentleman ! 

The evening was closing, and the mist stealing 
over the Garonne, when we came alongside the pier 
at Agen. A troop of diligence conducteurs and canal 
touters immediately leaped on board, to secure the 
passengers for Toulouse, either by road or water. 
Being, fortunately, not of the number who were thus 
taken prisoners, I walked up through the sultry 
evening^for we are now getting into the true south 
— to the very comfortable hotel looking upon the 
principal square of "the toAvn. One of my objects in 
stopping at Agen was, to pay a literary visit to a very 
remarkable man — Jasmin, the peasant-poet of Pro- 
vence and Languedoc — the " Last of the Trouba- 
dours," as, with more truth than is generally to be 
found in ad captandum designations, he terms him- 
self, and is termed by the wide circle of his admirers ; 
for Jasmin's songs and rural epics are written in the 
patois of the people, and that patois is the still 
almost unaltered Langue d'Oc — the tongue of the 
chivalric minstrelsy of yore. But Jasmin is a Trou- 
badour in another sense than that of merely availing 
himself of the tongue of the menestrels. He pub- 
lishes, certainly — conforming so far to the usages of 
our degenerate modern times ; but his great triumphs 



110 CLARET AND OLIVES. 




are his popular recitations of his poems. Standing 
bravely up before an expectant assembly of perhaps 
a couple of thousand persons — the hot-blooded and 
quick-brained children of the South — the modern 
Troubadour plunges over head and ears into his lays, 
working both himself and his applauding audience 
into fits of enthusiasm and excitement, which, what- 
ever may be the excellence of the poetry, an English- 
man finds it difficult to conceive or account for. The 
raptures of the New Yorkers and Bostonians -with 
Jenny Lind are weak and cold compared with the 
ovations which Jasmin has received. At a recitation 
given shortly before my visit at Auch, the ladies 
present actually tore the flowers and feathers out of 
their bonnets, wove them into extempore garlands, 
and flung them in showers upon the panting min- 
strel ; while the editors of the local papers next 
morning assured him, in floods of flattering epigrams. 



JASMIN THE LAST OF THE TROUBADOURS. Ill 

that, humble as he was now, future ages would ac- 
knowledge the " divinity" of a Jasmin ! There is a 
feature, however, about these recitations, which is 
still more exti aordinary than the uncontrollable fits 
of popular enthusiasm which they produce. His last 
entertainment before I saw him was given in one of 
the Pyrenean cities (I forget which), and produced 
2000 francs. Every sous of this went to the public 
charities ; Jasmin will not accept a stiver of money 
so earned. With a species of perhaps overstrained, 
but certainly exalted, chivalric feeling, he declines 
to appear before an audience to exhibit for money 
the gifts with which nature has endowed him. After, 
perhaps, a brilliant tour through the South of France, 
delighting vast audiences in every city, and flinging 
many thousands of francs into every poor-box which 
he passes, the poet contentedly returns to his humble 
occupation, and to the little shop where he earns his 
daily bread by his daily toil, as a barber and hair- 
dresser. It will be generally admitted, that the man 
capable of self-denial of so truly heroic a nature as 
this, is no ordinary poetaster. One would be puz- 
zled to find a similar instance of perfect and absolute 
disinterestedness in the roll of minstrels, from Homer 
downwards ; and, to tell the truth, there does seem 
a spice of Quixotism mingling with and tinging the 
pure fervour of the enthusiast. Certain it is, that 
the Troubadours of yore, upon whose model Jasmin 
professes to found his poetry, were by no means so 
scrupulous. " Largesse " was a very prominent word 
in their vocabulary ; and it really seems difficult to 
assign any satisfactory reason for a man refusing to 



112 



CLARET AND OLIVES. 



live upon the exercise of the finer gifts of his intel- 
lect, and throAving himself for his bread upon the 
daily performance of mere mechanical drudgery. 

Jasmin, as may be imagined, is well known in 
Agen. I was speedily directed to his abode, near 
the open Place of the town, and within earshot of 
the rush of the Garonne ; and in a few moments I 
found myself pausing before the lintel of the modest 




A POET'S HOUSE. 



shop inscribed, Jasmin, Perruquier, Coiffeur dejeunes 
Gens, A little brass basin dangled above the thresh- 
old ; and, looking through the glass, I saw the master 
of the establishment shaving a fat-faced neighbour. 
Now, I had come to see and pay my compliments to 
a poet ; and there did appear to me to be something 
strangely awkward and iiTesistibly ludicrous in hav- 
ing to address, to some extent in a literary and com- 



JASMIN THE LAST OF THE TROUBADOURS 113 

plimentary vein, an individual actually engaged in 
so excessively prosaic and unelevated a species of 
performance. I retreated, uncertain what to do, and 
waited outside until the shop was clear. 

Three words explained the nature of my visit ; 
and Jasmin received me with a species of warm 
courtesy, which was very peculiar and very charming 
— dashing at once, with the most clattering volubility 
and fiery speed of tongue, into a sort of rhapsodical 
discourse upon poetry in general, and his own in 
particular — upon the French language in general, 
and the patois of it spoken in Languedoc, Provence, 
and Gascony in particular. Jasmin is a well-built 
and strongly limbed man, of about fifty, with a large, 
massive head, and a broad pile of forehead, over- 
hanging two piercingly bright black eyes, and features 
which would be heavy were they allowed a moment's 
repose from the continual play of the facial muscles, 
which were continually sending a series of varying 
expressions across the swarthy visage. Two sentences 
of his conversation were quite sufficient to stamp his 
individuahty. The first thing which struck me was 
the utter absence of all the mock-modesty, and the 
pretended self-underrating, conventionally assumed 
by persons expecting to be complimented upon their 
sayings or doings. Jasmin seemed thoroughly to 
despise all such flimsy hypocrisy. " God only made 
four Frenchmen poets !" he burst out with ; '' and 
their names are Corneille, Lafontaine, Beranger, and 
Jasmin!" Talking with the most impassioned ve- 
hemence, and the most redundant energy of gesture, 
he went on to declaim against the influences of civil- 



1 14 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

ization upon language and manners as being fatal 
to all real poetry. If the true inspiration yet existed 
upon earth, it burned in the hearts and brains of 
men far removed from cities, salons, and the clash 
and din of social influences. Your only true poets 
were the unlettered peasants, who poured forth their 
hearts in song, not because they wished to make 
poetry, but because they were joyous and true. 
Colleges, academies, schools of learning, schools of 
literature, and all such institutions. Jasmin denounced 
as the curse and the bane of true poetry. They had 
spoiled, he said, the very French language. You 
eould no more write poetry in French now, than you 
could in arithmetical figures. The language had 
been licked, and kneaded, and tricked out, and 
plumed, and dandified, and scented, and minced, 
and ruled square, and chipped — (I am trying 
to give an idea of the strange flood of epithets he 
used) — and pranked out, and polished, and musca- 
dined, until, for all honest purposes of true high 
poetry, it was mere unavailable and contemptible 
jargon. It might do for cheating agents de change 
on the Bourse — for squabbling politicians in the 
Chambers — for mincing dandies in the salons — for- 
the sarcasm of Scribeish comedies, or the coarse 
drolleries of Palais Royal farces ; but for poetry the 
French language was extinct. All modem poets 
who used it were mere faiseurs de phrase — thinking 
about words, and not feelings. " No, no," my Trou- 
badour continued ; " to write poetry, you must get 
the language of a rural people — a language talked 
among fields, and trees, and by rivers and mountains 



JASMIN THE LAST OF THE TROUBADOURS. 115 

— a language never minced or disfigured by aca- 
demies, and dictionary-makers, and journalists ; you 
must have a language like that which your own 
Burns (whom I read of in Chateaubriand) used ; or 
like the brave old mellow tongue — unchanged for 
centuries — stuffed with the strangest, quaintest, 
richest, raciest idioms, and odd, solemn words, full 
of shifting meanings and associations, at once pa- 
thetic and familiar, homely and graceful — the lan- 
guage which I write in, and which has never yet 
been defiled by calculating men of science or jack-a- 
dandy litterateurs" 

The above sentences may be taken as a specimen 
of the ideas with which Jasmin seemed to be actually 
overflowing at every pore in his body, so rapid, vehe- 
ment, and loud was his enunciation of them. Warm- 
ing more and more as he went on, he began to sketch 
the outlines of his favourite pieces, every now and 
then plunging into recitation, jumping from French 
to patois, and from patois to French, and sometimes 
spluttering them out, mixed up pell-mell together. 
Hardly pausing to take breath, he rushed about the 
shop as he discoursed, lugging out, from old chests 
and drawers, piles of old newspapers and reviews, 
pointing me out a passage here in which the estimate 
of the writer pleased him, a passage there which 
showed how perfectly the critic had mistaken the 
scope of his poetic philosophy, and exclaiming, with 
the most perfect naivete, how mortifying it was for men 
of original and profound genius to be misconceived 
and misrepresented by pigmy whipper-snapper scamps 
of journaKsts. There was one review of his works. 



116 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

published in a London " Recueil" as he called it, to 
which Jasmin referred with great pleasure. A portion 
of it had been translated, he said, in the preface to a 
French edition of his works ; and he had most of the 
highly complimentary phrases by heart. The Eng- 
lish critic, he said, wrote in the Tintinum ; and he 
looked dubiously at me when I confessed that I had 
never heard of the organ in question. " Pourtant^"* 
he said, " je vous le ferai voir :^ and I soon per- 
ceived that Jasmin's Tintinum was no other than the 
AthencBum. 

In the little back drawing-room behind the shop, 
to which the poet speedily introduced me, his sister, 
a meek, smihng woman, whose eyes never left her 
brother, following him as he moved with a beautiful 
expression of love and pride in his glory, received me 
with simple cordiality. The walls were covered with 
testimonials, presentations, and trophies, awarded by 
cities and distinguished persons, literary and poli- 
tical, to the modem Troubadour. Not a few of these 
are of a nature to make any man most legitimately 
proud. Jasmin possesses gold and silver vases, laurel 
branches, snuff-boxes, medals of honour, and a whole 
museum of similar gifts, inscribed with such charac- 
teristic and laconic legends as — "AuPoete, LesJeunes 
filles de Toulouse reconnaitiantes ." The num- 
ber of garlands of immortelles^ wreaths of ivy-jasmin 
(punning upon the name), laurel, and so forth, utterly 
astonished me. Jasmin preserved a perfect shrubbery 
of such tokens ; and each symbol had, of course, its 
pleasant associative remembrance. One was given 
by the ladies of such a town ; another was the gift of 



JASMIN — THE LAST OF THE TROUBADOURS. 117 

the prefect's wife of such a department. A handsome 
full-length portrait had been presented to the poet by 
the municipal authorities of Agen ; and a letter from 
M. Lamartine, framed, above the chimney-piece, 
avowed the writer's belief that the Troubadour of 
the Garonne was the Homer of the modem world. 
M. Jasmin wears the ribbon of the Legion of Honour, 
and has several valuable presents which were made 
to him by the late ex-king and different members of 
the Orleans family. 

I have been somewhat minute in giving an account 
of my interview with M. Jasmin, because he is really 
the popular poet — the peasant poet of the south of 
France — the Burns of Limousin, Provence, and Lan- 
guedoc. His songs are in the mouths of all who 
sing in the fields and by the cottage firesides. Their 
subjects are always rural, naive, and full of rustic 
pathos and rustic drollery. To use his words to me, 
he sings what the hearts of the people say, and he 
can no more help it than can the birds in the trees. 
Translations into French of his main poems have 
appeared ; and compositions more full of natural and 
thoroughly unsophisticated pathos and humour it 
would be difficult to find. Jasmin writes from a 
teeming brain and a beaming heart ; and there is a 
warmth and a glow, and a strong, happy, triumphant 
march of song about his poems, which carry you 
away in the perusal as they carried away the author 
in the writing. I speak of course from the French 
translations, and I can well conceive that they give 
but a comparatively faint transcript of the pith and 
power of the original. The patois in which these 



118 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

poems are ^vritten is the common peasant language of 
the south-west. It varies in some slight degree in 
different districts, but not more than the broad Scotch 
of Forfarshire differs from that of Ayrshire. As for 
the dialect itself, it seems in the main to be a species 
of cross between old French and Spanish — holding, 
however, I am assured, rather to the latter tongue 
than the fonner, and constituting a bold, copious, and 
ligorous speech, very rich in its colouring, full of 
quaint words and expressive phrases, and especially 
strong in all that relates to the language of the pas- 
sions and affections. 

I hardly know how long my interview with Jas- 
min might have lasted, for he seemed by no means 
likely to tire of talking, and his talk was too good 
and too curious not to be listened to with interest ; 
but the sister, who had left us for a moment, coming 
back with the intelligence that there was quite a 
gathering of customers in the shop, I hastily took my 
leave, the poet squeezing my hand like a vice, and 
immediately thereafter dashing into all that apper- 
tains to curling-irons, scissors, razors, and lather, with 
just as much apparent energy and enthusiasm as he 
flung into his rhapsodical discourse on poetry and 
language. 

Hereabouts you begin to become sensible of a 
change in the cookery at the tahle-d^hotes ; and in the 
gradually increasing predominance of oil and garlic, 
you recognise the kitchen influences of the sweet 
south. Garlic is a word of fear — of absolute horror 
to a great proportion of our countrymen, whose pre- 
judices will permit them to learn no better. I admit 



GARLIC. 119 

that the first whiff of the odorous root coining upon 
inexperienced nostrils is far from pleasant ; indeed, 
I well remember being once driven from the table in 
a small gastlioff ?X Strasbourg by the fumes of a par- 
ticularly strong sausage. Now, however, I think I 
should know better. A relish for garlic, in fact, is 
one of those many acquired tastes which grew^ upon 
us with curious rapidity. You turn from the first gar- 
licky dish with dismay ; the second does not appear 
quite so bad; you muster up courage, and taste the 
third. A strange flavour certainly — nasty, too — but 
still — not irredeemably bad — there is a lurking merit 
in the sensation — and you try the experiment again 
and again — speedily coming to Sir "Walter Scott's evi- 
dent opinions touching the 'petit point d'ail, " which 
Gascons love and Scotsmen do not despise." Indeed, 
your friends will probably think it well if you content 
yourself with the petit point, and do not give yourself 
up to a height of seasoning such as that which I saw 
in the salle a manger at Agen, drive two English 
ladies headlong from the room. Every body in the 
South eats garlic, and you will find it for your interest, 
if but in self-defence, to do the same ; while the oil 
eating is equally infectious : you enter Provence, able 
just to stand a sprinkling upon your salad — you de- 
part from it, thinking nothing of devouring a dish of 
cabbage, chopped up, and swimming in the viscous 
fluid. The peasants all through the South eat and 
drink oil like so many Russians. Wandering through 
the dark and narrow streets of Agen — for we have 
now reached the point where the eaves of the roofs are 
made to project so far as to cast a perpetual shade 



120 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

upon the thoroughfare beneath — I came upon a group 
of tiny urchins, clustered round a grocer's shop, in 
great admiration of a row of clear oil-flasks displayed 
in the window. 

" Tiens^^ said one. " CPest de Vhuile fa — de 
Vhuile claire — fa doit etre Ion su' le pain — fa ! " The 
little gourmand looked upon oil just as an English 
urchin would upon treacle. 

It was from the heights above Agen — studded 
with the plum-trees which produce the faiROiis prunes 
d'Agen — that I caught my first glimpse of the 
Pyrenees. I was sitting watching the calm up- 
rising of the light smoke from the leaf-covered town 
beneath, and marking the grand panorama around 
me — the masses of luxuriant vines climbing up 
the plum and fig-trees, and the earth frequently 
yellow with the bursting beds of huge melons and 
pumpkins — when, extending my gaze over the vast 
expanse of champagne country, watered by the 
winding reaches of the Garonne, I saw — shadowy 
as the phantoms of airy clouds, rising into the far 
bright air — faintly, very faintly traced, but still 
visible, a blue vision of sierrated and jagged moun- 
tain peaks, stretching along the horizon from east to 
west, forming the central portion of the great chain 
of peaks running from Perpignanto Bayonne, and 
certainly, at least, one hundred and twenty miles 
distant from me as the crow flies. There they stood, 
— Louis Quatorze to the contrary, notwithstanding — 
one of the great landmarks of the world ; a natural 
boundary for ever ; dividing a people from a people, 
a tongue from a tongue, and a power from a power ! 



THE BLACK PRINCE IN A NEW LIGHT. 121 

Below me, at the back of the town, once rose the 
ancient castle of Agen. Its ruins were demolished, 
with those of a cathedral, at the time of the Revo- 
lution ; but its memory recalls a very curious story, 
developing the true character of the Black Prince, 
and shewing that, chivalrous and daring as he was, 
his tongue had in it an occasional smack of the 
braggart, and that the Foremost Knight of all the 
World could occasionally do uncommonly sneaking 
things. Thus it fell out: — In the year 1368, the 
Lord of Aquitaine announced that he would raise a 
hearth-tax throughout Guienne. The measure was, 
of course, unpopular, and the Gascon lords appealed 
to the King of France, as Feudal Superior of the 
Prince ; and the King sent, by two commissioners — 
a lawyer and a knight — a summons to Edward, to 
appear and answer before the Parliament of Paris. 
The emissaries were introduced in High Court, at 
Bordeaux, told their tale, and exhibited their mis- 
sives. The Black Prince heard in silence, and then, 
after a long pause, he sternly and solemnly replied : 
"Willing shall we be to attend on the appointed 
day at Paris, since the King of France sends for us ; 
but it will be with the helmet on our head, and 
sixty thousand men behind us." 

The envoys fell on their knees, and bowed their 
heads to the ground. After the Prince had retired, 
they were assured that they would get no better 
answer ; and so, after dinner, they set forth on the 
road to Toulouse, where the Duke of Anjou lay, to 
convey to him the defiance of the Englishman. 
Meantime, however, Edward began rather to repent 



122 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

the unconditional style of his reply, and to wish the 
ambassadors back again. Perhaps, after all, lie had 
been a little too hasty, and had gone a little too far; 
so he called together the chief of his barons, and 
opened his mind to them. " He did not wish," he said, 
''the envoys to bear his cartel to the King of France." 
In the opinion of the straightforward practitioners 
whom he consulted, the means of prevention were 
easy: what more practicable and natural than to 
send out a handful of men-at-arms — catch the knight 
and the lawyer, and then and there cut their throats? 
But Edward refused to commit unnecessary slaughter; 
and possibly exclaiming, as gentlemen in a drama and 
a dilemma always do — " I have it"— he gave some 
private instructions to Sir William le Moine, the 
High Steward of Agenois, who immediately set 
forth at the head of a plump of spears. Meantime, 
the envoys were quietly jogging along, when, what 
was ,their horror and surprise at being suddenly 
pounced upon by the Lord Steward, and arrested, 
upon the charge of having stolen a horse from their 
last baiting place. It was in vain that the unfortu- 
nate pair offered to bring any evidence of the falsity 
of the charge ; Sir William had as many witnesses 
as he commanded men-at-arms, and the victims were 
hurried to the castle of Agen, and left to their own 
reflections in the securest of its dungeons. When 
they got out again, or whether they ever got out at 
all, Froissart does not condescend to inform us ; but 
surely the story shews the Black Prince in a new 
and not exactly favourable light. We would hardly 
have expected to 'find the " Lion whelp of England " 



CROSS-COUNTRY TRAVELLING IN FRANCE. 123 

stooping to trump up a false accusation against inno- 
cent men, in order to shuffle out of the consequences 
of his own brag. 

I found it no easy matter to get comfortably from 
Agen to Pau : cross-country diligences are most un- 
trustworthy conveyances. The pace at which they 
crawl puts it out of the question that they should 
ever see a snail which they did not meet ; while the 
terribly long stages to which the horses are doomed, 
keeps one in a constant state of moral discomfort. 
However, I managed to get rattled and jangled on 
to Auch, on the great Toulouse road, one of those 
towns which you wonder has been built where it 
chances to lie, rather than anywhere else ; and 
boasting a grand old Gothic cathedral church, which 
Louis Quatorze, in the kindest manner, enriched 
with a hugely clumsy Grecian portico, supported on 
fat, dropsical pillars. The question was now, how 
to get on to Pau. The Toulouse diligence passed 
every day, but was nearly always full ; I might have 
to wait a week for a place. A voiturier, however, 
was to start in the evening, and he faithfully pro- 
mised to set me down at Tarbes, whence locomotion 
to Pau is easy, in time for a late supper ; and so 
with this worthy I struck a bargain. He shewed 
me a fair looking vehicle, and we were to start at 
six. Punctually to the time, I was upon the 
ground, but no conveyance appeared. The place 
was the front of a carrier's shed, with an army of 
roulage carts drawn up before it. I kicked my heels 
there in vain, for not a bit could I see of voiture 
or voiturier. Seven struck — half-past seven — the 



124 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

north- wind was bitterly cold, and a sleety rain began 
to fall. Had I absolute powers for ten minutes, 
like Abou Hassan, sorrowful would have been the 
fate of that voiturier. As it was, the wind got colder 
and colder ; the streets became deserted, and the 
rain and sleet lashed the rough pavement with a loud, 
shrieking rattle, when a wilder gust than common 
came thundering up the narrow street. At length, 
sick of cursing the scoundrel, I turned, for warmth, 
into a vast, broad-eaved auberge, the house of call, 
I supposed, for the carriers ; and entering the great 
shadowy kitchen, almost as big^ and massive looking 
a room as an old baronial hall, a voice I knew — the 
voice of the rascally voiturier himself — struck my 
ear, exclaiming with the most warm-hearted affa- 
bility, " Entrez, monsieur ; entrez. We were waiting 
for you." 

Waiting for me ! Surrounded by a group of men 
in blouses, and two or three fat women, who were 
to be my fellow-passengers, there was the villain, 
discussing a capital dinner — the bare-armed' wenches 
of the place rushing between the yast fire-place and 
the table, with no end of the savouriest and the most 
garlicky of dishes, and the whole party in the highest 
state of feather and enjoyment. The cool imperti- 
nence of the greeting, however, tickled me amazingly ; 
and room being immediately made, I was entreated 
to join the company, and exhorted to eat, as it would 
be a good many hours before I had another chance. 
This looked ominous ; and besides, the whole meal, 
full of nicely browned stews, was so appetising, that 
I fear I committed the enormity of making a very 



CROSS-COUNTRY TRAVELLING IN FRANCE. 125 

tolerable second dinner ; and so about half-past eight 
we at last got under weigh. 

But not in the vehicle which I had been shown. 
There was some cock-and-bull story of that having 
been damaged; and we were squeezed — six of us, 
including the fat ladies — into a dreadful square box, 
with our twelve legs jammed together like the sticks 
of a faggot, in the centre. Oh, the woes of that 
dreary night ! — the * gruntings and the groanings of 
the fat ladies — the squabbles about " making legs," 
and, notwithstanding our crowded condition, the in- 
tensity of the pinching cold — one window was broken, 
another wouldn't pull up, and the whole vehicle 
was full of cracks and crevices. Outside, the gale 
had increased to a hurricane ; the rain and sleet 
lashed the ground, so that you could hardly hear the 
driver shouting at the full pitch of his voice to the 
poor jades, who drearily dragged us through the mii-e. 
After an hour or two's riding, the water began to 
trickle in on all sides. The fat ladies said they could 
not possibly survive the night ; and a poor thin slip 
of a soldier next me accepted half a railway wrapper 
with the most'vehement " Merci-hien merci !" I ever 
heard in my life. About one in the morning we 
pulled up at a lone public-house, in the kitchen of 
which the passengers refreshed themselves with coffee, 
and I myself, to their great surprise, with a liberal 
application of cognac and hot water. But the French 
have no notion of the mellow beauties of toddy. The 
rest of the night wore slowly and wretchedly on. I 
believe we had the same horses all the way. Day 
was grey around us when we heard the voices of the 



126 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

market people flocking in to Tarbes ; and looking 
forth, after a short, nightmareish dose, I beheld around 
me a wide champaign country, as white with snow 
as Nova Zembla at Christmas. And this was the 
boasted South of France, and the date was the twen- 
tieth of October ! 




CASTf.E OF PAU. 



CHAPTER VIT. 



Pau — The English in Pau— English and Russians — The 
View of the Pyrenees — The Castle — The Statue of 
Henri Quatre — His Birth — A Vision of his Life — 
Rochelle — St. B artholemew — Ivry — Henri and 
Sully — Henri and Gabrielle— Henri and Henri- 
ette D'Entragues — Ravaillac. 

Excepting, perhaps, the famous city of Boulogne- 
sur-Mer, Pau is the most Anglicised tOAvn in France. 
There are a good many of our countrymen congregated 
under the old steeples of Tours which every British 
man should love, were it only for Quentin Durward ; 
but they do not leaven the mass ; while in Pau, par- 
ticularly during the winter time, the main street and 
the Place Royale look, so far as the passengers go, 
like slices cut out out from Weymouth, Bath, or 
Cheltenham. You see in an instant the insular cut 



128 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

of the groups, who go laughing and talking the fa- 
miliar vernacular along the rough pave. There is a 
tall, muscular hoble-de-hoy, with red hair, high shirt 
collar, and a lady on each arm — fresh-looking dfem- 
sels, with flounces, which smack unmistakeably of 
England. It is a young gentleman with his sisters. 
Next come a couple of wonderfully well-shaved, well 
buttoned-up, fat, elderly, half-pay English officers, 
talking "by Jove, sir," of "Wilkinsofours;" and "by 
George, sir," of what the " old Duke had said to Gal- 
pins of the 9th. at the United Service." An old fat 
half-pay officer is always a major. I do not know 
how it happens, but so it is ; and when you meet 
them settled abroad, ten to one they have been 
dragged there by their wives and daughters. 

" By Jove, sir !" said one of these veterans to me 
at Pau — he was very confidential over a glass of 
brandy and water at the cafe on the Place — " By 
Jove, sir, for myself, I 'd never like to go further 
from Pall Mall than just down Whitehall, to set my 
watch by the Horse Guards' clock ; but the women, 
you know, sir, have a confounded hankering for these 
confounded foreign places ; and, by Jove, sir, what 
is an old fellow who wants a quiet life to do, sir ?" 

The colony of our country folks at Pau keep, as 
usual, very much together, and try to live in the 
most EngUsh fashion they may ; ask each other 
mutually to cut mutton ; display joints instead of 
plats y and import their own sherry ; pass half their 
time studying Galignani, and reading to each other 
long epistles of news and chat from England — 
the majors and other old boys clustering together 



ROUBLES AND GUINEAS. . 129^ 

like corks in a tub of water ; the young people getting 
up all manner of merry pic-nics and dances, and any 
body who at all wishes to be in the set, going deco- 
rously to the weekly English service. 

" Tenez,'^ said a Pau shopkeeper to me ; "your 
countrymen enjoy here all the luxuries of England. 
They have even an episcopal chapel and a pack of 
fox-hounds." 

Of course, the prosperity of Pau mainly depends 
upon its English residents, who are generally well- 
to-do people, spending their money freely. Shortly 
before my visit, however, a Russian prince, who had 
estabhshed himself in a neighbouring chateau, had 
quite thrown the English reputation for wealth into 
the shade. His equipages, his parties, the countess's 
diamonds, had overblazed the grandeur of the English 
all put together ; and the way in which he spent 
money enraptured the good folks of the old capital 
of Bearne. The Russians, indeed, wherever they go 
on the continent, deprive us of our prestige as the 
richest people in the world — an achievement for 
which they deserve the thanks of all Englishmen 
with heads longer than their purses. 

" Ah, monsieur .'" I was once told, " la pluie 
de guinees, c'est bonne y mais le pluie de roubles, c'est 
une averse — un deluge .'" 

Gaston Phoebus, Count de Foix, was a sad Blue- 
beard of a fellow, but he showed his taste in pitching 
upon a site for the castle of Pau. He reared its 
towers on the edge of a rocky hill. Far beneath 
sparkle the happy waters of the Gave — appearing 
and disappearing in the broken country — a tumbling 

J 



130 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

maze of wooded hill, green meadow, straggling cop- 
pice, corn-fields, vineyards, and gardens— verily a land 
flowing with milk and honey. Further on, sluggish 
round-backed hills heave up their green masses, clus- 
tered all over with box-wood ; and then come — cutting 
with many a pointed peak and jagged sierra — the bright 
blue sky — the glorious screen of the P}Tenees. From 
the end of the Place, which runs to the ridge of the 
bank on which stands the town, you may gaze at it 
for hours — the hills towering in peak and pinnacle, 
sharp, ridgy, saw-like — either deeply, beautifully blue, 
or clad in one unvarying garb of white ; and beyond 
that, Spain. The same view from the castle is even 
still finer, as you are more elevated ; and the sheer 
sink of the wall and rock below you, makes, as it 
were, a vast gulf, across which the mind leaps, even 
over the green stumbling landscape of the foreground 
to the blue or white peaks beyond. 

But the feature — the characteristic — the essence 
— the very soul of Pau — ^is neither the fair landscape, 
nor the rushing Gave, nor the stedfast Pyrenees. It 
is the memory of the good King Henri Quatre, which 
envelopes castle and town — which makes haunted holy 
stones of these grim grey towers — ^which gives all its 
renown and glory to the little capital of Bearne. Look 
up at the " Good King" in his bronze effigy in the Place. 
These features are more familiar to you than those of 
any foreign potentate. You know them of old — ^you 
know them by heart — a goodly, honest, well-favoured, 
burly face — a face with mind and matter in it— a face 
not of an abstract transcendental hero, but emphati- 
cally of a Man. Passion and impulse are there, as in 



THE "GOOD king" HENRI QUATRE. ]31 




STATUE OF B£NBI QUATBE. 



the jaw of Heiiry VIII. ; energy and strong thought, 
as in the brow of Cromwell ; a calm, and courtly, and 
meditative smile over all, as in the face of Charles I. 
The stubbly beard grizzling round the firm and close- 
set lips, and worn by the helmet, speaks the soldier — 
the conqueror of Ivry; the high, broad forehead and 
the quick eye tell of the statesman — he who pro- 
claimed the edict of Nantes ; the frank, gallant, and 
blithsome expression of the whole face — ^what does it 
tell of — of the gallant, whose mingled sagacity and 
debonnair courage won La Heine Margot from the in- 

j 2 



132 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

trigues of Catherine ; whose impulsive heart and fiery 
passions cast him at the feet of Gabrielle d'Estrees ; 
and whose weakness — manly while unmanly — made 
him for a time the slave of Henriette d'Entragues. 
There is an encyclopaedia of meaning in the face, and 
even in the figure, of Henri. He had a grand mind, 
with turbulent passions ; he was deeply wise, yet 
frantically reckless ; he had many faults, but few 
vices. If he gave up a religion for a throne, he 
never claimed to be a martyr or a saint. Indeed, 
he was the last man in the world deliberately to run 
his head against a wall. He thought that he could 
do more for the Huguenots by turning Catholic and 
King, than by remaining Protestant and Pretender ; 
and he did it. Yet for all — for the men of Rome and 
the men of Geneva — he had a broad, genial, hearty 
sympathy. Were they not all French? — all the 
children of a king of France ? Henri had not one 
morsel of bigotry in his soul : his mind was too clear, 
and his heart too big. And yet, with the pithiest saga- 
city — with the sternest will — with the most exalted 
powers of calm comprehension — and the most honest 
wish to make his good people happy — ^he could be 
recklessly vehement — Quixotically generous — he 
could fling himself over to his passions — do foolish 
things, rash things — insult the kingdom for which 
he laboured, and which he loved — and thunder out 
his wrath at the grey head of the venerable coun- 
sellor who stood by him in field and hall, and whose 
practical wisdom it was which trimmed and shaped 
Henri's grand visions of majestic politics and astound- 
ing plans for national combinations. In the face. 



THE BIRTH OF HENRI. 133 

then, and in the figure of the Good King, you 
can trace, I think, some such mixture of qualities. 
Neither are beau ideals. You are not looking at an 
angel or an Apollo — but a bold, passionate, burly, 
good-humoured man, big in the bone, and firm in 
muscle, with plenty of human flesh and its frailties, 
yet with plenty of mind to shine through, and elevate 
them all. 

Let us enter the castle of his birth. Thanks to 
Louis Philippe, it has been rescued from the rats 
and the owls, and re-fitted as exactly as possible in 
its ancient style. Mounting the grand staircase, 
we see everywhere around, on walls and vaulted 
ceiling, the gilt cyphers, "H. M." — not, however, 
meaning Henri and Margot, but the grandfather 
of the King of France — the stern, old Henri D'Al- 
bret, King of Navarre, and Margaret his wife — 
La Marguerite des Marguerites, the Pearl of Pearls. 
Pass through a series of noble state -apartments, 
vaulted, oak-pannelled, with rich wooden carved 
work adorning cornice and ceiKng, and we stand in 
the room in which Henri saw the light. Jeanne 
D'Albret's bed, a huge structure, massive and car- 
ven, and with ponderous silken curtains, still stands 
as it did at the birth of the king. And what a 
strange coming into the world that was. The Prin- 
cess of Navarre had travelled a few days previously 
nearly across France, that the hoped-for son and 
heir might be a Bearnais born. Old Henri, her 
father, was waiting and praying in mortal anxiety 
for the event. '' My daughter," said the patriarch, 
"in the hour of your trial you must neither cry nor 



134 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

moan, but sing a song in the dear Bearnais tongue ; 
and so shall the child be welcomed to the world with 
music, and neither weep nor make wry faces." The 
princess promised this, and she kept her word ; so 
that the first mortal sound which struck Henri 
Quatre's ear was his mother's voice feebly chanting 
an old pastoral song of the shepherds of Bearne. 

" Thanks be to God ! — a man-child hath come 
into the world, and cried not," said the old man. 
He took the infant in his arms, and, after the ancient 
fashion of the land, rubbed its lips with a clove of 
garlic, and poured into its mouth, from a golden cup, 
a few drops of Jurancon wine. And so was bom 
Henri Quatre. Stand for a moment in the shadow 
of these tapestried curtains, and call up in the gloom 
a vision of the grandly eventful life which followed. 
An army is drawn up near Rochelle, and a lady 
leads a child between the lines. CoHgni and the 
Conde head the group of generals who, bonnet in 
hand, surround the lady and the child; and then 
Jeanne D'Albret, lifting up her clear woman's voice, 
dedicates the little Henri to the Protestant cause in 
France ; and with loud acclamations is the gift 
received, and the leader accepted by the stern Hu- 
guenot array. — The next picture. An antique room in 
the Louvre. The bell of St. Germain I'Auxerrois is 
pealing a loud alarm ; arquebus shots ring through 
the streets, and cries and clamour of distress come 
maddening through the air. Pale, but firmly resolute, 
stands Henri, beside a young man richly, but negli- 
gently, dressed, who, after speaking wildly and 
passionately to him, snatches up an arquebus — 



THE LIFE OF HENRI QUATRE. 135 

stands for a moment as though about to level it at 
his unshrinking companion, and then exclaiming 
like a maniac, '^ PI faut queje tue quelq^un,^^ flings 
open the lattice, and fires without. Henri and 
Charles IX. on the night of the St. Bartholemew. — 
Another vision. A battle-field : Henri surrounded 
by his eager troops — the famous white plume of 
Ivry rising above his helmet : 

" And if my standard-bearer fall, as fall full well he may, 
For never saw I promise yet of a more bloody fray ; 
Charge where you see this white plume shine amid the 

ranks of war. 
And be your oriflamme to day, the helmet of Navarre." 

— Solemn organ music floating through cathedral 
aisles must introduce the next scene. The child who 
was dedicated to the cause of Protestantism kneels 
before a mitred priest. "Who are you?" is the 
question put. "I am the king." "And what is 
your request ? " " To be admitted into the pale of 
the Catholic Apostolic and Roman Church." — Again 
a change. Henri the King of France, and Rosny, 
Duke de Sully, labouring amid papers, calculations, 
and despatches, to elevate and make prosperous the 
great kingdom of France. "I would," said the 
king, " that every subject of mine might have a fat 
fowl in his pot every Sunday." — Take another: a 
gay and courtly scene. A glittering mob of cour- 
tiers surround a plain ferryman, who, in answer to 
the laughing questions of the monarch, whom the 
boatman does not know, admits that " the king is 
a good sort of fellow enough, but that he has a jade 
of a mistress, who is continually wanting fine gowns 



136 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

and trumpery trinkets, which the people have to pay 
for ; — not, indeed, that it would signify so much if 
she were hut constant to her lover ; hut they did say 

that ." Here a lady, with burning cheeks, and 

flashing eyes, exclaims : " Sire, that fellow must be 
hanged forthwith ! *' " Sire ! " — the boatman gazes 
in astonishment on his questioner. '^ Tut, tut," is 
the reply; '^the poor fellow shall no longer pay 
corvee or gabelle, and so will he sing for the rest of 
his days, Vive Henri — Vive Gabrielle ! " — Another 
scene : in the library and working room of the great 
king, and his great minister. The monarch shews 
a paper, signed with his name, to his counsellor. It 
is a promise of marriage to Henriette d'Entragues. 
Sully looks for a moment at his master, then tears 
up the instrument, and flings the fragments on the 
earth. " Are you mad, duke ? " shouts Henri. 
" If I am," was the reply, " I should not be the only 
madman in France." The king takes his hand, 
and does him justice. — Yet one last closing sketch. 
In a huge gilded coach in the midst of a gi'oup of 
splendidly dressed courtiers, sits the king. There 
is an obstruction in the street. The cortege stops ; 
the lackeys leave it to clear the way ; when a moody- 
browed fanatic, with flaming eyes, and red hair all on 
end, bounds into the carriage — a poniard gleaming 
above his head — and in a moment the Good King, 
stabbed with tliree mortal wounds, has gone home to 
his fathers. All is over : Henri Quatre is historical! 



CHAPTER VIII. 

The Val d'Ossau — The Vin de Jurancon — The old Bearne 
Costume — The Devil and the Basque Language — 
Pyrenean Scenery — The Wolf — The Bear — A Py- 

RENEAN AuBERGE — ThE FOUNTAIN OF LaRUNS, AND THE 

Evening Song. 

The valley of Ossau, one of the finest and most 
varied of the clefts running deep into the Pyrenees, 
opens up behind Pan, and penetrates some thirty 
miles into the mountains, ending in two naiTOW 
horns, both forming cul de sacs for all, save active 
pedestrians and bold muleteers, the bathing esta- 
blishment of Eaux Bonnes being situated in one, 
and that of Eaux Chaudes in the other. I was medi- 
tating as to my best course for seeing some of the 
mountain scenery, as I hung over the parapet of 
the bridge beneath the castle, and watched the pure, 
foaming waters of the Gave bursting over their rocky 
bed beneath, when a little man, with a merry red 
face, and a wonderfully long mouth, continually on 
the grin, dressed in a species of imitation of English 
sporting costume — in an old cut-away coat, and what 
is properly called a bird's-eye choker — the effect of 
which, however, was greatly taken off by sabots — 
addressed me, half in French, half in what he called 
English :— Did I wish to go to the baths, or any- 
where else in the hills ? The diHgences had stopped 



138 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

running for the season ; but what of that ? he had 
plenty of horses and vehicles : he would mount me for 
the fox-hounds, if I wished. Oh, he was well known 
to, and highly respected by. Messieurs les Anglais ; and 
it was therefore a fortunate thing for me to have 
fallen in with him. The upshot of a long conversa- 
tion was, that he engaged to drive me up the glen 
with his own worshipful hands, business being slack 
at the time, and that he was to be as communicative 
as he might touching the country, the people, their 
customs, and all about them. The little man was 
delighted with this last stipulation, and observed it 
so faithfully, that for the next two days his tongue 
never lay; and as he was a merry, sensible little 
fellow enough, and thoroughly good-natured, I did 
not in the least repent my bargain. Off we went, 
then, in a lumbering old nondescript vehicle, drawn 
by a raw-boned white horse, who, however, went 
through his work like a Trojan. My driver's name 
was M. Martin ; and the first thing he did was to 
pull up at the first public-house outside of Pan. 

^' Look up there !" he said, pointing to a high- 
wooded ridge to the right ; " there are the Jurancon 
vineyards — the best in the Pyrenees; and here we 
shall have a coup-d^ etrier of genuine old Jurancon 
wine." 

Remembering Henri Quatre's first beverage, I 
had no objection. The wine, which is white, tastes 
a good deal like a rough chablis, and is very decep- 
tive, and very heady : I would advise new-comers to 
the Pyrenees to use it but gingerly. The garrison 
of Pau was changed while I was there, and the new 



PYRENEAN COTTAGES. 139 

soldiers were going rolling about the streets — some 
of them madly drunk, from the effects of this iireily 
intoxicating, yet mildly tasting wine. Our road lay 
along the Gave — a flashing, sparkHng mountain- 
stream, running amid groups of trees, luxuriant cop- 
pice-wood, and small fields of yellow Indian corn. 
Many were the cottages and clusters of huts, half- 
hidden amid the vines, which are trailed in screens 
and tunnels from stake to stake, and tree to tree ; 
and, on each side of the way, hedges of box- 
wood, growing in luxuriant thickets, which would 
delight the heart of an English gardener — gave note 
of one of the characteristic natural harvests of the 
Pyrenees. The soil and the chmate are, indeed, 
such, that the place which, in more northern moun- 
tain regions, would be occupied by furze and heather, 
is hereabouts taken up by perfect thickets and jungles 
of thriving box- wood ; while the laurel and rhodo- 
dendron grow in bushy luxuriance. Charihing, how- 
ever, as is the landscape, and thoroughly poetic the 
first aspect of the cottages, they are in reaUty 
wretched, ricketty, and unwholesome hovels. In 
fact, poor huts, and a mountain country, go almost 
invariably together. In German Switzerland, the 
cottages are miserable ; and every body knows what 
an unwindowed stye is a Highland turf-built bothy. 
So of the Pyrenean cottages : many of them — mere 
hovels of wood and clay, so rickety-looking, that one 
•wonders that the first squall from the hills does not 
carry them bodily away — are composed of one large, 
irregular room, having an earthen floor, with black, 
smoky beams stretching across beneath the thatch. 



140 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

Two or three beds are made up in tlie darkest cor- 
ners ; festoons of Indian corn, onions, and heads of 
garlic are suspended from the rafters ; and opposite 
the huge open fireplace is generally placed the prin- 
cipal piece of furniture of the apartment — a lumbering 
pile of a dresser, garnished with the crockery of the 
household. In a very great proportion of cases, the 
windows of these dwellings are utterly unglazed ; 
and w^hen the rough, unpainted outside shutters are 
closed, the whole interior is in darkness. The people, 
however, seem better fed and better clothed than the 
German Switzers. In the vicinity of Pau, the women 
wear the brightest silk handkerchiefs on their heads, 
are perfectly dissipated in the matter of gaudy rib- 
bons, and cut their petticoats of good, fleecy, home- 
spun stuiF, so short as to display a fair modicum of 
thick rig-and-furrow worsted stockings. The men, 
except that they wear a blue bonnet — flat, like that 
called Tam O'Shanter in Scotland — are decently clad 
in the ordinary blouse. It is as you leave behind the 
influence of the town, that you come upon the an- 
cient dresses of the land. Every glen in Bearne has 
its distinguishing peculiarities of costume ; but cross 
its boundary to the eastward, and you relapse at 
once into the ordinary peasant habiHments of France 
— clumsy, home-cut coats only being occasionally 
substituted for the blouse. 

The old Bernais costume is graceful and pictur- 
esque ; and as we made our way up into the hills, we 
soon began to see specimens ; and hardly one of 
these but was borne by a fine-looking, well-developed 
man, or a black-eyed and stately stepping woman. 



THE BERNAIS PEASANTS. 141 

The peasantry of Ossau are indeed remarkable, not- 
withstanding their hard work and frequent privations, 
for personal beauty. They have little or no real 
French blood in their veins ; indeed, I believe the 
stock to be Spanish, just as the beauties of Aries, out 
of all sight the finest women in France, are in their 
origin partly Italian, partly Saracen. The women 
of Ossau are as swarthy as Moors, and have the true 
eastern dignity of motion, owing it, indeed, to the 
same cause as the Orientals — the habit of carrying 
water-vases on their heads. Their faces are in gene- 
ral clearly and classically cut — the nose thin and 
aquiline — the eye magnificently black, lustrous, and 
slightly almond-shaped — another eastern characteris- 
tic. The dress, as I have said, is graceful, and the 
colours thoroughly harmonious. A tight-fitting black 
jacket is worn over a red vest, more or less gaudily 
ornamented with rough embroidery, and fastening by 
small belts across the bosom. On the head, a sort of 
capote or hood of dark cloth, corresponding to that of 
the jacket and petticoat, is arranged. In good wea- 
ther, and when a heavy burden is to be carried, this 
hood is plaited in square folds across the crown of the 
head, forming a protection also from the heat of the 
sun. In cold and rainy days, it is allowed to fall 
down over the shoulders, mingling with the folds of 
the drapery beneath. Both men and women wear 
peculiarly shaped stockings, so made as to bulge over 
the edges of the sabot, into which the naked foot is 
thrust. The dress of the men is of a correspondingly 
quaint character. On their heads they invariably 
wear the flat, brown bonnet, called the lerret, and 



142 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

from beneath it the hair flows in long, straight locks, 
soft and silky, and floating over their shoulders. A 
round jacket, something like that worn by the women, 
knee-breeches of blue velvet — upon high days and 
holidays — and, Uke the rest of the costume, of coarse 
home-spun woollen upon ordinary occasions, complete 
the dress. The capa, or hood, is worn only in rough 
weather. In the glens more to the westward, low 
sandals of untanned leather are frequently used, the 
sole of the foot only being protected. Sandals have 
certain classic associations connected with them, and 
look very well in pictures, but they are fearfully un- 
comfortable in reality. I saw half-a-dozen peasants 
tramping in this species of chaussure through the wet 
streets of Pau amid a storm of snow and rain, and a 
spectacle full of more intensely rheumatic associations 
could no where be witnessed. 

As we jogged along behind the grey horse, the 
facetious M. IVlartin had a joke to crack with every 
man, woman, and child' we encountered ; and the 
black eyes lighted up famously, and the classic faces 
grinned in high delight, at the witticisms. 

"I suppose you are speaking Bearne?" I said. 

" The fine old language of the hills, sir. French ! 
— no more to be compared with it than skimmed 
milk with clotted cream." 

" And you speak Spanish, too ? " 

" Well, if a gentleman contrabanda, who takes 
walks over the hills in the long dark nights, with a 
string of mules before him, wished to do a small 
stroke of business with me, I daresay we could 
manage to understand each other." And therewith 



r 



THE DEVIL LEARNING BASQUE. 143 

M. Martin winked first with one eye, and then with 
the other. 

'' And Basque/' said I, " you speak that also ? " 

M. Martin recoiled : " No man who ever did 

live, or will live, could learn a word of that infernal 

jargon, if he were not a born Basque. Learn Basque, 

indeed! — Mon Dieu, monsieur! Don't you know that 

the Devil once tried, and was obliged to give it up 

for a bad job ? I don't know why he wanted to 

learn Basque, unless it were to talk to the fellows 

who went to him from that part of the country; and 

he might have known that it was very little worth 

the hearing they could tell him. But, however, he 

spread his wings, and flew and flew till he ahghted 

on the top of one of the Basque mountains, where he 

summoned all the best Basque scholars in the country, 

and there he was for seven years, working away with 

a grammar in his hand, and saying his lessons like 

a good little boy. But 'twas all no use ; he never 

could keep a page in his head. So one fine morning 

he gave a kick to the books with one foot, and a kick 

to the masters with the other, and flew ofi" — only 

able to say ' yes ' and ' no ' in Basque, and that with 

such a bad pronunciation that the Basques could n't 

understand him." 

This authentic anecdote brought us to that por- 
tion of the valley in which we enter really into the 
Pyrenean hills. Up to this point we have been 
traversing a gloriously wooded, and beautifully 
broken, country. Ridges of forests, vineyard slopes, 
patches of bright-green meadow land, steep, tumbling 
hills, wreathed with thickest box-wood, have been 



144 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

rising and falling all around. Lateral glens, each 
with its foaming torrent and woodland vista opening 
up, have been passed in close succession. Scores of 
villages, ricketty and poverty-struck, even in this 
land of fertility, have been traversed, until, gaining 
the height of a ridge which seems to block the way, 
we saw before us what appears to be another valley 
of a totally different character — stern, solitary, vsdld 
— a broad, flat space, lying between the hills, yellow 
with maize-fields, the river shining in the midst, and 
on either side the mountain-slopes — no mere hills 
this time, but vast and stately Alps, heaving up into 
the regions of the mist, rising in long, uniform 
slopes, stretching away and away, and up and up — 
the vast sweeps green Tvith a richness of herbage 
unknown in the Alps, and faintly traced with ancient 
mountain-paths, leading from chalet to chalet ; here 
and there a gully or wide ravine breaking the Titanic 
embankment; silver threads of waterfalls appearing 
and disappearing in the black jaws ; and over the 
topmost clefts, glimpses of the snowy peaks, to which 
these stretching braes lead upwards. The mist lies 
in long, thin -svreaths upon the bosom of the hills 
immediately around you, and you see their bluff" 
summits now rising above it, and then gradually 
disappearing in the rising vapour. The general 
atmosphere is brighter and clearer than in the Alps, 
and you imagine a peak a long day's march from 
you within an easy climb ; cottages, and even ham- 
lets, appear perched at most impracticable heights ; 
and every now and then, a white gash in the far-up 
hill-side announces a marble-quarry, and you see 



THE WOLVES OF THE PYRENEES. 145 

dark dots of carts toiling up to it by winding ways. 
These hills are but partially wooded. The sombre 
pine here begins to make its appearance, sometimes 
scattered, sometimes growing thickly — for all the 
world like the wire-jags set round the barrel of a 
musical snuff-box. The lateral valleys are, how- 
ever, frequently masses of forest, and it is high up 
in these little frequented passes, that Bruin, who 
still haunts the Pyrenees, most often makes his 
appearance. 

" But he is going," said M. Martin — " going with 
the wild cats and the wolves. The Pyrenees are 
degenerating, monsieur ; you never hear of a man 
being hugged to death now. Poor Bruin ! For, 
after all, monsieur, he is a gentlemanly beast ; he 
never kills the sheep wantonly. He always chooses 
the best, which is but natural, and walks off with it. 
But the wolf — sacre nom du diahle! — the wolf — a 
coquin — a brigand — a Basque tonnere — he will 
slaughter a flock in a night. Mon Dieu ! he laps 
blood till he gets drunk on it. A voleur — a mauvais 
sujet — a cochon — a dam beast !" 

" But do the Pyrenean wolves ever attack men ?" 
" Sacre ! Monsieur ; ienez. There was Jacques 
Blitz — an honest man, a farmer in the hills ; he came 
down to Pau, when the snow was deep, and the 
winter hard. I saw him in Pau. Well, in the after- 
noon he started to go home again. It looked threat- 
ening, and people advised him to stay ; but no ; and 
off he went. Monsieur, that night in his cottage 
they heard, hour by hour, the howling of the wolves, 
and often went out, but could see nothing. Poor 

K 



146 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

Jacques did not return, and at sunrise they were all 
off in search; and sure enough they found a skeleton, 
clean picked, and the bones all shining in the snow. 
Only, monsieur, the feet were still whole in the sa- 
bots : the wolves had gnawed the wood, but could 
not break it. * Take off the sabots !' screamed the 
wife. And they did so ; and she gave a shuddering 
gasp, and said, ' They are Jacques' feet !' and tum- 
bled down into the snow. Sacre peste, the canni- 
bals ! Curse the wolves — here's to their extir- 
pation ! " 

And M, Martin took a goodly pull at a bottle of 
Jurancon we had laid in at the last stage. He went 
on to tell me that sometimes a particular wolf is 
known to haunt a district, perhaps for years, before 
he gets his quietus ; most probably a grey-haired, 
wily veteran, perfectly up to all the devices of the 
hunter, who can seldom get a shot at him. Bears 
flourish in the same fashion, and come to be so well 
known, as to be honoured with regular names, by 
which they are spoken off in the country. One old 
bear, of great size, and of the species in question, 
had taken up his head-quarters upon a range of 
hills forming the side of a ravine opening up from 
the valley of Ossau. He was called Dominique — 
probably after his fellow Bruin, who long went 
by the same appellation in the Jardin des Plantes, 
and was known by it to every Parisian. The 
Pyrenean Dominique was a wily monster, who had 
long baffled all the address of his numerous pursuers ; 
and as his depredations were ordinarily confined to 
the occasional abstraction of a sheep or a goat, and 



THE BEARS OF THE PYRENEES. 147 

as he never actually committed murder, he long 
escaped the institution of a regular battue — the 
ordinary ending of a bear or wolf who manages 
to make himself particularly conspicuous. At length 
the people of the district got absolutely proud of 
Dominique. Like the Eagle in Pjofessor Wilson's 
fine tale, he was "the pride and the pest of the 
parish," and might have been so yet, were it not 
that on one unlucky day he was casually espied by 
the garde forestiere. This is a functionary whose 
duty it is to patrol the hills, taking note that the 
sheep are confined to their proper bounds on the 
pastures. The man had sat down to his dinner on 
a ledge of rock, when, looking over it, whom should 
he see but the famous Dominique sunning himself 
upon the bank below. The garde had a gun, and 
it was not in the heart of man to resist the tempta- 
tion. He fired, Dominique got up on his hind legs, 
roaring grimly, when the contents of the second 
barrel stretched him on the earth. So great, how- 
ever, was the gardens opinion of the prowess of his 
victim, that he kept loading and firing long after 
poor Dominique had quitted this mortal scene. The 
carcase was too heavy to be moved by a single man, 
but next day it was carried to the nearest village by 
a funeral party of peasants, not exactly certain as to 
whether they ought to be glad or sorry at the catas- 
trophe. 

As we were now well on in October, and as the 
weather had greatly broken up, much of the pleasure 
of my Pyrenean rambles being indeed marred by 
lowering skies and frequent and heavy rains — which 

K 2 



148 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

were snow upon the hills — the flocks were fast de- 
scending from the upland pastures to their winter 
quarters in the valley and the plain. Every couple 
of miles or so, in our upward route, we encountered 
a flock of small, long-eared, long and soft woolled 
sheep, either trotting along the road or resting and 
grazing in the adjacent fields. The shepherds 
stalked along at the head of the procession, or, 
when it was stationary, stood statue-like in the 
fields. They were gi*eat, gaunt, sinewy men, wear- 
ing the Ossau costume, but one and all enveloped 
in a long, whitish cloak, with a peaked hood, flowing 
to the earth, which gave them a ghastly, winding- 
sheet sort of appearance. When a passing shower 
came rattling down upon the wind, the herdsmen, 
stalking slowly across the fields, enveloped from 
head to foot in these long, grey, shapeless robes, 
looked like so many Ossianic ghosts flitting among 
the mountains. Each man carried, slung round 
him, a little ornamented pouch, full of salt, a hand- 
ful of wliich is used to entice within reach any sheep 
which he wishes to get hold of. One and all, like 
their brethren of the Landes, they were busy at the 
manufacture of worsted stockings, and kept slowly 
stalking through the meadows where their flocks 
pastured, with the lounging gait of men thoroughly 
broken in to a solitary, monotonous routine of slug- 
gish life. Many of these shepherds were accompanied 
by their children — the boys dressed in exact minia- 
ture imitation of their fathers. Indeed, the preva- 
lence of this style of juvenile costume in the Pyrenees 
makes the boys and girls look exactly like odd, quaint 



^ THE DOGS OF THE PYRENEES. 149 

little men and women. The shepherds are assisted 
by a breed of noble dogs, one or two of which I saw. 
They are not, however, generally taken down to the 
low grounds, as they are frequently fierce and vicious 
in the half-savage state in which it is of importance 
to keep them, in respect to their avocations amid 
the bears and wolves. Among themselves, I was 
told that they fought desperately, occasionally even 
killing each other. The dogs I saw were magni- 
ficent looking fellows, of great size and power, their 
chests of vast breadth and depth, and their limbs 
perfect lumps of muscle. They appeared to me to 
be of a breed which might have been originated by 
a judicious crossing of first-rate Newfoundlands, 
St. Bernard mastiffs, and thorough old English bull- 
dogs ; and I could easily believe that one wrench 
from their enormous square jaws is perfectly suffi- 
cient to crash through the neck vertebrae of the 
largest wolf. 

As we neared Laruns, the mountain - slopes 
grew steeper and higher, and more barren and rug- 
ged ; the precipices became more fearful ; the moun- 
tain gorges more black and deep ; and at length 
we appeared to be entering the deep pit of an 
amphitheatre dug in the centre of a group of stormy 
and precipitous mountains. Down in this nest lies 
the little mountain-town of Laruns ; the steep slope 
of the heathy hill rising on one side of the single 
street from the very backs of the houses. M. Martin, 
on the Irish principle of reserving the trot for the 
avenue, whipped up the good old grey, and we 
rattled at a canter through the miriest street I ever 



150 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

traversed, diiving throngs of lean, long-legged pigs 
right and left, and dispersing groups of cloaked, 
lounging men, with military shakos, and sabres — in 
whose uniform, indeed, I recognised that of my old 
friends, the Douaniers of Boulogne and Calais; for 
true we were approaching, not indeed an ocean, 
but a mountain frontier, and Spanish ground was not 
so distant as Shakspeare's Cliff from Cape Grinez. 

We stopped in the little Place opposite a pretty 
marble fountain, and at the door of a particularly 
modest-looking auberge. As I was getting out, M. 
Martin stopped me : " Wait," he said, " and we will 
drive into the house — don't you see how big the door 
is ? " As he spoke, it opened upon its portals. The 
old grey needed no invitation, and in a moment we 
found ourselves in a huge, dark vault, half coach- 
house, half stable. Two or three loaded carts were 
lying about, and lanterns gleamed from the gloomiest 
corners, and horses and mules stamped and neighed 
as they were rubbed down, or received their pro- 
vender. 

" But where is the inn ? " 

"The inn ! up-stairs, of course." 

And then I beheld a rough, wooden staircase, 
or, rather, a railed ladder, down which came trip- 
ping a couple of blooming girls to carry up-stairs our 
small amount of luggage. Following their invitation, 
I soon found myself in a vast parlour and kitchen 
and all — a great shadowy room, with a baronnial- 
looking fireplace, and a couple of old women sitting 
in the ingle-nook, plying the distaff. The fireplace 
and the kitchen department of the room were in the 



AN AUBERGE IN THE PYRENEES, 



151 



shadow at the back. Nearer the row of lozenge-pane 
windows, rose a dais — with a long dining-table set 
out — and smaller tables were scattered around. 
Above your head were mighty rafters, capitally 
garnished with bacon and hung-meat of various 
kinds. The floor rose and fell in small mountains 




A PYEENEES PABLOUR. 



and valleys beneath your feet ; but, notwithstanding 
this evidence of rickettyness, every thing appeared of 
massive strength, and the warmth of the place, and 
the savour of the cuisine — ^for a French kitchen is 
always in a chronic state of cookery— made the room 
at once comfortable and appetising— ten times better 
than the dreary salle of a baiTack-like hotel. 



152 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

In a few minutes, Martin, having attended to the 
grey, joined me, rubbing his hands. " This was the 
place to stop at," he said. " No use of going further. 
The mountains beyond were just like the mountains 
here ; but the people here were far more unsophisti- 
cated than the people beyond. They hav 'nt learned 
to cheat here, yet," he whispered. " And, besides, 
you see a good Pyrenean auberge, and at the Wells 
you would only see a bad French hotel, which, I dare- 
say, would be no novelty ; while, as for price — pooh ! 
you will get a capital dinner here for what they would 
charge you for speaking to the waiter there." 

And so it proved. Pending, the preparation of 
this dinner, however, I strolled about Laruns. It is 
a drearily-poor place, with the single recommendation 
of being built of stone, which can be had all round 
for the carrying. The arrangement of turning the 
ground-floor into a stable is universal in the houses 
of any size, and as these stables also serve for pig- 
styes, sheep-folds, and poultry-yards, and as cleaning- 
day is made to come round as seldom as possible, it 
may be imagined that the town of Laruns is a highly 
scented one. Through some of the streets, brooks of 
sparkling water flow, working the hammers of feeble 
fulling mills. Webs of the coarse cloth produced 
are hung to dry from window to window, and roof 
to roof, and beneath them congregate groups of old 
distaff-plying women, lounging duaniers, and no end 
of geese standing half asleep on one foot, until a 
headlong charge of pigs being driven afield, or driven 
home, comes trampling through the mire, and clears 
the way in a moment. 



OMENS AND SUPERSTITIONS IN THE PYRENEES. 153 

The auberge dinner was worthy of M. Martin's 
anticipations. DeHcately-flavoured soup, and trout 
of the genuine mountain-stream breed — the skin 
gaily speckled, and the flesh a deep red, were followed 
by a roasted jigot of mutton, flavoured as only mut- 
ton can be flavoured which has fed upon the aromatic 
herbage of the high hills — the whole finished off with 
a capital omelette, tossed jauntily up by the neat- 
handed Phillis who waited upon us, and joked, and 
laughed, and was kept in one perpetual blush by 
M. Martin all through dinner-time. 

At length, through all this giggling, a plate was 
broken. 

" There's bad luck, Jeanne," said Martin. 

" You know nothing about it," replied Jeanne, 
pertly. "Any child knows that to break a plate is good 
luck : it is to smash a dish which brings bad luck." 

" They have all sorts of omens here in the hills," 
said my companion. " If a hare cross the path, it is 
a bad omen ; and if a cow kick over the milking-pail, 
it is a bad omen. And they are always fancying 
themselves bewitched " 

" No, that we are not," interrupted Jeanne ; "so 
long as we keep a sprig of vervene over the fire, we 
know very well that there's not a sorciere in all the 
Pyrenees can harm us." 

I thought of the old couplet — 

" Sprigs of vervain, and of dill, 
Which kinder witches of their will." 

As the evening closed, the little Place became 
quite thronged with girls, come to wash their pails 



154 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

and draw water from the fountain. Each damsel 
came statelily along, bearing a huge bucket, made of 
alternate horizontal stripes of brass and tin, upon her 
head, and polished like a mirror. A half-hour, or so, 
of gossipping ensued, frequently broken by a pleasant 
chorus, sung in unison by the fresh, pure voices of 
the whole assembly. The effect, when they first 
broke out into a low, wailing song, echoing amongst 
the high houses and the hill behind, was quite elec- 
trifying. Then they set to work, scrubbing their 
pails as if they had been the utensils of a model 
dairy, and at length marched away, each with the 
heavy bucket, full to the brim, poised upon her head 
— and with a carriage so steady and gracefully un- 
swerving that, to look at the pails, you would sup- 
pose them borne in a boat, rather than carried by a 
person walking. 

At night, after I had turned into as snug a bed, 
with as crisp, and white, and fresh linen as man 
could wish for, I was long kept awake by the vocal 
performances of a party of shepherds, who had just 
arrived from the hills, and who paraded the Place 
singing in chorus, long after the cracked bell in the 
little church had tolled midnight. Nine-tenths of 
these people have capital voices. Their lungs and 
throats are well-developed, by holding communication 
from hill to hill ; and they jodle or jerk the voice 
from octave to octave, just as they do in the Alps. 
This said jodling appears, indeed, to be a natural 
accomplishment in many mountain countries. The 
songs of the shepherds at Laruns had jodling cho- 
russes, but the airs were almost all plaintive minors. 



THE SONGS OF THE PYRENEES. 155 

with long quavering phrases, clinging, as it were, to 
the pitch of the key-note, and only extending to 
about a third above or below it. The music was 
always performed in unison, the words sometimes 
French, and sometimes Bearnais. The single phrase 
in the former language, which I could distinguish, and 
which formed the burden of one of the ditties, was, 
" Ma chere maitresse.^' This " chere maitresse " 
song, indeed, appeared the favourite. Over and 
over again was it sung, and there was a wild, 
melancholy beauty which grew more and more upon 
you, as the mellow cadence died away again and 
again in the long drawn out notes of "Ma chere 
maitresse.''^ 



CHAPTER IX. 

Rainy Weather in the Pyrenees ^Eaux Chaudes out 
OF Season, and in the Rain — Plucking the Indian 
Corn at the Auberge at Laruns — The Legend of 

THE WeHR-WOLF, and THE BaRON WHO WAS CHANGED 

INTO A Bear. 

I WAKENED next morning to a mournful reveille — 
the pattering of the rain ; and, looking out, found 
the Place one puddle of melting sleet. The fog lay 
heavy and low upon the hills, and the sky was as 
dismal as a London firmament in the dreariest day 
of November. Still, M. Martin was sanguine that 
it would clear up after breakfast. Such weather was 
absurd— nonsensical; he presumed it was intended 
for a joke ; but if so, the joke was a bad one. How- 
ever, it must be fine speedily — that was a settled 
point — that he insisted on. Breakfast came and 
went, however, and the rain was steady. 

" Monsieur," said Jeanne, " has lost the season 
of the Pyrenees." 

" Is there not the summer of St. John to come 
yet ?" demanded Martin. 

" Yes ; but it will rain at least a week before 
then." 

What was one to do ? There clearly was no 
speedy chance of the clouds relenting ; and what was 
sleet with us, was dry snow further up the pass. The 
Peak du Midi, with visions of which I had been 



WET WEATHER IN THE PYRENEES. 157 

flattering myself, was as inaccessible as Chimbarozo, 
Spain, of which I had hoped to catch at least a 
Pisgah peep — for I did want to see at least a barber 
and a priest — was equally out of the question. Dur- 
ing the morning a string of mules had returned to 
Laruns, with the news that the road was blocked 
up ; and truly I found that, had it not been so, my 
first step towards going to Spain must needs have 
been in the direction of Bayonne, to have my pass- 
ports vised — those dreary passports, which hang like 
clogs to a traveller's feet. And so then passed the 
dull morning tide away, every body sulky and savage. 
Peasants, with dripping capas, stumbled up stairs, 
and sat in groups smoking over the fire ; the two old 
women scolded ; Jeanne grew quite snappish ; and 
M. Martin ran out every moment to look at the weather, 
and came back to repeat that it was no lighter yet, 
but that it soon must clear up, positively. At length 
my companion and I determined upon a sally, at all 
events — a bold push. Let the weather do what it 
pleased, we would do what we pleased, and never 
mind the weather. So old grey was harnessed in 
the stable ; we blockaded ourselves with wraps, and 
started bravely forth, a forlorn hope against the ele- 
ments. We took the way to Eaux Chaudes ; and 
the further we went, the heavier fell the rain — cats 
and dogs became a mild expression for the deluge. 
The mist got lower and lower ; the sleet got colder 
and colder ; old grey snorted and steamed ; we 
gathered ourselves up under the multitudinous wrap- 
pers ; the rain was oozing through them — it was 
trickling down our necks — suddenly making itself 



]58 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

felt in small rills in unexpected and aggravating 
places, which made sitting unpleasant — collecting 
in handsome lakes at our feet, and pervading "with 
one vast, clammy, chilly, freezing dampness body and 
soul. The whole of creation seemed resolved into a 
chaos of fog, mire, and rain. We had passed into 
what would be called in a pantomime " the Rainy 
Realms, or the Dreary Domains of Desolation ;" and 
what comfort was it — soaked, sodden, shivering, teeth 
chattering — to hear Martin proclaim, about once in 
five minutes, that the weather would clear up at the 
next turn of the road ? The dreary day remains, 
cold and clammy, a fog-bank looming in my me- 
mory ever since. I believe I saw the etahlissment 
of Eaux Chaudes ; at least, there were big drenched 
houses, with shutters up, like dead-Hghts, and closed 
doors, and mud around them, like water round the 
ark. They looked like dismal county hospitals, 
with all the patients dead except the madmen, who 
might be enjoying the weather and the situation ; 
or Hke gaols, with all the prisoners hung, and the 
turnkeys starved at the cell doors for lack of fees. 
I remember hearing a doleful voice, like that of 
Priam's curtain drawer, asking me if I would n't 
get out of the vehicle ; but to move was hideous 
discomfort, bringing new wet surfaces into contact 
with the skin ; so I croaked out, " No, no ; back — 
back to the fire at Laruns." And so honest grey, all in 
a steam, splashed round through the mud ; and back 
we went as we had come — rain, rain, rain, pitiless, 
hopeless rain — the fog hanging like a grey winding 
sheet above us — the zenith like a pall above that. 



STILL WET WEATHER. 159 

leaden and drear, as on a Boothia Felix Christmas 
Day. 

There was nothing for it hut the fireside. The 
very douaniers had abandoned the street — the pigs 
had retreated — the donkeys brayed at intervals from 
their ground-floor parlours ; and only the maniac 
geese sat on one leg, croaking, to be rained on, and 
the marble fountain, so pretty yester-evening in a 
gleam of sunshine, spouted away, bringing " coals to 
Newcastle," with an insane perseverance which it 
made me sad to contemplate. Dinner was ordered 
as soon as it could be got ready ; we felt it was the 
last resource. I fortunately had a change of clothes. 
Martin had not ; but he retired for awhile, and reap- 
peared in a home-spun coat and trowsers, six inches 
too long for him, which he was fain to hold up, to the 
enormous triumph and delight of Jeanne. At length, 
then, that neat-handed Phillis announced dinner. 

" Stay a moment !" exclaimed Martin ; "I am 
just going to see whether it is likely to clear up." 

Out he went into the mud, and returned with 
the announcement that it would be summer weather 
in five minutes ; he knew, by some particular move- 
ment of the mist. But poor Martin's weather pre- 
dictions had ceased to command any credit ; and the 
peasants around the fire shrugged their shoulders 
and laughed. The dinner passed off like a funeral 
feast. I looked upon the Place — still a puddle, and 
every moment getting deeper. No songs — no jodling 
choruses to-night, maidens of Laruns ! 

Sitting gloomily over the Jurancon wine, and 
looking at the fire, I saw a huge cauldron put on. 



160 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

and presently the steam of soup began to steal into 
the room. Martin and Jeanne were holding confi- 
dential intercourse, which ended in my squire's com- 
ing to me, and announcing that there was to be held 
a grand epeluche of the Indian corn, and that the 
soup was to form the supper of the work-people. 
Presently, sure enough, a vast pile of maize in the 
husk was brought up, and heaped upon the floor; 
and as the dusk gathered, massive iron candlesticks 
with tapers which were rather rushlights than other- 
wise, were set in due order around the grain. Then 
in laughing parties, drenched but merry, the neigh- 
bours poured in — men, women, and children — and 
vast was the clatter of tongues in Bernais, as they 
squatted themselves down on stools and on the floor, 
and began to strip off" the husks of the yellow heads 
of corn, flinging the peeled grain into coarse baskets 
set for the purpose. The old people deposited them- 
selves on settles in the vast chimney-nook; and 
amongst them there was led to a seat a tall blind 
man, with grizzly grey hair, and a mild smiling 
face. 

" Ask that man to tell you a story about any of 
the old castles or towns hereabouts," whispered Mar- 
tin; "he knows them all — all the traditions, and 
legends, and superstitions of Bearne." 

This council was good. So, as soon as the whole 
roomful were at work — stripping and peeHng — and 
moistening their labours by draughts of the valley 
vine — I proceeded to be introduced to the patriarch, 
but, ere I had made my way to liim : 

" Pere Bruniqul," said a good-humoured looking 



A PYRENEAN LEGEND. 161 

matron; " you know you always give us one of your 
tales to ease our work, and so now start off, and here 
is the wine-flask to wet your lips." 

All this, and the story which followed, was spoken 
in Bernais, so that to M. Martin I am indebted for 
the outlines of the tale, which I treat as I did that 
of the Baron of the Chateau de Chatel-morant : — 

" Sir Roger d'Espaigne," said the lady of the 
knight she addressed — holding in her hand the hand 
of their daughter Adele, a girl of six or seven years 
of age — " where do you hunt to day ? " 

" Marry," replied her husband, " in the domains 
of the Dame of Clargues. There are more bears 
there than anywhere in the country." 

" But you know that the Dame of Clargues loves 
her bears, and would not that they should be hurt ; 
and besides, she is a sorceress, and can turn men into 
animals, if she will. Oh, she practices cunning 
magic ; and she is also a wehr-wolf ; and once, when 
Leopold of Tarbes struck a wolf with an arblast bolt, 
and broke its right fore-leg, the Dame of Clargues 
appeared with her right-arm in bandages, and Leo- 
pold of Tarbes died within the year." 

But Sir Roger was not to be talked to. He said 
the Dame of Clargues was no more a witch than her 
neighbours ; and poising his hunting-spear, away he 
rode with all his train — the horses caracolling, and 
the great wolf and bear-hounds leaping and barking 
before them. They passed the castle of the Dame of 
Clargues, and plunged into the forests, where the 
wolves lay — the prickers beating the bushes, and the 



102 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

knights and gentlemen ready, if any game rushed 
out, to start in pursuit with their long, light spears. 
For more than half the day they hunted, but had no 
success ; when, at last, a huge wolf leaped out of a 
thicket, and passed under the very feet of the horses, 
which reared and plunged, and the riders, darting 
their spears in the confusion, only wounded each 
other and their beasts, while three or four of the best 
dogs were trampled on, and the wolf made off at a 
long gallop down the wood. But Sir Roger had 
never lost sight of her, and now followed close upon 
her haunches, standing up in his stirrups, and couch- 
ing his lance. Never ran wolf so hard and well, and 
had not Sir Roger's horse been a Spanish barb, he 
had been left far behind. As it was, he had not a 
single companion ; when, coming close over the fly- 
ing beast, he aimed a blow at her head. The spear 
glanced off, but blood followed the stroke, and at the 
same moment the barb swerved in her stride, and 
suddenly stopping, fell a trembhng, and laid her ears 
back, while Sir Roger descried a lady close by, her 
robes rustling among the forest-herbs. Instantly, he 
leaped off his horse, and advanced to meet and pro- 
tect the stranger from the wolf; but the wolf was 
gone, and, instead, he saw the Dame of Clargues 
with a wound in her left temple, from which the 
blood was still flowing. 

" Sir Roger d'Espaigne," she said, "thou hast 
seen me a wolf— be thou a bear ! " And even as she 
spoke, the knight disappeared, and a huge, brown 
bear stood before her. 

"And now," she cried, "begone, and seek thy 



A PYRENEAN LEGEND. 163 

kindred in the forest -beasts — only hearken: thou 
shalt kill him who killest thee, and killing him, thou 
shalt end thine own line, and thy blood shall be no 
more upon the earth." 

When the chase came up, they found the Spanish 
barb all trembling, and the knight's spear upon the 
ground; but Sir Roger was never after seen. So years 
went by, and the little girl, who had beheld her 
father go forth to hunt in the Dame of Clargues' 
domain, grew up, and being very fair, was wooed and 
wedded by a knight of Foix, who was called Sir 
Peter of Bearne. They had been married some 
months, and there was already a prospect of an heir, 
when Sir Peter of Bearne went forth to hunt, and his 
wife accompanied him to the castle-gate, even as her 
mother had convoyed her father when he went on 
his last hunting party to the woods of the Dame 
of Clargues. 

" Sir Peter," said the lady, " hast thou heard of 
a great bear in the forest, which, when he is hunted, 
the hunters hear a doleful voice, saying, ^ Hurt me 
not, for I never did thee any harm ? ' " 

" Balaam, of whom the clerk tells us, ought to 
have that bear to keep company with his ass," said 
the knight, gaily, and away he rode. He had 
hunted with good success most of the day, and had 
killed both boars and wolves, when he descried, 
couched in a thicket, a most monstrous bear, with 
hair of a grizzly grey — for he seemed very old, but 
his eyes shone bright, and there was something in his 
presence which cowed the dogs, for, instead of bay- 
ing, they crouched and whined; and even the knights 

L 2 



164 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

and squires held off, and looked dubiously at the 
beast, and called to Sir Peter to be cautious, for 
never had such a monstrous bear been seen in the 
Pyrenees ; and one old huntsman shouted out aloud, 
" My lord, my lord — draw back, for that is the bear 
which, when he is hunted, the hunters hear a doleful 
voice, saying, * Hurt me not, for I never did thee any 
harm!'" 

Nevertheless, the knight advanced, and drawing 
his sword of good Bordeaux steel, fell upon the beast. 
The dogs then took courage, and flew at him; 
but the four fiercest of the pack he killed with as 
many blows of his paws, and the rest again stood 
aloof ; so that Sir Peter of Bearne was left face to face 
with the great beast, and the fight was long and un- 
certain; but at last the knight prevailed, and the 
bear gave up the ghost. Then all the hunt rushed 
in, and made a litter, and with songs and acclama- 
tions carried the dead bear to the castle, the knight, 
still faint from the combat, following. They found 
the Lady Adele at the castle -gate; but as soon as 
she saw the bear, she gave a lamentable scream, and 
said, " Oh ! what see I ? " and fainted. When she 
was recovered, she passed off her fainting fit upon 
terror at the sight of such a monster ; but still, she 
demanded that it should be buried, and not, as was 
the custom, cut up, and parts eaten. " Holy Mary !" 
said the knight, " you could not be more tender of 
the bear if he were your father." Upon which, Adele 
grew very pale ; but, nevertheless, she had her will, 
and the beast was buried. 

That night Sir Peter de Bearne suddenly rose in 



A PYRENEAN LEGEND. 165 

his sleep, and, catching up arms which hung near 
him, began to fight about the room, as he had fought 
with the bear. His lady was terrified, and the 
varlets and esquires came running in, and found him 
with the sweat pouring down his face, and fighting 
violently — but they could not see with what. None 
could approach him, he was so savage, and he fought 
till dawn, and returned, quite over-wearied, to his 
bed. Next morning he knew nothing of it ; but the 
next night he rose again; and the next, and the 
next — and fought as before. Then they took away 
his weapons, but he ranged the castle through, till he 
found them, and then fought more furiously than 
ever, till, at length, he was accustomed to fall on his 
knees with weakness and fatigue. Before a month 
had passed, you would not have known Sir Peter : 
he seemed twenty years older; he could hardly 
drag one foot after the other; and he fell melancholy 
and pined — for at last he knew that the curse of 
the bear was upon him, and that he was not long for 
this world. Many then advised to send for the Dame 
of Clargues, who was still alive, but old, and who 
was more skilful in such matters than any priest or 
exorcist on this side of Paris : and at last she was 
sent for, and arrived. The scar upon her forehead 
was still to be seen ; her grey hair did not cover it. 

"Lady," said she to the Lady of Bearne, "did 
you ever see your father ? " 

" Yes, truly ; the very day he went forth a-hunt- 
ing and never returned, I saw him, and I yet can 
fancy the face before me." 

" Thou wilt see it to-night." 



166 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

" Then my foreboding — that strange feeling — was 
true. Oh ! my father — my husband." 

Midnight came, and, worn and haggard, Sir Peter 
de Bearne rose again to renew his nightly combat. 
He staggered and groaned, and his strength was 
spent, and those who stood round sang hymns and 
prayed aloud. At length the knight shrieked out 
with a fearful voice — the first time he had spoken in 
all his dreary sleep-fighting — " Beast, thou hast con- 
quered ! " and fell back upon the floor, his limbs 
twisting like the limbs of a man who is being 
strangled; and Adele screamed aloud. 

" Look, minion, look ! " exclaimed the Dame of 
Clargues to the lady — passing at the same time her 
hand over the lady's eyes. 

"O God!" cried Adele— "my father kills my 
husband ; " and she fell upon the floor, and she and 
the unborn babe died together, and Sir Peter de 
Bearne was likewise lifted lifeless from the spot. 




Tarbes — Bagnerre de Bigorre — 
Pigeon-catching— French Com- 

MIS VOYAGEURS — ThE KiNG OF 

the Pyrenean Dogs — The Le- 
gend OF Orthon, who haunted the Baron of Corasse. 

The next day by noon — still raining — I was at Pan ; 
and having bidden adieu to M. Martin, started for 
Bagnerre de Bigorre by Tarbes, the great centre of 
Pyrenean locomotion. Here, as at Bordeaux, you 
are on ancient English ground. The rich plain all 
around you is the old County of Bigorre, which was 
given up to England as portion of the ransom of 
King John of France ; and here to Tarbes came, with 
a gallant train, the Black Prince, to visit the Count 
of Argmanac — the celebrated Gaston Phoebus, Count 
of Foix — leaving his strong Castle of Orthon, to be 
present at the solemnity. The life and soul of Tarbes 
now consist of the scores of small cross-country dili- 
gences, which start in every direction from it as a 
common centre. The main feature of the town is 
a huge square, nine-tenths of the houses being glaring 
whitewashed hotels, with messageries on the ground- 



168 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

floors. Diligences by the score lie scattered around ; 
and every now and then the dogs'-meat old horses 
who draw them go stalking solemnly across the 
square beneath the stunted lime-trees. There is an 
adult population of conductors, with silver ear-rings, 
and their hands in their pockets, always lounging 
about; and a juvenile population of shoe-blacks, who 
swarm out upon you, and take your legs by storm. 
Tarbes is the best place — excepting, perhaps, Aries — 
for getting your boots blacked, I ever visited. If you 
were a centipede, and had fifty pairs of Wellingtons, 
they would all be shining like mirrors in a trice. 
How these boys live, I cannot make out, unless, 
indeed, upon the theory that they black their shoes 
mutually, and keep continually paying each other. 
Bagnerre is about sixteen miles distant ; and a moun- 
tain of a diligence, not so much laden with luggage 
as freighted with a cargo, conveyed me there in not 
much under four hours ; and I repaired — it was 
dusk, and, of course, raining — to the Hotel de France 
— one of the huge caravansaries common at watering- 
places. A buxom lass opened the wicket in the 
Porte Cochere. 

" I can have a room ?" 

" Oh, plenty !" 

And we stepped into the open court-yard. The 
great hotel rose on two sides, and a small corps de 
logis on the two others. 

" Wait," said the girl, " until I get the key." 

And off she tripped. The key ! Was the house 
shut up ? Even so. I was to have a place as big 
as a hospital to myself. The door opened ; all was 



THE SOLITARY BIG HOTEL. 169 

darkness and a fusty smell. The last family had 
been gone a fortnight. Our footsteps echoed like 
Marianne's. It was decidedly a foreign edition, un- 
carpeted and waxy-smelling, of the "Moated Grange." 
I was ushered into a really splendid suite of rooms — 
of a decidedly grander nature than I ever occupied 
before, or ever occupied since. 

" The price is the price of an ordinary bedroom. 
Monsieur may choose whatever room he pleases ; and 
the tdble-d^hote bell rings at six." 

This, at all events, was reassuring. Then my 
conductress retreated ; the doors banged behind her, 
and I felt like a man shut up in St. Peter's. The 
silence in the house was dreadful. I was fool enough 
to go and listen at the door : dead, solemn silence — 
a vault could not be stiller. I would have given 
something handsome for a cat, or even a mouse ; a 
parrot would have been invaluable — it would have 
shouted and screamed. But no ; the hush of the 
place was like the Egyptian darkness — it was a thick 
silence, which could be felt. At length the table- 
d'Mte bell rang. The salle a manger was in the 
building across the yard. Thither I repaired, and 
found a room, or rather a long corridor, big enough 
to dine a Freemason's or London Tavern party, with 
a miraculously long table, tapering away into the 
distance. Upon a few square feet of this table was 
a patch of white cloth ; and upon the patch of cloth 
one plate, one knife and fork, and one glass. This 
was the tahle-d'hote, and, like Handel, " I was de 
kombany." 

Next day the weather was no better ; but I was 



170 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

desperate, and sallied out in utter defiance of the 
rain; but such a dreary little city as Bagnerre, in 
that wintry day, was never witnessed. I never was 
at Heme Bay in November, nor have I ever passed 
a Christmas at Margate ; but Bagnen*e gave me a 
lively notion of the probable dehghts of the dead 
season at either of these favourite watering-places. 
The town seemed defunct, and lying there passively 
to be rained on. Half the houses are lodging-places 
and hotels; and they were all shut up — ponderous 
green outside shutters dotting the dirty white of the 
walls. Hardly a soul was stirring ; but ducks quacked 
manfully in the kennels, and two or three wretched 
donkeys — dreary relics of the season — stood with their 
heads together under the lime-trees in the Place. I 
retreated into a cafe. If there were nobody in France 
but the last man, you would find him in a cafe, 
making his own coffee, and playing billiards with 
himself. Here the room was tolerably crowded ; and 
I got into conversation with a gi-oup of townspeople 
round the white Fayence stove. I abused the wea- 
ther — never had seen such weather — might live a 
century in England, and not have such a dreary 
spell of rain — and so forth. The anxiety of the good 
people to defend the reputation of their climate was 
excessive. They were positively frightened at the 
prospect of a word being breathed in England against 
the skies of the Pyrenees in general, and those of 
Bagnerre in particular. The oldest inhabitant was 
appealed to, as never having remembered such wea- 
ther at Bagnerre. As for the summer, it had been 
more than heavenly. All the springs were delight- 



THE KNITTERS OF THE PYRENEES. 171 

ful ; the autumns were invariably charming ; and the 
winters, if possible, the best of the four. The pre- 
sent rain was extraordinary — exceptional — a sort of 
phenomenon, like a comet or a calf with two heads. 
One of these worthies, understanding that however 
strong my objections were to fog and drizzle, I 
was not by any means afi'aid of being melted, re- 
commended me to make my way to the Palombiere, 
and see them catch wild pigeons, after a fashion 
only practised there and at one other place in the 
Pyrenees. Not appalled, then, by the prospect of 
a three-mile pull up-hill, I made my way through 
the narrow suburban streets, and across the foaming 
Adour, here a glorious mountain-stream, but already 
made useful to turn numerous flour-mills, and to 
drive the saws and knives by which the beautiful 
marble of the Pyrenees is cut and polished. Here- 
abouts, in the straggling suburbs, the whole female 
and juvenile population were clustered, just within 
the shelter of the open doors, knitting those woollen 
jackets, scarfs, and so forth, which are so much in 
vogue amongst the visitors in the season. There 
was one graceful group of pretty girls, the eldest not 
more than four years of age, pursuing the work in a 
shed open to the street, seated round a loom, at which 
a good-natured-looking fellow was operating. 

" That is a beautiful scarf," I said to the girl 
next me ; '' how much will they give you for making 
it?" 

The weaver paused in his work at this question. 
" Tell the gentleman, my dear, how much Messieurs 
So-and-so give for knitting that scarf." 



172 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

" Two liards," said the little girl. 

Two liards, or half a solitary sous ! This was 
worse than the shirt-makers at home. 

'^ It is a had trade now," said the weaver. ^' She 
is a child ; but the best hands can't make more than 
big sous where they once made francs ; but all the 
trades of the poor are going to the devil. I don't 
think there will be any poor left in twenty years — 
they will be all starved before then." 

This led to a long talk with my new friend, who 
was a poor, mild, meek sort of man — a thinker, after 
his fashion, totally uninstructed — he could neither 
read nor write — and a curious specimen of the odd 
twists which unregulated and unintelligent ponder- 
ings sometimes give a man's mind. His grand notion 
seemed to be, that whatever might be the isolated 
crimes and horrors^ now and then committed upon 
the earth, the most terrible and malignant species of 
perverted human ingenuity was — the employment of 
running streams to work looms. 

"Was water made to weave cloth?" he asked. 
" Did the power that formed the Adour intend its 
streams to be made use of to deprive an honest man 
of his daily bread ? He would uncommonly like to 
find the orator who would make that clear to his 
mind. It was terrible to see how men perverted the 
gifts of Nature ! How could I, or any one else, prove 
to him that the water beside us was intended to take 
the place of men's arms and fingers, and to be used, 
as if it were vital blood, to manufacture the garments 
of those who lived upon its banks ?" 

I ventured to hint, that running water might 



THE WEAVERS OF THE PYRENEES. 173 

occasionally be put to analagous, yet by no means so 
objectionable uses ; and I instanced tbe flour and 
maize mill, which was working merrily within a score 
of paces of us. For a moment, but for a moment 
only, my antagonist was staggered. Then recovering 
himself, he inquired triumphantly whether I meant 
to say that the process of grinding corn was Hke the 
process of weaving cloth ? It was curious to observe 
the confusion in the man's mind between analogy 
and resemblance. As I could not but admit that the 
two operations were conducted quite in a different 
fashion, my gratified opponent, not to be too hard^ 
upon me, warily changed the immediate subject of 
conversation. I was not a native of this part of 
France ? Not a native of France at all ? Then I 
came from some place far away? Perhaps from 
across the sea ? From England ! Ah ! well, indeed, 
there was an English lady married, about five miles 

off" — Madame . Of course I knew her ? No? 

Well, that was odd. He would have thought that, 
coming from the same place, I ought to know her. 
However — were there many hand-loom weavers like 
himself in England ? No, very few indeed. What ! 
did they weave by water-power there, too ? were the 
folks as bad as some of the people in his country ? 
I explained that, not being so much favoured in the 
way of water-privilege, the people of England had 
resorted to steam. 

The poor weaver was quite overcome at this 
crowning proof of human malignity. It was more 
horrible even than the water-atrocities of the Py- 
renees. 



174 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

"Steam! — he repeated the word a dozen times 
over, shaking his head mournfully at each iteration, 
— " Steam ! Ah, well, what is this poor unhappy 
world coming to ?" 

Then rousing himself, and sending the shuttle 
rattHng backwards and forwards through the web, 
he added heartily : " After all, their moving iron and 
wood will never make the good, substantial, well- 
wearing cloth woven by honest, industrious flesh and 
blood." 

Who would have the heart to prescribe cold poli- 
tical economy in such a case 1 I left the good man 
busily pursuing his avocation, and lamenting over 
the perversity of making broad-cloth by the aid of 
boiling water. 

Stretching manfully up hill, by a path like the 
bed of a muddy torrent, I was rewarded by a sudden 
watery blink of sunshine. Then the wind began to 
blow, and vast rolling masses of mist to move before 
it. From a high ridge, with vast green slopes, all 
dotted with sheep, spreading away beneath until 
they blended with the corn-land on the plain, Bag- 
nerre appeared, the great white hotels peeping from 
the trees, and the whole town lying as it were at the 
bottom of a bowl. It must be fearfully hot in sum- 
mer, when the sun shines right down into the am- 
phitheatre, and the high hills about, deaden every 
breeze. At present, however, the wind was rising 
to a gale, and blowing the heavy clouds right over the 
Pyrenees. Attaining a still greater height, the scene 
was very gi'and. On one side was a confused sea of 
mountain-peaks and ridges, over which floated masses 



PIGEON-CATCHING ON THE PYRENEES. []75 

of wreathing fog, flying like chased phantoms before 
the northern wind. Now a mountain-top would be sub- 
merged in the mist, to re-appear again in a moment. 
Anon I would get a glimpse of a long vista of valley, 
which next minute would be a mass of grey nonentity. 
The mist-wreaths rose and rolled beneath me and 
above me. Sometimes I would be enveloped as in 
a dense white smoke ; then the fog-bank would flee 
away, ascending the broad breast of the hill before me, • 
and wrapping trees, and rocks, and pastures in its 
shroud. All this time the wind blew a gale, and 
roared among the wrestling pines. Sometimes the 
sun looked out, and lit with fiery splendour the 
rolling masses of the fog, with some partial patch of 
landscape ; and, altogether, the effect, the constant 
movement of the mist, the wild, hilly landscape 
appearing and disappearing, the glimpses occasion- 
ally vouchsafed of the distant plain of Gascony, 
sometimes dimly seen through the driving vapours, 
sometimes golden bright in a partial blaze of sun- 
shine, — all this was very striking and fine. At length, 
however, I reached the Palombiere, situated upon 
the ridge of the hill — which cost a good hour and a 
half's climb. Here grow a long row of fine old 
trees, and on the northern side rise two or three very 
high, mast-like trees of liberty, notched so as to 
allow a boy as supple and as sure-footed as a 
monkey to climb to the top, and ensconce himself 
in a sort of cage, like the "crow's nest" which 
whalers carry at their mast-heads, for the look-out. 
I found the fowlers gathered in a hovel at the foot of 
a tree; they said the wind was too high for the 



176 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

pigeons to be abroad ; but for a couple of francs they 
offered to make believe that a flock was coming, 
and shew me the process of catching. The bargain 
made, away went one of the urchins up the bending 
pole, into the crow's-nest — a feat which I have a great 
notion the smartest topman in all Her Majesty's 
navy would have shirked, considering that there 
were neither foot-ropes or man-ropes to hold on by. 
Then, on certain cords being pulled, a whole screen 
of net rose from tree to tree, so that all passage 
through the row was blocked. 

" Now," said the chief pigeon-catcher, ^^ the birds 
at this season come flying from the north to go to 
Spain, and they keep near the tops of the hills. 
Well, suppose a flock coming now ; they see the 
trees, and will fly over them — if it wasn't for the 
pigeonier.^^ 

" The j)igeomer ! what is that ? " 

"We're going to show you." And he shouted 
to the boy in the crow's nest, " Now Jacques ! " 

Up immediately sprang the urchin, shouting like 
a possessed person — waving his arms, and at length 
launching into the air a missile which made an odd 
series of eccentric flights, like a bird in a fit. 

" That is the pigeonier," said the fowler ; " it 
breaks the flight of the birds, and they swoop down 
and dash between the trees — so." 

He gave a tug to a short cord, and immediately 
the wall of nets, which was balanced with great 
stones, fell in a mass to the ground. 

" Monsieur will be good enough to imagine that 
the birds are struggling and fluttering in the meshes." 



THE GIANT OF THE PYRENEAN DOGS. 



177 



At Bagnerre there is a marble work — that of 
M. Geruset — which I recommend every body to visit, 
not to see marble cut, although that is interesting, 
but to pay their respects to, I believe, the grandest 
dog in all the world — a giant even among the canine 
giants of the Pyrenees. I have seen many a calf 
smaller than that magnificent fellow, who, as you 
enter the yard, will rise from his haunches, like a 
king from his throne, and, walking up to you with 
a solemn magnificence of step which is perfect, will 




IIAABLE WO&KS AT BAONEREE. 



wag his huge tail, and lead you — you cannot mis- 
understand the invitation — to the counting-house 
door. For vastness of brow and jaw — enormous 
breadth and depth of chest, and girth of limb, I never 
saw this creature equalled. The biggest St. Bernard 
I ever came across was almost a puppy to him. A 
tall man may lay his hand on the dog's back without 
the least degree of stoop ; and the animal could not 
certainly stand erect under an ordinary table. 

" I suppose," I said to the clerk who showed 

M 



178 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

me the works, " you have had many offers for that 

dog r 

" My employer," he replied, " has refused one 
hundred pounds for him. But, even if we wished, 
we could not dispose of him : he is fond of the place 
and the people here ; so that, though we might sell 
him, he wouldn't go with his new master; and I 
would like to see any four men in Bagnerre try to 
force him." 

That evening I fortunately did not include the 
whole company at the tahle-d^hote. There was a 
young gentleman very much jewelled, and an elderly 
lady also very strongly got up in the way of brooches 
and bracelets, to whom the young gentleman was pay- 
ing very assiduous but very forced attention. The lady 
was sulky, and sent plat after plat untasted away ; 
and when her companion, as I thought, whispered 
a remonstrance, she snubbed him in great style ; at 
which he bit his lip, turned all manner of colours, 
and then got moodily silent. I suspected that the 
young gentleman had married the old lady for her 
money, and was leading just as comfortable a life as 
he deserved. But, besides them, we had a couple of 
the gentlemen who are to be more or less found in 
every hotel in France — commis voyageurs, or com- 
mercial travellers. By the way, the aristocratic 
Murray lays his hand, or rather his " Hand-book," 
heavily about the ears of these gentlemen — casti- 
gating them a good deal in the Croker style, and 
Avith more ferocity than justice : " A more selfish, 
depraved, and vulgar, if not brutal set, does not 
exist ;" " English gentlemen will take good care to 



MURRAY AND COMMIS VOYAGEURS. 179 

keep at a distance from them/' and " English ladies 
will be cautious of presenting themselves at a French 
table-d^hote,Q^Q,e^i^^ — in certain cases specified. Now, 
I agree with Mr. Murray, that commercial travellers, 
French and English, are not distinguished by much 
polish of manner, or elegance of address; on the 
contrary, the style of their proceedings at table is 
frequently slovenly and coarse, and their talk is al- 
most invariably " shop." In a word, they are not 
educated people, or gentlemen. But when we come 
to such expressions as " selfish, brutal, and depraved," 
I think most English travellers in France will agree 
with me, that the aristocratic hand-book maker is 
going more than a little too far. I have met 
scores of clever and intelligent commis voyageurs — 
hundreds of affable, good-humoured ones — thousands 
of decent, inoffensive ones. In company with a lady, 
I have dined at every species of tahle-d^hote, in every 
species of hotel, from the Channel to the Mediter- 
ranean, and the Bay of Biscay to the Alps, and I 
cannot call to mind one instance of rudeness, or 
voluntary want of civility, from one end of our jour- 
ney to the other ; while scores and scores of instances 
of attention and kindness — more particularly when 
it was ascertained that my companion was in weak 
health — come thronging on me. I know that the 
French commis myageur looks after his own interest 
at table pretty sharply, and also that he is quite defi- 
cient in all the elegant little courtesies of society; but 
to say that he is brutal or depraved, because he is not 
a petit mattre and an elegant, is neither true nor 
courteous. If there be any set of Frenchmen to 



180 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

whose conduct at tahle-d^hotes strong expressions 
may be fairly applied, it is French officers, who sprung 
from a rank often inferior to that of the bagman, 
and, with all the coarseness of the barracks clinging 
to them, frequently cluster together in groups of 
half-a-dozen — scramble for all that is good upon the 
table — eat with their caps on, which the commis 
voyageur only does in winter, when the bare and 
empty salle is miserably cold — and in general behave 
with a coarse rudeness, and a tumultuous vulgarity, 
which I never saw private soldiers guilty of, either 
here or in France. 

But I must hurry my Pyrenean sketches to an 
end. The true South — I mean the Mediterranean- 
washed provinces — still lie before me ; and I must 
perforce leap almost at a bound over a long and 
interesting journey through the little-kno^wn towns 
of the eastern Pyrenees — quiet, sluggish, tumble- 
down places, as St. Gaudens, St. Girons, and St. 
Foix, possessed neither of pimip-rooms, nor warm- 
springs, but vegetating on, lazily and dreamily, in 
their glorious climate — for, after all, it does some- 
times stop raining, and that for a few blazing months 
at a time, too. I would Kke to sketch St. Gaudens, 
with its broad-eaved, booth-like shops, and the snug 
town-hall, with pictures of old prefects and wigged 
fermiers generaux, into which they introduced me, 
and where they set all their municipal documents 
before me, when I applied for some information as 
to the landholding of the district. I would like to 
sketch at length a curious walled village on the 
head waters of the Garonne— a dead-and-gone sort 



THE EASTERN PYRENEES. 181 

of place, of which I asked an old man the name. 
" A poor place, sir/' he said ; " a poor place. Not 
worth your while looking at. All poor people here, 
sir — poor people ; not worth your while speaking to. 
And the name — oh, a poor name, sir — ^not worth your 
while knowing; but, if you insist — why, then, it's 
Valentine." I would like to sketch the merry popu- 
lation in the hills round that dead-and-gone village- 
half farmers, half weavers, like the Saddleworth 
peasants, in Yorkshire— a jolly set — all sporting men, 
too, who give up their looms, and go into the woods 
after bears as boldly as Sir Peter de Bearne. And I 
would like, too, to try to bring before my reader's eye 
the viney valley of the Ariege, and the deep ravines 
through which the stream goes foaming, spanned by 
narrow bridges, each with a tower in the centre, 
where the warder kept his guard, and opened and 
shut the huge, iron-bound doors, and dropped and 
raised the portcullis at pleasure. And these old 
feudal memorials bring me to the castles and ruined 
towers so thickly peopling the land where lived the 
bands of adventurers, as Froissart calls them, by 
whom the fat citizens of the towns were wont to be 
" guerroyes et harries,^'' and most of which have still 
their legends of desperate sieges, and, too often, of 
foul murders done within their dreary walls. Pass, 
as I perforce must, however, and gain Provence — 
there is yet one legendary tale I cannot help telling. 
It is one of the best things in Froissart, and a little 
twisting would give it a famous satiric significance 
against a class of bores of our own day and genera- 
tion. It relates to the lord of a castle not far from 



182 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

Tarbes, and was told to Froissart by a squire, '^ in a 
corner of the chapel of Orthez," during the visit paid 
by the canon to Gaston Phoebus, Count of Foix — who, 
I am sorry to say, has been puffed, and most snob- 
bishly exalted by the great chronicler into the ranks 
of the most noble chivalry, in return for splendid 
entertainment bestowed; whereas, in fact, Gaston 
Phoebus was a reckless murderer, possessed of neither 
faith nor honour. But, alas, the Canon of Chimay 
sometimes descended into the lowest depths of penny- 
a-lining, and " coloured " the cases just as a bribed 
police reporter does when a "respectable" gentleman 
gets into trouble. Gaston stabbed his son to death, 
in a dungeon ; and the bold Froissart has actually 
the coolness to assert that the death of the heir took 
place, inasmuch as his father, in a rage, because he 
would not eat the dainties placed before him, struck 
him with his clenched fist, holding therein a knife 
with which he had been picking his nails, but the 
blade of which, says the lame apologist, only pro- 
truded a " groat's breadth " from his fingers, — the 
result being that the steel unfortunately happened 
to cut a vein in young Gaston's throat. The simple 
truth of the matter is, that the coimt was jealous of his 
son's being a favourite of the boy's mother, from 
whom he (the count) was separated — that he dreaded 
lest the wrongs of his wife might be avenged by her 
brother, the King of Navarre — and that he deter- 
mined to starve the boy in a dungeon ; but the child 
not dying so soon as was expected, his father went 
very coolly in to him, and cut his throat. 

" To speak briefly and truly," says Froissart, " the 



THE LEGEND OF ORTHON. 183 

Count de Foix was perfect in body and mind, and no 
contemporary prince could be compared to him for 
sense, honour, and liberality." 

" To speak briefly and truly, Sir John Froissart," 
I reply, " you have written a charming and chivalrous 
chronicle ', but you could take a bribe with any man 
of your time, and having done so, you could attempt 
to deceive posterity, and write down what you knew 
to be a lie, with as gallant a grace and easy swagger 
as the great Mr. Jonathan Wild himself." 

However, there are black spots in the sun — to 
the legend which I promised. The Lord of Corasse 
— a castle, by the way, in which Henri Quatre passed 
some portion of his boyish days — the Lord of Corasse 
had a quarrel touching tithes with a neighbouring 
priest, who being unable to obtain his dues by ordi- 
nary legal or illegal remedies, sent a spirit to haunt 
the castle of Corasse. This spirit proceeded to per- 
form his mission by making a dreadful hallabuloo all 
night long, and breaking the crockery — so that very 
soon the Lord and Lady of Corasse had to dine 
without platters. x\t length, however, the Baron 
managed to come to speaking terms with the demon, 
who was invisible, and found out that his name was 
Orthon, and that the priest had sent him. 

" But Orthon, my good fellow," said the sly Lord 
of Corasse, " this priest is a poor devil, and will never 
be able to pay you handsomely. Throw him over- 
board at once, therefore, and come and take service 
with me." 

Orthon must have been the most fickle of all the 
devils, for he not only acceded to the proposition 



184 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

with astonishing readiness, but took such an affection 
to his new lord, that he could not be got out of his 
bed-room at night, to the sore discomfiture of the 
baroness, " who was so much frightened that the 
hairs of her head stood on end, and she always hid 
herself under the bed-clothes ;" while the too familiar 
demon, never seen, but only heard, insisted on keep- 
ing his friend, the baron, chatting all night. But 
the charms of Orthon's conversation at length palled, 
particularly as they kept the baron night after night 
from his natural rest ; so he took to despatching the 
demon all over Europe, collecting information for him 
of all that was going on in the courts and councils of 
princes, and at the scene of war where there happened 
to be fighting. Still, as Orthon moved as fast as a 
message by electric telegraph, the baron found him 
nearly as troublesome as ever. He was eternally 
coming in with intelligence which he insisted upon 
teUing, until the Lord of Corasse's head was fairly 
turned by the amount of news he was obliged to 
listen to. Never had there been so indefatigable an 
agent. He would have been invaluable to a news- 
paper — but he was boring the Lord of Corasse to death. 

A loud thunder at the door at midnight. The 
baron would groan, for he knew well who was the 
claimant for admission. " Let me in, Let me in. 
I have news for thee from Hungary or England," as 
the case might be ; and the baron, groaning in soul 
and body, would get up and let the demon in ; while 
the latter would immediately commence his recitation : 

" Let me sleep. Let me sleep, for Heaven's 
sake !" the victim would exclaim. 



THE LEGEND OF ORTHON. 185 

" I have not told thee half the news," would be 
Orthon's reply; "I will not let thee sleep until! 
have told thee the news ; " and he would go on with 
his budget of foreign intelHgence till the day scared 
him, and left the baron and the baronness to broken 
and unrefreshing slumbers. 

Froissart narrates that at length the demon con- 
sented to appear in a visible form to the baron;* 
that he took the shape of a lean sow, upon which 
the Lord of Corasse ordered the dogs to be let 
loose upon the animal, which straightway disap- 
peared, and Orthon was never seen after. I sus- 
pect, however, that Sir John was hoaxed in this 
respect. He clearly did not see the fun of the story, 
which is very capable of being resolved into an 
allegory — the fact being that the demon was some 
gentleman of the priest's acquaintance, with super- 
natural powers of boring whom he let loose upon the 
recalcitrant tithe-payer, until the arrears were at 
length paid up. The sow which disappeared was 
clearly no other than a tithe-pig. 



CHAPTER XI. 

Languedoc — The "Austere South" — Beziers and the 
Albigenses — The Fountain of the Greve and Pierre 
Paul Riquet — Anticipations of the Mediterranean 
— ^The Mistral — The Olive Country about Beziers — 
The Peasants of the South— Rural Billiard-playing. 

Again in the banquette of the diligence, which, rolling 
on the great highway from Toulouse to Marseilles, has 
taken me up at Carcassone, and will deposit me for 
the present at Beziers. We have entered in Langue- 
doc, the most early civilised of the provinces which 
now make up France — the land where chivalry was 
first wedded to literature — the land whose tongue laid 
the foundations of the greater part of modern poetry 
— the land where the people first rebelled against the 
tyranny of Rome — the land of the Menestrals and the 
Albigenses. People are apt to think of this favoured 
tract of Europe as a sort of terrestrial paradise — one 
great glowing odorous garden — where, in the shade of 
the orange and the olive-tree, queens of love and 
beauty, crowned the heads of wandering Troubadours. 
The literary and historic associations have not unna- 
turally operated upon our common notions of the 
country ; and for the '' South of France," we are very 
apt to conjure up a brave, fictitious landscape. Yet 
this country is no Eden. It has been admirably 
described, in a single phrase, the " Austere South of 
France." It is austere — grim — sombre. It never 



THE "aUSTEEE south." 187 

smiles : it is scathed and parched. There is no fresh- 
ness or rurality in it. It does not seem the coun- 
try, but a vast yard — shadeless, glaring, drear, and 
dry. Let us glance from our elevated perch over the 
district we are traversing. A vast, rolling wilderness 
of clodded earth, browned and baked by the sun; here 
and there masses of red rock heaving themselves above 
the soil like protruding ribs of the earth, and a vast 
coating of drowthy dust, lying like snow upon the 
ground. To the left, a long ridge of iron-like moun- 
tains — on all sides rolling hills, stern and kneaded, 
looking as though frozen. On the slopes and in the 
plains, endless rows of scrubby, ugly trees, powdered 
with the universal dust, and looking exactly like mop- 
sticks. Sprawling and straggling over the soil be- 
neath them, jungles of burnt- up, leafless bushes, tan- 
gled, and apparently neglected. The trees are olives 
and mulberries — the bushes, vines. 

Glance again across the country. It seems a soli- 
tude. Perhaps one or two distant figures, grey with 
dust, are labouring to break the clods with wooden 
hammers; but that is all. No cottages — no farm- 
houses — no hedges — all one rolling sweep of iron-like, 
burnt-up, glaring land. In the distance, you may espy 
a village. It looks like a fortification — all blank, high 
stone walls, and no windows, but mere loopholes. A 
square church tower gloomily and heavily overtops the 
houses, or the dungeon of an ancient fortress rears its 
massive pile of mouldering stone. Where have you 
seen such a landscape before ? Stern and forbidding, 
it has yet a familiar look. These scrubby, mop-headed 
trees — these formal square lines of huge edifices — these 



J 88 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

banks and braes, varying in hue from the grey of the 
dust to the red of the rock — why, they are precisely 
the back- grounds of the pictures of the renaissance 
painters of France and Italy. 

I was miserably disappointed with the olive. It 
is one of the romantic trees, full of association. It is 
a biblical tree, and one of the most favoured of the 
old eastern emblems. But what claim has it to 
beauty ? The trunk, a weazened, sapless- looking piece 
of timber, the branches spreading out from it like the 
top of a mushroom, and the colour, when you can see 
it for dust, a cold, sombre, greyish green. One olive is 
as like another as one mopstick is like another. The 
tree has no picturesqueness — no variety. It is not 
high enough to be grand, and not irregular enough to 
be graceful. Put it beside the birch, the beech, the elm, 
or the oak, and you will see the poetry of the forest and 
its poorest and most meagre prose. So also, to a great 
extent, of the mulberry. I had a vague sort of respect 
for the latter tree, because one of the Champions of 
Christendom — St. Jam^s of Spain, I think — delivered 
out of the trunk of a mulberry an enchanted princess; 
but the enforced lodgings of the captive form just as 
shabby and priggish-looking a tree as the olive. The 
general shape — that of a mop — is the same, and a 
mutual want of variety and picturesqueness, afflict, 
with the curse of hopeless ugliness, both silk and oil- 
trees. The fig, in another way, is just as bad. It is a 
sneaking tree, which appears as if it were growing on 
the sly, while its soft, buttery-looking branches — 
bending and twisting, swollen and unwholesome-look- 
ing — ^put you somehow in mind of diseased limbs. 



THE FOUNTAIN OF THE GREVE. 189 

which the quack doctors call " bad legs." In fact, it 
seems as if the climate and soil of Provence and Lan- 
guedoc were utterly unfavom'able to the production of 
forest scenery. One of our noble clumps of oak, 
beech, birch, and elm, at home, is worth, for splendid 
picturesqueness and rich luxuriance of greenery, every 
fig-tree which ever grew since fig-leaves were in vogue; 
every olive which ever grew since the dove from the ark 
plucked ofi" a branch ; and every mulberry which ever 
grew since St. James of Spain cut out the imprisoned 
princess. The menestrals of Languedoc no doubt 
gave our early bards many a poetic lesson ; but I can 
imagine the hopeless stare of the Southern when the 
Northern rhymer, in return, would chant him a jolly 
Friar of Copmanhiu-st sort of stave about the " merry 
greenwood," and the joys of the " greenwood tree." 

As we roll along the dusty highway, intersecting 
the dusty fields, the dusty olives, and the dusty vines, 
I pray the reader to glance to the right, towards the 
summit of a chain of jagged, naked hills. These go 
by the name of the Black Mountains — a good " Mys- 
teries of Udolpho" sort of title — and they form part 
of a range which separates the basin of the streams 
which descend to the north, and form the head waters 
of the Garonne, and those which descend to the south, 
and form the head waters of the Aude. Somewhere 
about 1670, the scattered shepherds who dwelt in 
these hills frequently observed a stranger, richly 
dressed, attended by two labouring-looking men, who 
paid him great reverence. The little party toiled up 
and down in the hills, and frequently erected and 
gathered round magical-looking instruments. " Holy 



190 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

Mary!" said the peasants, "they are sorcerers, and 
they are come to bewitch us all ! " For years and 
years did the richly dressed man and the two labourers 
haunt the Black Mountains, wandering uneasily up and 
down, climbing ridges, and plunging into valleys, and 
always seeming to seek something which they could 
not find. At length, upon a glaring hot summer day, 
they came suddenly upon a young peasant, who was 
quenching his thirst at a fountain. 

The cavalier glanced at the spring, and caught the 
shepherd by his home-spun jacket. The boy thought 
he was going to be murdered, and screamed out ; but 
a Louis-d'or quieted him in a moment. Then the 
cavalier, trembling with anxiety, exclaimed : " What 
fountain is this ? " 

" The fountain of the Greve," said the boy. 

" And it runs both ways along the ridge of the 
hill?" 

" Ay ; any fool may see that half of the water goes 
north, and half goes south — any fool knows that." 

" And I only discovered it now. Thank God !" 

We shall see who the cavalier, the discoverer of 
the fountain of the Greve, was, when we arrive at 
Beziers. Meantime the reader may be astonished 
that, after the cold frost and snow of the Pyrenees, 
a week or two later in the season brought me into a 
region of dry parched land, the sky blue and speck- 
less from dawn to twilight — the sun glaringly hot, 
and the flying dust penetrating into the very pores 
of the skin. But we have left the mist-gathering and 
rain-attracting mountains, and we have entered the 
*' austere South," where the skv for months and 



THE BISHOP AND HIS FLOCK. 191 

months is cloudless as in Arabia — where, at the sea- 
son I traversed it, the sun being hot by day does not 
prevent the frost from being keen at night ; and where 
the mistral, or north wind, nips your skin as with 
knives; while in every sheltered spot the noon-day 
heat bakes and scorches it. But such is Languedoc. 

As the evening closed in, we saw, duskily crown- 
ing a hill before us, a clustered old city, with grand 
cathedral towers, and many minor church steeples, 
cutting the darkening air. This is Beziers, where 
took place the crowning massacre of the Albigenses 
— the most learned, intellectual, and philosophic 
of the early revolters from the Church of Kome, 
and whom it is a perfect mistake to consider in the 
light of mere peasant fanatics, like the Camisards or 
the Vaudois. In this ancient city, beneath the shadow 
of these dim towers, more than twenty thousand men, 
women, and children, were slaughtered by the troops 
of orthodox France and Kome, led on and incited to 
the work by the Bishop of Beziers, one of the most 
black-souled bigots who ever deformed God's earth. 
When the soldiers could hardly distinguish in the 
darkness the heretics from the orthodox — although, 
indeed, they might have solved the problem by cut- 
ting down every intelligent man they saw — the loving 
pastor of souls roared out, " Cmdite omnes, ccedite y 
noverit enim Dominus qui sunt ejus .''* It is to be 
fervently hoped, that, for the sake of the Bishop of 
Beziers, a certain other personage has long ago proved 
himself equally perspicuous and discriminating. 

We pulled up at Hotel du Nord, at Beziers, just 
as the taUe-d'hote bell was ringing ; and I speedily 



192 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

found myself sitting down in a most gaily lighted 
salon, to a capital dinner, in the midst of a merry 
company. For the last ten miles of the way, I had 
been amusing myself by catching glimpses of a dis- 
tant lighthouse; for I knew that it shone from a 
headland jutting into the Mediterranean. And the 
first glance at the Mediterranean was now my grand 
object of interest, as the first glance at the Pyrenees 
had been ; and as, I remember, long ago, the first 
glance of France, of the Rhine, and the Alps, had 
each their turn. When, therefore, a dish of soles 
(stewed in oil, as the Jews cook them here — and the 
Jews are the only people in England who can cook 
soles,) was placed before me, I asked the waiter where 
the fish came from ? 

" Mais, monsieur, where should they come from, 
but from the sea ?" 

" You mean the Mediterranean ?" 

" Mais certainment, monsieur ; there is no sea 
but the Mediterranean sea." 

An observation which, coinciding with my own 
mental view for the moment, I quietly agreed in. 

In the market-place of Beziers stands the statue 
of a thoughtful and handsome man, dressed in the 
costume of the early period of Louis Quatorze, with 
flowing love-locks and peaked beard. His cloak has 
fallen unheeded from his shoulders, as he eagerly 
gazes on the ground — one hand holding a compass, 
the other a pencil. This is the statue of Pierre Paul 
Riquet, feudal seigneur of Bonrepos, and the cavalier 
who discovered the fountain of the Greve. That foun- 
tain solved a mighty problem — the possibility of 



THE CANAL DU MIDI. 193 

connecting, by means of water communication, the 
Atlantic and the Mediterranean — the Garonne flowing 
into the one, with the Aude flowing into the other ; 
and the formation of the Canal du Midi, doubled at 
a stroke the value of the Mediterranean provinces of 
France. Francis I., although our James called him 
a " mere fechting fule," dreamt of this. Henri and 
Sully projected the scheme ; but it was only under 
Louis and Colbert that it was executed ; and the bold 
and resolute engineer — he lived three quarters of a 
century before Brindley — was Pierre Paul Siquet. 
This man was one of those chivalric enthusiasts for 
a scheme — one of those gallant soldiers of an idea — 
who give up their lives to the task of making a thought 
a fact. He had laboured at least a dozen of weary 
years ere the court took up the plan. He had de- 
monstrated the thing again and again to commis- 
sioners of notabilities, ere the first stone of the first 
loch was laid. The work went on ; twelve thousand 
'"navvies" laboured at the task; Kiquet had sunk 
his entire fortune in it. In thirteen years, the toil 
was all but accomplished. In the coming summer 
the Canal du Midi would be opened — when Riquet 
died — the great cup of his life's ambition brimming 
untasted at his lips. Six months thereafter, a gay 
company of king's commissioners, gracefully headed 
by Riquet's two sons, rode through the channel of 
the watercourses from Beziers to Toulouse, and re- 
turned the next week by water, leading a jubilant 
procession of twenty- three great barges, proceeding 
from the west with cargoes for the annual fair held 
on the Rhone, at Beaucaire. Since Riquet's days, 

N 



194 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

all his plans have been, one by one, carried out. His 
canal now runs to Agen, where it joins the Garonne ; 
while at the other end, it is led through the chain of 
marshes and lagoons which extend along the Medi- 
terranean, from Perpignan to the delta of the Ehone, 
joining the " swift and arrowy" river at Beaucaire. 

I have mentioned the mistral. I had heard a great 
deal previously about this wind, and while at Beziers, 
had the pleasure of making its personal acquaintance. 
This mistral is the plague and the curse of the Medi- 
terranean provinces of France. The ancient historians 
mention it as sweeping gravel ^nd stones up into the 
air. St. Paul talks of the south wind, which blew 
softly until there arose against it a fierce wind, called 
Euroclydon — certainly the mistral. Madame de Se- 
vigne paints it as " le touriillon, Vouregan, tous les 
diables dechaines qui veulent hien emporter voire 
chateau;' and my amazement is, that the hurricane 
does not sometimes carry bodily off, if not a chateau, 
at least the ricketty villages of the peasants. I had 
but a taste of this wild, gusty, and most abominably 
drying and cutting wind ; for the gale which blew for 
a couple of days over Beziers formed, I was told, only 
a very modified version of the true mistral ; but it 
was quite enough to give a notion of the wind in the 
full height of its evil powers. The whole country was 
literally one moving cloud of dust. The roads, so to 
speak, smoked. From an eminence, you could trace 
their line for miles by the columns of white powdered 
earth driven into the air. As for the paths you ac- 
tually traversed, the ground-down gravel was blown 
from the ruts, leaving the way scarred, as it were, with 



THE MISTRAL. 195 

ridgy seams, and often worn down to the level of the 
subsidiary stratum of rock. The streaky, russet- brown 
of the fields was speedily converted into one uniform 
grey. Never had I seen anything more intensely or 
dismally parched up. As for any tree or vegetable 
but vines and olives — whose very sustenance and 
support is dust and gravel, thriving under the liability 
to such visitations — the thing was impossible. Nor 
was the dust by any means the only evil. The wind 
seemed poisonous ; it made the eyes — mine, at all 
events — smart and water ; cracked the lips, as a sud- 
den alternation from heat to cold will do ; caused a 
little accidentally inflicted scratch to ache and shoot ; 
and finally, dried, hardened, and roughened the skin, 
until one felt in an absolute fever. The cold in the 
shade, let it be noted, was intense — a pinching, nip- 
ping cold, in noways frosty or kindly ; while in shel- 
tered corners the heat was as unpleasant, the blaze 
of an unclouded sun darting right down upon the 
parched and gleaming earth. All this, however, I 
was told, formed but a modified attack of mistral. 
The true wind mingles with the flying dust a greyish 
or yellowish haze, through which the sun shines hot, 
yet cheerless. I had, however, a specimen of the 
wind, which quite satisfied me, and which certainly 
enables me to affirm, that the coldest, harshest, and 
most rheumatic easterly gale which ever whistled the 
fogs from Essex marshes over the dripping and shi- 
vering streets of London, is a genial, balmy, and 
ambrosial zephyr, compared with the mistral of the 
ridiculously bepufi'ed climate of the South of France. 
Wandering about Beziers, so as to get the features 

N 2 



196 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

of the olive country thoroughly into my head, I had 
a good deal of conversation with the scattered pea- 
santry — a fierce, wild-looking set of people, dressed 
in the common blouse, but a perfectly different race 
from the quiet, mild, central and northern agricul- 
turists. Their black, flashing eyes, so brimful of 
devilry — their wild, straight, black hair, shooting in 
straggling masses over their shoulders, and the fierce 
vehemence of gesticulation — the loud, passionate tone 
of their habitual speech — all mark the fiery and hot- 
blooded South. Go into a cabaret, into the high, 
darkened room, set round witii tables and benches, 
and you will think the whole company are in a frantic 
state of quarrel. Not at all — it is simply their way 
of conversing. But if a dispute does break out, they 
leap, and scream, and glare into each other's eyes 
like demons, and the ready knife is but too often seen 
gleaming in the air. Here in the South you will 
note the change in the style of construction of the 
farm-houses, which are clustered in bourgs. Every- 
thing is on a great scale, to give air, the grand object 
being to let the breeze in, and keep the heat out. 
Shade is the universal desideratum. Every auberge 
has its huge remise — a vast, gloomy shed, into Avhich 
carts and diligences drive, where the mangers of the 
horses stand, and where you will often see the carriers 
stretched out asleep. In large, messagerie hotels, 
these remises, ponderously built of vast blocks of 
stone, look like enormous catacombs, or vaults ; and 
the stamping and neighing of the horses, and the 
rumbling of entering and departing vehicles, roll 
along the roof in thunder. 



RURAL BILLIARD PLAYING. 197 

Near Beziers, I came upon a good specimen of 
the South of France bourg, or agricultural yillage. 
Seen from a little distance, it had quite an imposing 
appearance — the white, commodious-looking man- 
sions gleaming cheerily out through the dusky olive- 
grounds, A closer inspection, however, showed the 
real nakedness of the land. The high, white man- 
sions became great clumsy barns — the lower stories 
occupied as living places, the windows above bursting 
with loads of hay and straw. The crooked, devious 
streets were paved with filthy heaps of litter and 
dung. Dilapidated ploughs and harrows — their 
wooden teeth worn down to the stumps — lay hither 
and thither round the great gaunt, unpainted door- 
ways. The window-shutters of every occupied room 
were shut as closely as port-holes in a gale of wind, 
and here and there a wandering pig or donkey, or a 
slatternly woman sifting corn upon a piece of sacking 
stretched before her door, or a purblind old crone 
knitting in the sun, formed the only moving objects 
which gave life to the dreary picture. 

In this village, however, dreary as it was, I found 
a cafe and a billiard -table. Where, indeed, in France 
will you not ? Except in the merest jumble of hovels, 
you can hardly traverse a hamlet without seeing the 
crossed cues and balls figuring on a gaily painted 
house. You may not be able to purchase the most 
ordinary articles a traveller requires, but you can 
always have a game at pool. I have frequently found 
billiard-rooms in filthy little hamlets, inhabited en- 
tirely by persons of the rank of English agricultural 
labourers. At home, we associate the game with great 



198 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

towns, and, perhaps, with the more dissipated portion 
of the life of great towns. Here, even with the tho- 
roughly rustic portion of the population, the game 
seems a necessary of life. And there are, too — con- 
trary to what might have been expected — few or no 
make-shift-looking, trumpery tables. The cafes in 
the Palais Eoyal, or in the fashionable Boulevards, 
contain no pieces of furniture of this description more 
massive or more elaborately carved and adorned than 
many 1 have met with in places hardly aspiring to 
the rank of villages. It has often struck me, that the 
billiard- table must have cost at least as much as the 
house in which it was erected ; but the thing seemed 
indispensable, and there it was in busy use all day 
long. A correct return of the number of billiard- 
tables in France would give some very significant 
statistics relative to the social customs and lives of 
our merry neighbours. It would be an odd indication 
of the habits of the people, should there be found to 
be five times as many billiard- tables in France as there 
are mangles; and I for one firmly believe that such 
would be the result of an impartial perquisition. Be^ 
sides the hillard and the newspapers — little provincial 
rags, with which an English grocer would scorn to 
wrap up an ounce of pigtail — there are, of course, 
cards and dominoes for the frequenters ; and they are 
in as great requisition all day as the balls and cues. 
I like — no man likes better — to see the toilers of the 
world released from their labours, and enjoying them- 
selves; but after all there is something, to English 
ways of thinking, desperately idle in the scene of a 
couple of big, burly working men, sitting in the glare 



EURAL BILLIARD PLAYING. 199 

of the sun-light the best part of the day, wrangliDg 
over a greasy pack of cards, or rattling dominoes upon 
the little marble tables. I once remarked this to an 
old French gentleman. 

" True — too true," he replied ; " it was Bonaparte 
did the mischief. He made — you know how great a 
proportion of the country youth of France — soldiers. 
When they returned — those who did return — they 
had garrison tastes and barrack habits; and those 
tastes and habits it was which have brought matters 
to the pass, that you can hardly travel a league, even 
in rural France, without hearing the click of the bil- 
liard balls." 



CHAPTER XII. 

The Track -boat on the Canal du Midi — Approach to 
THE Mediterranean — Salt-marshes and Salt-works 
— A Circus Thrashing-machine — The Mediterranean 
AND ITS Craft — Cette and its Manufactured Wines, 
WITH A Priest's Views on Gourmandise. 

I LEFT Beziers for the Mediterranean, by Pierre Paul 
Riquet's canal. The track-boat passes once a-day, 
taking upwards of thirty-five hours to make the pas- 
sage from Toulouse to Cette. The Beziers station is 
about a mile from the town ; and on approaching it 
early in the morning, I found a crowd of people col- 
lected on the banks, looking at men .dragging the 
canal with hugp hooks at the end of poles. They 
were searching for the body of a poor fellow from 
Beziers, who had drowned himself under very remark- 
able circumstances ; and just as the packet-boat came 
up, the corpse was raised, stark and stiff, almost from 
beneath it. The deceased was a decrotteur, or boot- 
cleaner, and a light porter at Beziers — a quiet, inoffen- 
sive man, who, by dint of untiring industry, and great 
self-denial, had scraped together upwards of two hundred 
and fifty francs, all of which he lent another decrotteur, 
without taking legal security for the money. After the 
stipulated term for the loan had elapsed, the poor lender 
naturally pressed for his cash. He was put off from 
month to month with excuses ; and when, at length, 
he became urgent for repayment, the debtor laughed 



TRAVELLING BY THE CANAL DU MIDI. 201 

in his face, told him to do his best and his worst, and 
get his money how he could. The decrotteur went 
away in a state of frenzy, and procm:ed and charged 
a pistol, with which he returned to the rascal bor- 
rower. 

" Will you pay me ? — ay or no ? " he said. 

" No," replied the other ; '' go about your busi- 
ness." 

The creditor instantly levelled his pistol and fired. 
Down went his antagonist, doubled up in a heap on 
the road, and away went the assassin as hard as his 
legs could carry him, to a bridge leading over the 
canal, from the parapet of which he leaped into the 
water ; while, as he disappeared, the quasi murdered 
man got up again^ with no other damage than a face 
blackened by the explosion of the pistol. He had 
fallen through terror, for he was absolutely unscathed. 

The travelling by the Canal du Midi is a sleepy 
and monotonous business enough. Mile after mile, 
and league after league, the boat is gliding along 
between grassy or rushy banks, and rows of poplar, 
and sometimes of acaci-a trees, the monotonous tramp 
of the team upon the bank mingling with the endless 
gurgle of the waters beneath. The towing paths are 
generally very lifeless. Now and then a solitary 
peasant, with his heavy sharp-pointed hoe — an imple- 
ment, in fact, half hoe and half pick-axe — upon his 
shoulder, saunters up to see the boat go by; or a 
shepherd, whistling to his flock, paces slowly at their 
head, wandering to and fro in search of the greenest 
bits of pasture ; or a handful of jabbering women, 
from some neighbouring bourg, will be squatted 



S02 CLAEET AND OLIVES. 

aloDg the water's edge, certainly not obeying Napo- 
leon's injunction to wash their linge sale en famille^ 
but pounding away at sheets and shirts with heavy 
stones or wooden mallets — the counterparts of the 
instruments used in Scotland to " get up " fine linen, 
and there called '* beetles." The bridges are shot 
cleverly. At a shout from the steersman, the postil- 
lion, who rides one of the hindmost horses of the 
team, jumps ofi*, casts loose the tow-line, runs with the 
end of it to the centre of the bridge, drops it aboard 
as the boat comes beneath, catches it up again on 
the opposite side, flies back after his horses which 
have trotted very tranquilly a-head, hooks on the 
rope again, jumps into his saddle, cracks his long 
whip, and the boat is off again in full career long ere 
she has lost her former headway. Little of the country 
can be seen from the deck, but along the southern 
and eastern half of the canal you seldom lose sight of 
the dusty tops of the formal olive groves, varied now 
and then by a stony slope covered with ugly, sprawl- 
ing "vines, and as you approach the sea, dotted with 
white, little country houses — of which more hereafter 
— the glimpses of the changing picture being con- 
tinually set in a brown frame of sterile hills. 

The boats are long and narrow ; the cabins like 
corridors, but comfortably cushioned and stuffed, so 
that you can sleep in them, even if the boat be toler- 
ably crowded, as well as in a diligence. If there be 
few passengers, you will have full-length room. The 
restaurant on board is excellent — as good as that on 
the Garonne boats, and very cheap. Let all English 
travellers, however, beware of the steward's department 



TRAVELLING FRENCH PEOPLE. 203 

on the Loire and Khone steamers, in both of which 
I have been thoroughly swindled. The style of 
people who seemingly use the track -boat on the 
Canal du Midi, are the rotonde class of dihgence 
passengers. Going down to Cette, there were two or 
three families, almost entirely composed of females, 
aboard ; the elder ladies — horrid, snuffy old women, 
who were always having exclusive cups of chocolate 
or coffee, or little basins of soup, and who never 
appeared to move from the spots on which they were 
deposited since the voyage began. 

Two of these families had canaries in cages, a very 
common practice in France, where the people con- 
tinually try, even in travelling, to keep their house- 
hold gods about them. Look at the baggage of your 
Frenchman en voyage. All the old clothes of the last 
dozen of years are sure to be lugged about in it. There 
is, perhaps, a pormanteau, exclusively devoted to old 
boots, and half-a-dozen pasteboard hat-boxes, with 
half-a-dozen hats, utterly beyond wearing. The plague 
of all this baggage is dreadful ; but the proprietor 
would go through any amount of inconvenience rather 
than lose one stitch of his innumerable old hardes. 

After passing the headland and dull old town of 
Agde, the former crowned by the lighthouse I had 
seen from the road to Beziers, we fairly entered into 
the great zone of salt swamps which here line the 
Mediterranean. It was a desolate and dreary prospect. 
The land on either side stretched away in a dead flat ; 
now dry and parched, again traversed by green streaks 
of swamp, and anon broken by clear, shallow pools 
of water. Sometimes, again, you entered a perfect 



204 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

jungle of huge bulrushes, stretching away as far as the 
eye could follow, and evidently teeming -with wild- 
ducks, which rose in vast coveys, and flew landward 
or seaward in their usual wedge-shaped order of flight. 
The sea, to which we were approaching at a sharp 
angle, was still invisible, but you felt the refreshing 
savour of the brine in the air, and now and then you 
caught, sparkling for a moment in the bright, hot 
sunshine, a distant jet of feathery spray, as a heavier 
wave than common came thundering along the beach. 
Presently, the brown waste through which we were 
passing became streaked with whitish belts and 
patches — the salt left by the evaporation of the brine, 
which now begins to soak and well through the spongy 
soil, and presently to expand into lakes and shallow 
belts of water. Across these, long rows of stakes for 
nets, stretched away in endless column, and here and 
there a rude, light boat floated, or a fisherman slowly 
waded from point to point. Great herons and cranes 
stood like sentinels in the shallow water, and flocks 
of sandpipers and plovers ran along the white salt- 
powdered sand. Then came on the left, or landward 
side, a series of tumuli of pyramidical form, some of 
them white, others of a dark brown, scattered over a 
space of scores of square miles. I wondered who were 
the inhabitants of this lake of the dismal swamp, and 
accordingly pointed out the houses, as I conceived 
them, to the captain. 

" Houses, monsieur !" he said ; '' these are all salt 
heaps. Salt is the harvest of this country, and they 
stack it in these piles, just as the people inland do their 
corn. When the heap is not expected to be wanted 



THE SALT HAKVEST. 205 

soon, they thatch it with reeds and grass ; but if they 
expect to get a quick sale, they don't take the trouble. 
So you see that some of the heaps are dark, and the 
others like snow-balls." 

" But if there come rain ?" 

" Not much fear of that in this part of the world. 
There may be a shower, but the salt is so hard and 
compacted, that it will do little more than wash the 
dirt off." 

Presently we came to the salt-making basins — 
great shallow lakes, divided by dykes into squares 
somewhat in the style of a chess-board ; and here the 
solitude of the expanse was broken by the figures of 
the workmen clambering along the narrow dykes to 
watch and superintend the progress of evaporation. 
By the side of these lakes, rows of ugly rectangular 
cottages were erected, and slight carts drawn by two 
horses, one ahead of the other, moved the loads of salt 
from the pans, or pools, to the heaps in which it was 
stored. Here and there, where the ground rose a 
little, a thin crop of maize, or barley, appeared to have 
been cultivated ; and it was probably some such har- 
vest that I saw being thrashed by the peculiar process 
in use all through Provence and southern Languedoc. 
There are very few thrashing mills, even in the best 
cultivated parts of France. Over the vast proportion 
of the kingdom, the orthodox old flail bears undis- 
turbed sway ; but the farmer of the far South chooses 
rather to employ horse than human muscles in the 
work. He lays down, therefore, in a handy spot, a 
circular pavement, generally of brick, a little larger 
than the ring at Astley's. All along the swampy 



206 



CLARET AND OLIVES. 



shores of the Mediterranean, traversed by the delta of 
the Rhone, and stretching westward towards Spain, 
there feed upon the scanty herbage great herds of 
semi- wild horses, said to have been originally of Ara- 
bian descent. These creatures are caught, when 
needed, much in the style of the Landes desert steeds, 
and every farmer has a right to a certain number cor- 
responding with the size of his farm. When, then, 
the harvest has been cut, and the thrashing time comes 




THILA«HING CORN. 



on, you may see, approaching the steeding, an unruly 
flock of lean, lanky, leggy horses, most of them grey, 
driven by three or four mounted peasants — capital 
cavaliers — each with a long lance like a trident held 
erect, and a lasso coiled at the saddle-bow. Then 
work commences : the wild steeds are tolerably docile, 
although shy and skittish. A heavy bit is forced into 
the mouth of each, with a long bridle attached. The 
creatures are arranged in a circle on the edge of the 
brick flooring, exactly as when Mr. Widdicombe or 



EQUESTRIAN THRASHING MACHINE. 207 

M. Franconi prepare for an unrivalled feat of horse- 
manship upon eight bare-backed steeds by the "Whirl- 
wind Eider," surnamed the " Pet of the Ring," or the 
famous artiste, " Herr Bridleinski, the Hungarian 
Tamer of the Flying Steeds." The sheaves of corn 
are placed just where the active grooms at Astley's 
rake the sawdust thickest; and then, in answer to the 
thundering exhortations of Mr. Widdicombe and his 
coadjutors in the centre of the ring, and the cracking 
of the whips, the horses, held by their long bridles, 
go plunging and rearing round the arena, and, after 
more or less obstreperousness, settle into a shambling 
trot, treading out the corn as they go, and preserving 
the pace for a wonderful length of time. At night, 
the creatures are released, and left to shift for them- 
selves. They seldom stray far from the farm, and are 
easily recaptured and brought back to work next day. 
The four-legged thrashers, I am sorry to say, are rather 
scurvily treated, for they get nothing in return for their 
labour better than straw — a poor diet for a day's trot. 
The first time I saw this equestrian thrashing-machine 
in motion, the effect was very odd. I could not disso- 
ciate it from the equestrian performance of some wan- 
dering company of high-bred steeds and " star riders." 
The only thing that seemed strange was, that there 
should be no spectators; and, after a little time, that 
there should be no human performers. Round and 
round, at a long, irregular trot, went the lanky brutes — 
sometimes breaking out — plunging, and taking it into 
their heads, as their Rochester cousin, hired by Mr. 
Winkle, did, to go sideways, but always reduced to 
obedience by a few smacking persuaders from the whip. 



208 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

But where was the illustrious Whirlwind Eider, who 
should have stood on all their necks at once, or the 
famous Bridleinski, who should have stood on all 
their haunches ? No shrill clown's voice echoed from 
the circus. The stolid, bloused, straw-hatted master 
of the ring was a perfect disgrace and reproach to 
Mr. Widdicomhe, who, if he had been on board the 
boat, would infallibly have taken refuge in the run, 
rather than contemplated such a melancholy mockery 
of his mission and his functions. 

At length there gleamed before us a noble sheet 
of water, rujQfled by a steady breeze, before which one 
of the Lateen-rigged craft of the Mediterranean was 
bowling merrily, driving a rolling wave of foam on 
either side of her bluff bows. This was the Lagoon, 
or Etang, of Thau, a salt-water lake about a dozen of 
miles long, and opening up by a narrow channel — on 
both banks of which rises the flourishing town of 
Cette — into the Mediterranean. For the greater 
part of its length, only a strip of sand and shingle 
interposes between the lake and the sea, and as the 
steamer to which we were transferred, at the end of 
the canal, paddled its way to Cette, we could see 
every moment the surf of the open ocean rising be- 
yond the barrier. The passage along the Etang is 
pretty and characteristic. On the left lie, in a long, 
blue chain, the hills of the Cevennes — distance 
hiding their barren bleakness from the eye — while 
along the inland edge of the water, village after 
village, the houses sparklingly white, are mirrored 
in the lake, with a little fleet of lateen-rigged fishing- 
boats, the sails usually very ragged, pursuing their 



CETTE. 209 

occupation before each hamlet. Now and then we 
were passed by huge feluccas, rolling away before the 
wind, and bound for the Canal du Midi, with great 
cargoes of hay and straw, heaped up half as high as 
the mast — the lateen-sail having to be half furled in 
consequence, and the captain shouting his orders to 
the steersman as from the top of a stack in a barn- 
yard. The scene reminded me greatly of the hay- 
barges of the Thames bringing up to London the 
crops of Kent and Essex. 

At length we were landed among groups of Medi- 
terranean sailors, with Phrygian caps — otherwise 
conical red night-caps — and ugly-looking knives in 
their belts. The women had the usual Naiad peculi- 
arity of short petticoats, and wore them, too, of a 
showy, striped stuff, which reminded me of the New- 
haven fish- wives, near Edinburgh. This Phrygian 
cap, by the way, is the prototype of the ordinary cap 
of liberty, which our good neighbours are so fond of 
sticking on the stumps of what they call ^' trees of 
liberty" — of painting, of carving, of apostrophising, 
of waving, of exalting — which, in short, they are so 
fond of doing everything with — but wearing. The 
effect, as a head-dress, on the Cette fishermen, was 
not unpleasant. The long, conical top, and tassel, 
give a degree of drapery to the figure, and the cap 
itself seems luxuriously comfortable to the head. 

A well-appointed little omnibus rattled me through 
busier streets than I had seen for many a day, by 
open counting-houses, and under the great lateen 
yards of feluccas lying in rows, with their bows to the 
quays, and across a light, wooden swing - bridge, 



210 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

haunted by just such tarry mortals as you see about 
St. Katherine's docks ; and at length I was set down 
at the wide portal of the Hotel de Poste — a strag- 
gling, airy hostelry, such as befits the hot and 
glaring South. Still, I had not seen the Mediter- 
ranean. The great coup was yet unachieved : so, 
getting five words of instruction from a waiter, I 
hurried through some narrow streets, crossed two or 
three more swing-bridges, skirted half-a-dozen boat- 
building yards, very like similar establishments in 
Wapping, and then suddenly emerged upon the 
open beach, with sand-hills, ^nd long bent, or sea- 
grass, rustling in the soft southern wind, with the 
blue of the great inland sea stretching away, deep and 
lovely, before me; and with the hissing water and 
foam-laced inner wavelets of the surf creaming to my 
feet. A sensation, it will be admitted, is a pleasant 
thing in these hlase days, and the Mediterranean 
afforded one. There came on me a vague, crowded, 
and indistinct vision, at once, of schoolboy recollec- 
tions and many a subsequent day-dream — of Roman 
galleys, triremes and quadremes, with brazen beaks 
and hundred oars, moving like the legs of a centi- 
pede ; of all the picturesque craft of the middle -ages; 
of the fleets of Venice ; the argosies and tall merchant- 
barks which carried on the rich commerce of northern 
Italy ; of the Algerine corsairs, which so often bore 
down upon the Lion of St. Marks; of the quick- 
pulling piratical craft ; the rovers who pillaged from 
the mouths of the Nile to the Pillars of Hercules ; 
and of the whole tribe of modern Mediterranean 
vessels, which thousands and thousands of pictures 



THE MEDITERRANEAN. 211 

have made classic, with their high peaked sails, and 
striped gaudy canvass; the whole tribe of feluccas and 
polacres, whereof, as I gazed, I could see here and there 
the scattered sails, gleaming like bird -wings upon 
the sea. The Mediterranean is, after all, the sea of 
the world : we associate it with everything classic and 
beautiful, either in art or climate ; and although we 
know well that its lazy, saint-ridden seamen, and its 
picturesque, but dirty and ill-sailed, vessels would fly 
before a breeze which a North-sea fisherman or a 
Channel boatman would consider a mere puflf, — still 
there is something racily and specially picturesque 
about the black-eyed, swarthy, copper ear -ringed 
rascals, and something dearly familiar about the high, 
graceful peaks of the sails around which they cluster. 
From the beach I went to the harbour, which was 
crowded almost to its entrance, but, for reasons to be 
presently alluded to, I was not sorry to recognise not 
one union-jack among the Stars and Stripes — Dutch 
and Brazilian ensigns, which were flying from every 
mast-head. Few Mediterranean harbours are savoury 
places. It will be remembered that " there shrinks 
no ebb in that tideless sea ; " and accordingly, when 
the drainage of a town or a district is led into the 
harbours, there it stays. Marseilles enjoys a most 
unenviable notoriety in this respect. The horrible 
fluid beneath you becomes, in the summer time, de- 
spite its salt, absolutely putrid ; and I was told that 
there had been instances in which it bred noisome 
and abhorrent insects andreptiles — that, literally and 
absolutely, " slimy things did crawl, with legs, upon 
the slimy sea." 

o2 



212 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

As for the stench, the richness of the steam of fat 
gases perpetually rising, must be smelt to be appre- 
ciated. The Marseillaise, however, have sturdy 
noses, which do not yield to trifles. They say the 
dirt preserves the ships, and besides, adds Dumas — 
a great favourer of the ancient colony of the Greeks— 
** what a fool a man must be, who, under such a glo- 
rious sky, turns his eyes down to gaze on mud and 
water !" 

The harbour of Cette is not quite so bad, but it 
has no particular transparency of water to recommend 
it. Brave its foulness, however, and go and visit the 
quays for the fishing-boats, as they are returning 
from their night's toil. Mark the Catalan craft — 
you will perhaps reimember that the redoubted Monte 
Christo's first love was a Catalan girl, of a Catalan 
village near Marseilles : — did you ever see more 
exquisitely-formed boats sifloat on the water ? They 
swim apparently on the very surface — the curve of 
the gunwale rising to a gondola peak at stem and 
stern ; but yet they are most buoyant sea-boats, and 
I suspect their speed, particularly in light winds, 
would put even that of the Yankee pilot-boats to a 
severe test. Look, too, at their cargoes, as the slip- 
pery masses are being shovelled up in glancing, 
gleaming spadefuls, to the quays. Did you ever see 
such odd fish ? Kespectable haddocks, decent and 
well-to-do cods, and unpretending soles, would never 
be seen in such strange, eccentric company — among 
fellows with heads bigger than bodies, and eyes in 
their backs, and tails absurdly misplaced, and feelers 
or legs where no fish wdth well-regulated minds would 



CETTE "made" wines. 213 

dream of having such appendages— never was there 
seen such a strange omnium gatherum of piscatory 
eccentricities as the fishes of the Mediterranean. 

I said that it was good— good for our stomachs — 
to see no EngUsh bunting at Cette. The reason is, 
that Cette is a great manufacturing place, and that 
what they manufacture there is neither cotton nor 
wool, Perigord pies, nor Rheims biscuits, — but wine. 
" Id" will a Cette industrial write with the greatest 
coolness over his Porte Coch ere — " Ici on fahrique des 
vim." All the wines in the world, indeed, are made 
in Cette. You have only to give an order for Johan- 
nisberg, or Tokay — nay, for all I know, for the 
Falernian of the Romans, or the Nectar of the gods — 
and the Cette manufacturers will promptly supply you. 
They are great chemists, these gentlemen, and have 
brought the noble art of adulteration to a perfection 
which would make our own mere logwood and sloe- 
juice practitioners pale and wan with envy. But the 
great trade of the place is not so much adulterating 
as concocting wine. Cette is well-situated for this 
notable manufacture. The wines of southern Spain 
are brought by coasters from Barcelona and Valencia. 
The inferior Bordeaux growths come pouring from 
the Garonne by the Canal du Midi ; and the hot and 
fiery Rhone wines are floated along the chain of 
etangs and canals from Beaucaire. With all these 
raw materials, and, of course, a chemical laboratory 
to boot, it would be hard if the clever folks of Cette 
could not turn out a very good imitation of any wine 
in demand. They will doctor you up bad Bordeaux 
with violet powders and rough cider — colour it with 



214 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

cochineal and turnsole, and outswear creation that it is 
precious Chateau Margaux — vintage of '25. Cham- 
pagne, of course, they make by hogsheads. Do you 
wish sweet liqueur wines from Italy and the Levant? 
The Cette people will mingle old Rhone wines with 
boiled sweet wines from the neighbourhood of Lunel, 
and charge you any price per bottle. Do you wish 
to make new Claret old ? A Cette manufacturer wiU 
place it in his oven, and, after twenty-fours' regulated 
application of heat, return it to you nine years in 
bottle. Port, Sherry, and Madeira, of course, are 
fabricated in abundance with any sort of bad, cheap 
wine and brandy, for a stock, and with half the con- 
coctions in a druggist's shop for seasoning. Cette, 
in fact, is the very capital and emporium of the tricks 
and rascalities of the wine- trade; and it supplies 
almost all the Brazils, and a great proportion of the 
northern European nations with their after-dinner 
drinks. To the grateful Yankees it sends out thou* 
sands of tons of Ay and Moet, besides no end of 
Johannisberg, Hermitage, and Chateau Margaux, the 
fine quaUties and dainty aroma of which are highly 
prized by the transatlantic amateurs. The Dutch 
flag fluttered plentifully in the harbour, so that I 
presume Mynheer is a customer to the Cette indus- 
trials — or, at aU events, he helps in the distribution 
of their wares. The old French West Indian colonies 
also patronise their ingenious countrymen of Cette ; 
and Russian magnates get drunk on Chambertin and 
Romance Conti, made of low Rhone, and low Bur- 
gundy brewages, eked out by the contents of the 
graduated phial. I fear, however, that we do come 



THE PRIEST ON WINES. 2l5 

in— in the matter of "fine golden Sherries, at 22s. 9|d 
a dozen," or '* peculiar old-crusted Port, at Is, 9d" 
— for a share of the Cette manufactures; and it is 
very probable that after the wine is fabricated upon 
the shores of the Mediterranean, it is still further 
improved upon the banks of the Thames. 

At dinner-time, I found myself placed by the side 
of a benevolent-looking old priest, with white hair, 
but cheeks and gills of the most approved rubicund 
hue, who first eyed the dishes through a pair of vast 
golden spectacles, and meditated profoundly ere he 
made a choice — waving away the eternal houilli with 
an expression which showed that he was not the man 
to spoil a good appetite with mere boiled beef. This 
worthy, hearing me making interest with the waiter 
for a peculiar bottle of wine, not of native manufac- 
ture, smiled paternally, and with an approving coun- 
tenance : *'I would recommend," he said, softly, and in 
a fat voice, '* you to try Masdeu ; and, if you please, I 
will join you. I know Gilliaume (the waiter) of old. 
C'est un bon enfant." And then, in a severe voice, 
" The Masdeu, William." 

The priest was clearly at home ; and presently the 
wine came. It had the brightly deep glow of Bur- 
gundy, a bouquet not unlike Claret, and tasted like the 
lightest and purest Port glorified and etherealised ; in 
fact. It was a rare good wine. 

" Ah !" said the priest, pouring out a second glass ; 
"the vineyard where this was grown once belonged 
to the Church. The Knights of the Temple once 
drank this wine, and the Knights of St. John after 
them. It is a good wine." 



216 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

*' The Church understood the grape/' I remarked. 
" I have drunk Hermitage where the recluse fathers 
tended the vines, and have always looked upon Khone 
wine as one of the reasons why the Holy Father at 
Avignon was long so loath to be the Holy Father at 
Rome." 

" Wine," replied my compotator, " is not for- 
bidden, either by the laws of God or the Church; 
and never was. Only the Vulgate denounces mixed 
wines." 

" By the mixed wines prohibited in Holy Writ," 
said I, "I presume you understand adulterated, not 
watered liquors. If so, we are in a sad city of 
sinners." 

The priest smiled, but changed the topic. 

" Masdeu," he said, '* is Catalan ; you know the 
wine is grown not far from Perpignan, where the 
people are half Spanish. Do you know the meaning 
of Masdeu ? It is a very old name for the vineyard, 
and it signifies ' God's field.' " 

I thought of the difference of national character 
between the French and the Germans — '* God's field" 
in France, a vineyard ; " God's field " in Germany, a 
churchyard. 

" The ancient Romans," continued my friend, liked 
the wines, the sweet wines of this country, better than 
any other growths in Gaul." 

"The Romans," I said, "had a most swinish taste 
in wines, and dishes too. The Falernian was boiled 
syrup, cooked up with drugs, and tempered with salt 
water. Only think of mixing brine with your tipple ; 
or of placing it in d^fumarium, to imbibe the flavour 



LA CUISINE FRANCAISE. 217 

of the smoke ! The Romans were mere liqueur drink- 
ers. Aniseed, or maraschino, or parfait amour, or 
any trash of that kind, would have suited them better 
than genuine, fine-flavoured wine." 

"Pourtant;" said my friend; "you go too far; 
maraschino and parfait amour are not trash. Al- 
though I agree with you, that the palate which eter- 
nally appeals for sweets is in a morbid condition. 
But the Romans, after all, must have had tongues of 
peculiar nicety for some savours. A Roman epicure 
could tell, by the relative tenderness, the leg upon 
which a partridge had been in the habit of sitting at 
night, and whether a carp had been caught above or 
below a certain bridge." 

" Or was it not," I asked, with hazy reminiscences 
of Juvenal floating about me, — "was it not a certain 
sewer — the Cloaca Maxima, perhaps ?" 

" Only," argued the priest in continuation, " I 
could never understand their fondness for lampreys." 

" Perhaps," said I, " it is because you never 
tasted them after they had been fattened on slaves." 

" Perhaps it is," replied the good man, musing. 

By this time dinner was over, and the guests gone. 
W^ had the remains of the dessert, the pick- tooths, 
and another bottle of the Catalan wine to ourselves. 

" You French," T ventured, " hardly seem worthy 
of your fine wines. You never appear to care about 
them ; you seldom sit a moment after dinner to enjoy 
them ; and if you relish anything more than another, 
it is Champagne, which, after all, is but a baby taste. 
All your very best wine goes to England ; most of 
your second-class growths to Russia ; and your lower 



218 CLAEET AND OLIVES. 

sorts to the Dorthern nations on the Baltic. I do n't 
think there is anything like a generally cultivated taste 
for good wine in France, and yet you are supreme in 
the cuisine.''^ 

" It was the fermiers generaux, and the jinan- 
derSy" replied the priest, " who made French cookery 
what it is. They tried to outshine the old noblesse 
at table ; they revived truffles, and they had the first 
dishes of green pease, at eight hundred francs a plat. 
Next to the financiers were the chevaliers and the 
abbes. Oh, mon Dieu ! quHls etaint gourmands ces 
chers amis; the chevaliers all swagger and dash; the 
sword right up and down — shoulder-knot flaunting — 
a bold bearing and a keen eye. The abb^s, in velvet 
and silk — as fat as carps, as sleek as moles, and as 
soft-footed as cats — little and sly — perfect enjoy ers 
of the gourmandise. Oh, there was nothing more 
snug than an abbe commanditaire ! He had con- 
sideration, position, money; no one to please, and 
nothing to do." 

" These were the good old times," I said. 

'^ Ma foil" replied the clerical dignitary; "they 
were bad times for France in general ; but they were 
rare times for the few who lived upon it. There were 
Frenchmen, at any rate, then, who understood wine ; 
at least, they drunk enough of it to understand the 
science, from the alpha to the omega." 

We parted, after a proper degree of hand-shaking ; 
and a quarter of an hour afterwards I was rattling 
along the Montpellier and Cette railway, with a ticket 
for Lunel in my pocket. 



CHAPTER XIII. 

More about the Olive-tree— The Gathering of the 
Olives— LuNEL — A Night with a Score of Mosqui- 
toes— Aigues-Mortes— The Dead Landscape— The 
Marsh Fever— A Strange Cicerone— The last Cru- 
sading King— The Salted Burgundians— The Poi- 
soned Camisards— The Mediterranean. 

Passing, for the present, Montpellier, where people 
with consumptions used to be sent to swallow dust, 
as likely to be soothing to the lungs, and to breathe 
the balmy zephyrs of the whispering mistral, I made 
straight for Lunel, in order to get from thence to one 
of the strangest old towns in France — Aigues-Mortes. 
All around us, as we hurried on, were vines and olives 
— a true land of wine and oil. The olive-tree did not 
improve on acquaintance — it got uglier and uglier — 
more formal, and more cast-iron looking, the more 
you saw of it. And then it was invariably planted in 
rows, at regular intervals, so as to give the notion of 
a prim old garden — never of a wood. Like all fruit- 
trees in France, the olive is most carefully trimmed, 
and clipped, and tortured, and twisted into the most 
approved or fashionable shape. The man who can 
make his oliviers look most like umbrellas is the great 
cultivator ; and the services of the peasants who have 
got a reputation for olive dressing are better paid than 
those of any agricultural labourers in France. They are 
eternally snipping and slashing, and turning and twist- 



220 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

ing the tree, until the unfortunate specimens have 
had any small degree of natural ease and harmony 
which they possessed assiduously wrenched out of 
them. And yet there are people in the South of 
France who are enthusiastic on the hidden heauty of 
the olive. There are technical terms for all the par- 
ticular spreads and contortions given to the branches ; 
and the olive amateur will hold forth to you by the 
hour upon the subtle charms of each. A gentleman 
from beyond Marseilles has dilated with rapture to 
me on his delight, after a residence in Normandy, in 
returning again to the hot South, and revisiting the 
dear olives, so prim, and orderly, and symmetrical — not 
like the huge, straggling, sprawling oaks and elms 
of the North, growing up in utter defiance of all rule 
and system. 

The olives of France, this gentleman informed me, 
are very inferior to the trees of a couple of generations 
ago. Towards the close of the last century, there was 
a winter night of intense frost; and when the morning 
broke, the trees were nearly smitten to the core. That 
year there was not an olive gathered in Provence or 
Languedoc. The next season, some of the stronger and 
younger trees partially revived, and slips were planted 
from those to which the axe had been applied ; but 
the entire ^ species of .the tree, he assured me, had 
fallen off — had dwindled, and pined, and become 
stunted ; and the profits of olive cultivation had faded 
with it. The gentleman spoke on the subject with 
a degree of unction which would have suited the fall, 
not of the olive, but of man. It was a catastrophe 
which coloured his whole life. He was himself an 



THE OLIVE GATHERING. 221 

olive proprietor ; and very likely his fortunes fell on 
the fatal night as many points as the thermometer. 
On our way to Lunel we saw the olive- gathering just 
beginning ; but, alas ! it had none of the gaiety and 
bright associations of the vintage. On the contrary, 
it was as business-like and unexciting as weeding 
onions, or digging potatoes. A set of ragged pea- 
sants — the country people hereabouts are poorly 
dressed — were clambering barefoot in the trees, each 
man with a basket tied before him, and lazily pluck- 
ing the dull oily fruit. Occasionally, the olive- 
gatherers had spread a white cloth beneath the tree, 
and were shaking the very ripe fruit down ; but there 
was neither jollity nor romance about the process. 
The olive is a tree of association, but that is all. Its 
culture, its manuring, and clipping, and trimming, 
and grafting — the gathering of its fruits, and their 
squeezing in the mill, when the ponderous stone goes 
round and round in the glutinous trough, crushing 
the very essence * out of the oily pulps — wJiile the fat, 
oleaginous stream pours lazily into the greasy vessels 
set to receive it ; — all this is as prosaic and unin- 
teresting as if the whole Koyal Agricultural Society 
were presiding in spirit over the operations. And, 
after all, what could be expected ? " Grapes," said a 
clever Frenchman, "are wine-pills" — the notion of 
conviviality and mirth is ever attached to them ; and 
the vintagers, when stripping the loaded branches, 
have their minds involuntarily carried forward to the 
joyous ultimate results of their labours. But who — 
our friends the Kussians, and their cousins the Esqui- 
maux excepted — could possibly be jolly over the idea 



222 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

of oil ? It may act balsamically and soothingly; and 
the idea of the olive saucer, green amongst the bright 
decanters, does approach, in some respect, towards the 
production of a pleasant association of ideas ; but still 
the elevated and poetic feelings connected with the 
tree are remote and dim. 

It was Minerva's tree. When the gods assembled 
to decide the dispute between Pallas and Neptune, as 
to which should baptize the rising Athens, it was 
determined that the honour should belong to which- 
ever of the twain presented the greatest gift to man. 
Neptune struck the earth, and a horse sprung to day. 
Minerva waved her hand, and the olive-tree grew up 
before the conclave. The goddess won the day, inas- 
much as the sapient assemblage decided that the 
olive, as an emblem of peace, was better than the 
horse, as an emblem of war. Now, I would put this 
question to Olympus : — How could the olive or the 
horse be emblems before they were created ? And, 
even if they were emblems, was not the point at issue 
the best gift — not the best allegorical symbol ? I 
beg, therefore, to assure Neptune that I consider him 
to have been an ill-used individual, and to express a 
hope that, if he should ever again come into power, 
he will not forget my having paid my respects to him 
in his adversity. 

I do not know if I have anything particular to 
record respecting Lunel, which is a quiet, stupid, 
shadowy place, but that I passed the night engaged 
in mortal combat with a predatory band of mosqui- 
toes. I was warned, before going to bed, to take 
care how I managed the operation, and to whip my- 



A NIGHT WITH THE MOSQUITOES. 223 

self through the gauze curtains so as to allow nothing 
to enter en suite. The bed — I don't know why — had 
been placed in the middle of the room, and the filmy 
net curtains, like fairy drapery, were snugly tucked in 
beneath the bedding. Looking at them more parti- 
cularly, I distinguished a little card, accidentally left 
adhering to the net, which informed me that it was 
the fabrication of those wondrous lace-machines of 
Nottingham ; and I trusted that as Britannia rules 
the waves, she would also baffle the mosquitoes. 
Perhaps it was my own fault that she did not. I 
remembered Captain Basil Hall's admirable descrip- 
tion of doing the wretched insects in question by 
leaping suddenly into bed, like harlequin through a 
clock-dial, and frantically closing up the momentary 
opening, and I performed the feat in question with 
as much agility as I could. But what has befallen 
the gallant captain, also on that night befel me. 
Mosquitoes shoot into a bed like the Whigs into 
office — through the most infinitesimal crevices — but 
with the entrance the resemblance ceases — once in 
office, with the country sleeping tolerably comfortably, 
the Whigs do nothing. Not so, the mosquitoes. Their 
policy is perfectly different, and their energies vastly 
greater. For a true sketch of the style of mosquito ad- 
ministration, I must again refer to Hall. His picture 
is true — true to a bite, to a scratch, to a hum. I 
might paint it again, but any one can see the original. 
So I content myself with simply stating that from 
eleven o'clock, p.m., till an unknown hour next morn- 
ing, I was leaping up and down the bed, striking 
myself furious blows all over, but never, apparently. 



224 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

hitting my blood-thirsty enemies, and only now and 
then occasionally sinking into a momentary doze to 
be roused by that loud, clear trumpet of war-— the 
very music of spite and pique and greediness of 
blood, circling round and round in the darkness, and 
ever coming nearer and nearer, till at last it ceased, 
and then came — the bite, as regularly as the applause 
after the cavatina of a prima donna. I made my 
appearance next morning, looking exactly as if I had 
been attacked in the night by measles, the mumps, 
swollen face, and erysipelas. 

Between Aigues-Mortes and Lunel, there is no 
public vehicle, because there is no travelling public; 
and so I hired a ricketty, shandry-dan looking affair, 
to take me on; and away we started, under a perfect 
blaze of hot, sickly sunshine. The road ran due 
south, through the vineyards and olives, but they 
gradually -faded away as the soil got more and more 
spongy, and presently we saw before us a waste of the 
same sort as that which I have described on approach- 
ing the sea by the Canal du Midi. Shallow pools, 
salt marshes, and bulrush jungles, lay flat and silent, 
glaring in the sunshine — the watchful crane, the sole 
living creature to be seen amid these desolate swamps. 
It struck me that John Bunyan, had he ever seen a 
landscape like this strange, stagnant expanse of drea- 
riness, would have made grand use of it in that great 
prose poem of his. Perhaps he would have called it 
"Dead Corpse Land," or the Slough — not of Despond, 
but of Despair. Presently we found the road running 
upon a raised embankment, with two great lakes, 
spotted with rushy islands on either hand, and be- 



AIGUES-MORTES. 225 

fore us a grim, grey tower, "with an ancient gateway — 
the gates or portcullis long since removed, but a 
Gothic arch still spanning the roughly-paved cause- 
way. As we rattled beneath it, two or three lounging 
douaniers came forth, and looked lazily at us; and 
presently we saw the grey walls of Aigues-Mortes 
rising, massive and square, above the level lines of 
the marshes, fronted by one lone minaret, called the 
"Tower of Constance" — a gloomy steeple-prison, 
where, in the time of the Camisards, a crowd of 
women were confined — the wives and daughters of 
the brave Protestants of the Cevennes, who fought 
their country inch by inch against the dragoons of 
Louis Quatorze, and who — the prisoners, I mean — 
were forced to swallow poison by the agents of that 
right royal and religious king, the pious hero and 
Champion of the Faith, as it is in the Vatican. Out- 
side the town looks like a mere fortification — you see 
nothing but the sweep of the massive walls reflected 
in the stagnant waters which lie dead around them. 
Not a house-top appears above the ramparts. It is 
only by the thin swirlings of the wood-fire smoke that 
you know that human life exists behind that blank 
and dreary veil of stone. We entered by a deep 
Gothic arch, and found ourselves in narrow, gloomy, 
silent streets, the houses grey and ghastly, and many 
ruinous and deserted. The rotten remnants of the 
green jalousies were mouldering week by week away, 
and moss and lichens were creeping up the walls; 
many roofs had fallen, and of some houses only frag- 
ments of wall remained. The next moment we were 
traversing an open space, strewn with rubbish of 

p 



226 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

stone, brick, and rotten wood, with patches of dismal 
garden-ground interspersed, and all round the dim, 
grey, silent houses, dismal and dead. Aigues-Mortes 
could, and once did, hold about ten thousand people. 
It was a city built in whim by a king, the last of the 
royal crusaders, Louis IX. of France. By him and 
his immediate descendants, it was esteemed a holy 
place — the crusading port. The walls built round it, 
and which still remain — as the empty armour, after 
the knight who once filled it is dead and gone — were 
erected in imitation of those of the Egyptian town of 
Damietta, and all sorts of privileges were granted to 
the inhabitants. But one privilege the old kings of 
France could not grant : they could not, by any 
amount of letters patent, or any seize of seals, confer 
immunity from fever ; and Aigues-Mortes has been 
dying of ague ever since it was founded. In its early 
times, the influence of royal favour struggled long 
and well against disease : one man down, another 
came on. What loyal Frenchman would refuse to go 
from hot fits to cold fits of fever, for a certain num- 
ber of months, and then to his long home, if it were 
to pleasure a descendant of St. Louis ? But the 
time and the influences of the Holy Wars went by, 
and the kings of France withdrew their smiles from 
Aigues-Mortes; so that their royal brother. King 
Death, had it all his own way. Funerals far out- 
numbered births or weddings, and gradually the life 
faded and faded from the stone -girt town, as the 
ebbing tide leaves a pier. Cette gave it the finishing 
stroke. A crowd of the inhabitants emigrated en 
masse to Riquet's city; and here now is Aigues- 



I 



THE FEVER IN AIGUES-MORTES. 227 

Mortes — coffin-like Aigues-Mortes — with about a 
couple of thousand pallid, shaking mortals, striving 
their best against the marsh fever, among the ruined 
houses and within the smouldering walls of this an- 
cient Gothic city. 

In a solemn, shady street, I found a decentish 
hotel, not much above the rank of an auberge, and 
where I was about as lonely as in the vast caravansary 
at Bagnerre. The landlord himself — a staid, decent 
man — waited at my solitary dinner. 

" Monsieur," he said, " is an artist, or a poet ?" 
" What made him think so ?" 
" Because nobody else ever came to Aigues-Mortes 
— no traveller ever turned aside across the marshes, to 
visit their poor old decayed town. There was no trade, 
no commis voyageurs. The people of Nismes and 
Montpellier were afraid of the fever; and even if they 
were not, why should they come there ? It was no 
place for pleasure on a holiday — a man would as soon 
think of amusing himself in a hospital or a morgue, 
as in Aigues-Mortes." 

I inquired more particularly about the fever, for I 
felt it difficult to conceive how people could continue 
to remain in a place cursed by nature with a perpetual 
chronic plague. My host informed me that those who 
lived well and copiously, were well clothed, well 
lodged, and under no necessity to be out early and 
late among the marshes, fared tolerably. They might 
have an ague-fit now and then, but when once well- 
seasoned they did pretty well. It was the poorer 
class who sufiered, particularly in spring and autumn, 
when vegetation was forming and withering, and the 

p 2 



228 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

steaming mists came out thickest over the fens. 
People seldom died with the first attack; but the 
subtle disease hung about them, and returned again 
and again, and -wore, and tugged, and exhausted 
their energies — ^kept nibbling, in fact, at body and 
soul, till, in too many cases, the disease-besieged 
man surrendered, and his soul marched out. I asked 
again, then, how the poor people remained in such a 
hot-bed of pestilence ? " Que voulez vous," was the 
reply — "the greater part can't help it; they were 
born here, and they have a place here ; — at Nismes, 
or Marseilles, or Montpellier, -they would have no 
place. Besides, they are accustomed to it; they look 
upon fevers as one of the conditions of their lives, 
like eating and drinking; and, besides, they have no 
energy for a change. The stuff has been taken out 
of them ; you will see what a sallow, worn-out people 
we have at Aigues-Mortes. They can get a living 
here, but they would be overwhelmed anywhere 
else." 

The landlord had previously recommended a 
cicerone to me, assuring me that I would not find 
him an ordinary man, that he was a sort of half- 
gentleman, and a scholar, and that he knew every- 
thing about Aigues-Mortes better than anybody else 
in it. Accordingly, I was presently introduced to 
M. Auguste Saint Jean, an old, very thin man, dressed 
in rusty black, and wearing — hear it, ye degenerate 
days ! — powdered hair and a queue. M. Saint Jean 
looked like a broken-down schoolmaster, some touches 
of pedantry still giving formality to the humble sHding 
gait, and bent, bowing form. His face was nearly as 



MY CICERONE IN AIGUES-MORTES. 229 

wrinkled as Voltaire's, but he had black eyes which 
gleamed like a ferret's when you show him a rabbit. 

In company with this old gentleman I passed a 
wandering day in and round Aigues-Mortes, rambling 
from gate to gate, scrambling up broken stairs to 
the battlements, and threading our way amid dim lanes, 
half choked up with rubbish, from one ghastly old 
tower to another. All this while my guide's tongue 
was eloquent. He gesticulated like the most fiercely 
fidgetty member of young France, and the ferret's eye 
gleamed as though upon a whole warren of rabbits. 
Aigues-Mortes seemed his one great subject, his one 
passion, his own idea. Aigues-Mortes was the bride 
of his enthusiasm, the soul of his body. He had 
been born in Aigues-Mortes; he had lived in it; he 
had had the fever in it ; and he hoped to die in it, 
and be buried among the stilly marshes. How well 
he knew every crumbling stone, every little Gothic 
bartizan, every relic of an ancient chapel, every gloomy 
tower haunted by traditions, as it might be by ghosts. 
His mind flew back every moment to the days of the 
splendid founding of Aigues-Mortes — to the crusading 
host, whose glory crowded it with armour, and banners, 
and cloth of gold, assembled round their king, St. 
Louis, and bound for Palestine. On the seaward side of 
the walls, Auguste shewed me rings sunk in the stone, 
and to these rings, he said, the galleys and caravels 
of the king had been fastened. The sea is about two 
miles and a half distant, but the traces of the canal 
which led to it are still visible amid th-e marsh and 
sand, so that, right beneath the walls, upon the 
smooth, unmoving aguce mortes — whence, of course. 



230 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

Aigues-Mortes — ^floated the fleet of the Crusade, made 
fast to the ramparts of the fortress of the Crusade. 
And so Saint Louis sailed with a thousand ships, 
standing proudly upon the poop, while the bishops 
round him raised loud Latin chants, and the warriors 
clashed their harness. The king wore the pilgrim's 
scrip and the pilgrim's shell. Long and earnestly did 
my cicerone dilate upon the evil fortunes of the Cru- 
sade — how, indeed, in the beginning it seemed to 
prosper, and how Damietta was stormed ; — but the 
Saracens had their turn, and the King of France, and 
many of his best paladdins wer& soon prisoners in the 
Paynim tents. Question of their ransom being raised, 
"A king of France," said Louis, " is not bought or 
sold with money. Take a city — a city for a king of 
France." The sentence and the sentiment are pic- 
turesque ; but, after all, there is not much in one or 
the other. However, the followers of Mahound agreed. 
Louis was restored to France, and Damietta to its 
former owners; the rest of the European prisoners 
being thrown into the bargain for eight thousand 
gold bezants. Saint Louis, however, was too holy 
and too restless a personage to remain long at home, 
so that Aigues-Mortes soon saw him again ; and this 
time he departed waving above his head the crown 
of thorns. The infidels had laid hands on him the 
first time, but a fiercer enemy now grappled with the 
king — the plague clutched him; and though a mo- 
narch of France could not be bought or sold for any 
number of gold bezants, the plague had him cheap — 
in fact, for an old song. " He died," says that bold 
writer, M. Alexandre Dumas, who spins you ofi" the 



THE PICKLED BURGUNDIANS. 231 

most interesting history, all out of his own head — 
" he died on a bed of ashes, on th^ very spot where 
the messenger of Kome found Marius sitting on the 
ruins of Carthage " — an interesting topographical fact, 
seeing that nobody, now-a-days, knows where Carthage 
stood at all — always saving and excepting M. Alex- 
andre Dumas. 

We stood before a grey, massive tower — a Gothic 
finger of mouldering stone. " Louis de Malagne, " 
said my old cicerone, " a traitorous Frenchman, 
delivered these holy walls to our enemies of Bur- 
gundy, and a garrison of the Duke's held j)ossession 
of the sacred city of Aigues-Mortes. But the sacri- 
lege was fearfully avenged. The oriflamme was 
spread by the forces of the king, and the townspeople 
rose within the walls, and, step by step, the foreign 
garrison were driven back till they fought in a ring 
round this old tower. They fought well, and died 
hard, but they did die — every man — always round 
this old tower. So, when the question came to be, 
where to fling the corpses, a citizen said, ' This is a 
town of salt ; salt is the harvest of Aigues-Mortes — let 
us salt the Burgundians.' And another gaid, ' Truly, 
there is a cask ready for the meat ; ' and he pointed to 
the tower. Then they laid the dead men stark and 
stiff, as though to floor the tower. Then they heaped 
salt on them, a layer two feet thick ; then they put on 
another stratum of Burgundian flesh, and another 
stratum of salt — till the tower was as a cask — choke- 
full — bursting-full of pickled Burgundians." 

Much more he told me of the early fortunes of 
the Place — how here Francis I. met his enemy. 



232 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

CharlesV., in solemn conference, each monarch utterly 
disbelieving every sacred word uttered by the other ; 
and how the celebrated Algerine pirate, Barbarossa, 
who was the very patriarch of buccaneers — the 
Abraham of the Mansveldts, and Morgans, and 
Dampiers, and who invented, and emblazoned upon 
his flags the famous motto, *^ The Friend of the Sea, 
and the Enemy of All who sail upon it" — how this 
red-bearded rover once cast anchor ofi" the port, and 
by way of notifying to France that their ally against 
the Spaniard had arrived, set fire to a wood of Italian 
pine on the margin of the marshes, and lighted up 
the whole country by the lurid blaze. Of the Cami- 
sards, of whom I was more anxious to hear — of the 
poisoning in the tower of St. Constance, and of the 
band of braves who descended from the summit upon 
tattered strips of blankets — he knew comparatively 
little. His mind was mediaeval. Aigues-Mortes in 
the day of Louis Quatorze, was a declining place. 
The glory had gone out of it, and the unappeasable 
fever was slowly, but surely, claiming its own. In- 
deed, for a century it had been master. Aigues- 
Mortes will probably vanish like Gatton and Old 
Sarum. A pile of ruins, girdled in by crumbling 
walls, will slowly be invaded by the sleeping waters 
of the marsh ; and the heron, and the duck, and the 
meek-eyed gull wandering from the sea, will alone 
flit restlessly over the city built by Louis the Saint, 
walled by Philip the Bold, and blessed by one of the 
wisest and the holiest of the Popes. 

Reboul, the Nismes poet — I called upon him, 
but he was from home — is a baker, and lives by 



reboul's poetry. 233 

selling rolls, as Jasmin is a barber, and lives by- 
scraping chins. Reboul is, like M. Auguste Saint 
Jean, an enthusiastic lover of the poor, dying, fever- 
struck Gothic town. Let me translate, as well as I 
may, half-a-dozen couplets in which he characterises 
the dear city of the Crusades. The poetry is not 
unlike Victor Hugo's — stern, rich, fanciful, and 
coloured, like an old cathedral window. 

" See, from the stilly waters, and above the sleepy swamp. 
Where, steaming up, the fever-fog roUs grim, and gr^y, and 
damp : 

How the holy, royal city — Aigues-Mortes, that silent town. 
Looms like the ghost of 'Greatness, and of Pride that 's been 
pulled down. 

See how its twenty silent towers, with nothing to defend. 
Stand up like ancient coffins, all grimly set on end ; 

With ruins all around them, for, sleeping and at rest. 
Lies the life of that ofd city, like a dead owl in its nest — 

Like the shrunken, sodden body, so ghastly and so pale. 
Of a warrior who has died, and who has rotted in his mail — 

Like the grimly-twisted corpse of a nun within her pall. 
Whom they bound, and gagged, and built, all living, in a 
wall." 

From the tow^n, we partially floated, in a boat, 
and partially toiled through swamp and sand to the 
sea — Auguste constantly preaching on the antiqua- 
rian topography of the place, upon old canals, and 
middle-aged canals — one obuterating the other; on 
the route which the galleys of St. Louis followed 
from the walls to the ocean; on a dreary spot between 
sand-hills, which he called les Tombeaux, and where. 



234 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

by his account, the Crusaders who died before the 
starting of the expedition lie buried in their armour 
of proof. Then we toiled to a little harbour — a mere 
fisherman's creek — where it is supposed the ancient 
canal of St. Louis joined the sea, and which still 
bears the name of the Grau Louis, or the Qrau de Hoi 
— "grau" being understood to be a corruption of 
gradus. At this spot, rising in the midst of a group 
of clustered huts, the dwellings of fishermen and 
agued douaniers, one or two of whom were lazily 
angHng off the piers — their chief occupation- — there 
stands a lighthouse, about forty feet high. 

"Let us climb to the lantern," said Auguste, 
" and you will then see our silent land, and our poor 
dear old fading town lying at our feet." 

Accordingly up we went ; only poor Auguste 
stopped every three steps to cough ; and before we 
had got halfway, the perspiration came streaming 
down his yellow face, proving what might have been 
a matter of dispute before — that he had some mois- 
ture somewhere in his body. From the top we both 
gazed earnestly, and I curiously, around. On one 
side, the sea, blue — purple blue ; on the other side, 
something which was neither sea nor land — water 
and swamp — pond and marsh — bulrush thickets, and 
tamarisk jungles, shooting in peninsular capes, points, 
and headlands, into the salt sea lakes ; in the centre 
of them — like the ark grounding after the deluge — 
the grey walls of Aigues-Mortes. Between the great 
mare internum and the lagoons, rolling sand-hills — 
the barrier-line of the coast — and upon them, but 
afar off, moving specks — the semi- wild cattle of the 



THE LIGHTHOUSE OF AIGUES-MORTES. 235 

country; white dots — the Arab-blooded horses which 
are used for flails ; black dots — the wild bulls and 
cows, which the mounted herdsmen drive with 
couched lance and flying lasso. 

" Is it not beautiful ?" murmured Auguste ; " I 
thinli it so. I was born here. I love this landscape 
— it is so grand in its flatness ; the shore is as grand 
as the sea. Look, there are distant hills" — pointing 
to the shadowy outline of the Cevennes — "but the 
hills are not so glorious as the plain." 

" But neither have they the fever of the plain." 
" It is God's will. But, fever or no fever, I love 
this land — so quiet, and still, and solemn — ay, mon- 
sieur, as solemn as the deserts of the Arabs, or as a 
cathedral at midnight — as solemn, and as strange, 
and as awful, as the early world, fresh from the 
making, with the birds flying, and the fish swim- 
ming, on the evening of the fifth day, before the 
Lord created Adam." 



CHAPTER XIV. 

Flat Marsh Scenery, treated by Poets and Painters 
— Tavern Allegories — Nismes — The Amphitheatre 
AND the Maison Carree — Protestant and Catholic 
— The old Religious Wars alive still — The Silk 
Weaver of Nismes and the Dragonn^des. 

As Launcelot Gobbo had an infection to serve Bas- 
sanio, so I somehow took ill with an infection to 
walk, instead of ride, back toXunel. I suppose that 
Auguste had innoculated me, in some measure, with 
his iriysterious love for the boundless swamps and 
primeval jungles of bulrush around ; so that I felt a 
sort of pang in leaving them, and would wilUngly 
depart lingeringly and alone. Sending on my small 
baggage, then, by roulage, I strode forth out of the 
dead city, and was soon pacing alone the echoing 
causeway, like an Arab steering by the sun in the 
desert. There is one dead and one living English 
poet who would have made glorious use of this fen 
landscape, so repulsive to many, but which did, after 
all, possess a strange, undefinable attraction for me. 
The dead poet is Shelley, who had the true eye for 
sublimity in waste. Take the following picture- 
touch : — 

"An uninhabited sea- side, 
Whicli the lone fisher, when his nets are dried. 
Abandons ; and no other object breaks 
The waste, but one dwarf tree, and some few stakes, 
Broken and unrepaired ; and the tide makes 
A narrow space of level sand thereon." 



FEN LANDSCAPE. 237 

This is the sort of landscape, too, which, in an- 
other department of art, Collins delighted in repre- 
senting. But Shelley's picture of the luxuriant rush 
and water-plant vegetation would have heen magni- 
ficent. Listen how he handles a theme of the kind : 

" And plants, at whose names the verse feels loath, 
Filled the place with a monstrous imdergrowth — 
Prickly and pulpous, and blistering and blue. 
Livid and starred with a lurid dew ; 
Spawn-weeds, and filth, and leporous scum, 
Made the running rivulet thick and dumb ; 
And at its outlet, flags huge as stakes 
Dammed it up with roots knotted like water-snakes." 

Tennyson is the living poet who would picture 
with equal effect the region of swamp, and rush, and 
pool. Brought up in a fen district, his eye and feel- 
ing for marsh scenery and vegetation are perfect. 
Remember the marish mosses in the rotting fosse 
which encircled the " Moated Grange." Musing 
thus of the Poet Laureate, I would assign to this 
landscape embodiment of King Death, I passed the 
half-way tower, where three douaniers, seated in 
chairs, were fishing and looking as glum and silent 
as their prey, and began to discern the gravelly, 
shingly land of vines and olives again before me. 
The clear air of the South cheats us northerns like a 
mirage. You see objects as near you as in England 
they would be brought by a very fair spy-glass, and 
the effect, before you began to make allowances for 
the atmospheric spectacles, is to put you dreadfully 
out of humour at the length of the way, before you 
actually came up with the too distinct goal. So was 



238 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

it strongly with me in pedestrianising towards Lunel. 
Lunel seemed retreating back and back, so that my 
consolation became that it would be surely stopped 
by the Cevennes, even if the worst came to the worst; 
and go where it would, I was determined to come up 
with it somehow. Entering the region of the vine, 
the moppy olive, and the dust which was flying about 
in clouds, I halted at a roadside auberge to wash the 
latter article out of my throat, and reaped my reward 
in the sight of a splendid cartoon suspended over the 
great fireplace, which represented, in a severe alle- 
gory, " The Death of Credit killed by bad Payers." 
The scene was a handsome street, with a great open 
cafe behind, at the comptoir of which sat Madam 
Commerce aghast at the atrocity b^ing committed 
before her. In a corner are seen a group of gardes 
de commerce — in the vernacular, bailiffs — ^lamenting 
over their ruined occupation. I came to know the 
profession of these gentlemen, from the fact that 
their style and titles were legibly imprinted across 
their w aistcoats. In the foreground, the main catas- 
trophe of the composition was proceeding. Credit, 
represented by a fat, good-natured-looking, elderly 
gentleman in a blue greatcoat, was stretched supine 
upon the stones, while his three murderers brandished 
their weapons above him. The delineation of the 
culprits was anything but flattering to the three 
classes of society which I took them to represent. 
The '^ first murderer," as they say in Macbeth^ was a 
soldier. His sabre was deep in poor Credit's side. 
The second criminal must have been a musician, for 
he has just hit Credit a superhuman blow on the 

\ 



TAVERN ALLEGORIES. 239 

head with a fiddle — not a very deadly weapon one 
would suppose ; while the third assassin, armed with 
a billiard cue, seemed to typify the idler portion of 
the community in general. Between them, how- 
ever, there could be no doubt that Credit had been 
fairly done to death — the grim intimation was there 
to stare all topers in the face. 

The fact is, indeed, that all over rural France, in 
the places of public entertainment, poor M. Credit is 
in exceedingly bad odour. I have seen dozens of pic- 
torial hints, conveying with more or less delicacy 
the melancholy moral of that just described. Some- 
times, however, the landlord distrusts the pencil, 
puts no faith in allegory, and stern and prosaic — 
with a propensity to political economy — and giving 
rise to dark suspicions of a tendency to the Man- 
chester school, writes up in sturdy letters, grim and 
hopeless — 

" Argekt Comptant." 

At other times, cast in a more genial mould, he de- 
viates into what may be called didactic verse — contain- 
ing, like the '* Penny Magazine" — useful knowledge 
for the people, and hints poetically to his customers, 
the rule of the establishment — taking care, however, 
to intimate to their susceptible feelings that generous 
social impulses, rather than sombre commercial ne- 
cessity, are at the bottom of the regulation. Thus it 
is not uncommon to read the following pithy and not 
particularly rhythmical distich : — 

" Pour mieux conserver ses amis, 
Ici on ne fait pas de credit." 



240 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

At last Lunel was fairly caught, and an hour of 
the rail brought rq.e to Nismes and to the Hotel de 
Luxembourg, running out at the windows with 
swarms of commis voyageurs, the greater number con- 
nected with the silk trade. One of these worthies be- 
side whom I was placed at dinner, told me that he 
intended to go to London to the Exhibition, and that 
he had a very snug plan for securing a competent 
guide, who would poke up all the lions ; this guide to 
be a *^ Marin du port de Londres ; car tenez Us sont 
des galliards futes, les marins du port de Londres." 
I had all the difficulty in the world in making the 
intending excursionist aware of the probable effects 
of hiring, as a west-end guide, the first sailor or 
waterman he picked up at Wapping. 

The great features of Nismes are, as every body 
knows, the features which the Romans left behind 
them. Provence and Languedoc were the regions of 
Gaul which the great masters of the world liked best, 
probably because they were neare&t home ; and ob- 
scure as was the Roman Nismes — for I believe that 
Nimauses lays claim to no historic dignity whatever 
— -it must still have been a populous and important 
place : the unmouldering masonry of the Roman build- 
ers proves it. I had never seen any Roman remains 
to speak of, and, to tell the truth, had never been able 
to work up any great enthusiasm about the fragments 
of the ancient people which I had come across. I 
had bathed in all the Roman baths wherewith Lon- 
don abounds, but foy.nd no inspiration in the waters — 
I had stood on grassy mounds of earth, beheved to 
have been Roman camps ; traced like the Antiquary, 



ROMAN REMAINS. 241 

the Ager, with its corresponding fossa — marked the 
porta sinistra and the porta dextra — and stood where 
some hook-nosed general had reclined in the Pre- 
torium ; but I again confess that my imagination did 
not fly impulsively back, and bury itself among patres 
conscripti, togas, vestal virgins, lictors, patricians, 
equites, and plebeians. 

And, in fact, such mere vague traces and memo- 
rials as baths, bits of pavement, and dusty holes, 
mth smouldering brick-basements, which people call 
"Roman villas," — are not at all fitted, whatever 
would-be classicists may pretend, to stir up the strong 
tide of enthusiastic association. These are but miser- 
able odds and ends of fragments, from which you can 
no more leap to the dignity and the grandeur of the 
Romans, than you could argue, never having seen a 
man, from finding a cast-away tooth-pick, up to the 
appearance and nature of the invisible owner. But 
let us see a great specimen of a great Roman work, 
and then we are in the right track. Any builder 
could have made you a bath^ — any sapper and miner 
could have traced you out a camp — any of the small 
architects with whom we are infested could have 
knocked you up a villa — but give us a characteristic 
bit of the gi-eat people who are dead and gone, and 
then we can, or, at all events, we will try, to take 
their measure. 

The amphitheatre or arena at Nismes rose on me 
like a stupendous spectre, and frowned me down. 
I was smote with the sight. The size appalled me : 
mightiness — vastness — massiveness were there toge- 
ther — a trinity of stone, rising up, as it were, in the 

Q 



242 



CLARET AND OLIVES. 




AMPHITHEATRE AT NISMES. 



middle of my little preconceived and pet notions, and 
shivering and dispersing them, as the English three- 
decker in the Pilot came bowling into view, driving 
away the fog in ^vreaths before her and around her. 
First I walked about the great stone skeleton ; but 
though the symmetrical glory of the architecture, its 
massive regularity, and what I would call soldier-like 
precision of uniformity, kept urging my mind to 
look and admire ; still the impression of vastness was 
predominant, and all but drove out other thoughts. 
And yet it was not until I had entered, that that im- 
pression reached its profoundest depth. 

As I emerged from the vaulted and cavern-Hke 
corridor, through which a garrulous- old woman led 
me, into the blaze of keen sunshine, that fell upon a 
mighty mlderness of stone ; and as instinctively I 



ROMAN ARCHITECTURE. 243 

laid my hand upon the nearest ponderous block, the 
full and perfect idea of size and power closed on 
me. Roma! — Antiqua Roma! — had me in her 
grasp ; and as I felt, I remembered that Eothen had 
described a similar sensation, as produced by the 
bigness of the stones of the great pyramid. My old 
woman having, happily, left me, I was alone within 
that enormous gulf — that crater of regularly rising 
stone. Round and round, in ridges where Titans 
might have sat and seen, megatheria combat masta- 
dons, mounted up the mighty steps of grey, dead 
stone — sometimes entire for the whole round — some- 
times splintered and riven, but never worn, until 
your eye — now stumbling, as it were, over rubbish- 
heaps — now striding from stone ledge to stone ledge 
— rested upon the broken and jagged rim, with a 
hoary beard of plants and long dry weeds standing 
rigidly up between you and the blue. I turned again 
to the detals of the building — to the vastness of the 
blocks of stone, and to the perfect manipulation 
which had placed them. If the Romans were great 
soldiers, they were as great masons. They conquered 
the world in all pursuits in which enormous energy 
and iron muscularity of mind could conquer. The 
universe of earth, and stone, and water was theirs. 
But they were not cloud compellers. They had none 
of the great power over the essences of the brain. 
Beauty was too subtle for them ; and they only got 
it, incidentally, as an element — not a principle. The 
arena in which I stood was sternly beautiful ; but it 
was the beauty of a legion drawn up for battle — iron 
to the back-bone — iron to the teeth — the beauty of 

q2 



244 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

that rigid sjTnmetric inflexibility which sat upon the 
bronze faces which, when Hannibal, encamped on Ro- 
man ground set up for sale, and grimly and unmovedly 
saw bought, at the common market rate, the patch of 
earth on which the Carthaginian lay entrenched. 

I remained in the amphitheatre for hours — now 
descending to the arena, where the men and beasts 
fought and tore each other — now scrambling to the 
highest ridge, and watching, with a calmness which 
soothed and lulled the mind, the vast bowl which lay 
beneath — so massive, so silent, and so grey. You 
can still trace the two posts of honour — the royal 
boxes, as it were — low down in the ring, and marked 
out by stone barriers from the general sweep. Each 
of them has an exclusive corridor sunk in the mas- 
sive stone ; and behind each are vaulted cells, which 
you will be told were used as guard-houses by the 
escort of soldiers or lictors. Tradition assigns one 
of these boxes to the proconsul — the other to the 
vestal virgins ; but the latter, if I remember my 
Roman antiquities aright, could have no business 
out of Rome. There were no subsidiary sacred fire- 
branch establishments, like provincial banks, to pro- 
mulgate the credit of the " central office," — kindled 
in the remote part of the empire. The holy flame 
burnt only before the mystic palladium, which an- 
swered for the security of Rome. Whoever occupied 
the boxes in question, however, were no doubt what 
one of Captain Marryatt's characters describes the 
Smith family to be in London — " quite the topping 
people of the place ;" and up to them, no doubt, 
after the gladiator had received the steel of his an- 



ROMAN THEATRICALS. 245 

tagonist, and the thundering shout of " Habet !" had 
died away, the poor Scythian, or Roman, as the case 
might be, turned a sadly inquiring eye — intent upon 
the hands of the great personages on whom his doom 
depended — on the upturned or the downturned thumb. 
A very interesting portion of the arena is the laby- 
rinth of corridors, passages, and stairs, which honey- 
comb its massive masonry, and into which, in the 
event of a shower, the whole body of spectators could 
at once retreat, leaving the great circles of stone as 
deserted as at midnight. So admirable, too, are the 
arrangements, that there could have been very little 
crowding. The vomitories get wider and wider as 
they approach the entrance, where the people would 
emerge on every side, like the drops of water flung 
off by the rotatory motion of a mop. There was an 
odd resemblance to the general disposition of the 
opera corridors and staircases, which struck me in 
the arrangement of the lobbies and passages behind. 
One could fancy the young Roman men about Ne- 
mauses, in their scented tunics, clasped with glit- 
tering stones and their broad purple girdles — the 
Tyrian hue, as the poets say — gathering in knots, 
and discussing a blow which had split a fellow-crea- 
ture's head open, as our own opera elegants might 
Grisi's celebrated holding-note in Norma, or Duprez' 
famous ut du poitrine. The execution of a debutant 
with the sword might be praised, as the execution 
now-a-days of a prima donna. Rumours might be 
discussed of a new net-and-trident man picked up in 
some obscure arena, as the cognoscenti now whisper 
the reported merits of a tenor discovered in Barcelona 



246 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

or Palermo ; and the habitues would delight to in- 
form each other that the spirited and enterprising 
management had secured the services of the cele- 
brated Berbix, whose career at MassiHa, for instance, 
had excited such admiration — the artiste having 
killed fifteen antagonists in less than a fortnight. 
And then, after the pleasant and critical chat between 
the acts, the trumpets would again sound, and all 
the world would turn out upon the vast stone benches 
— the nobles and wealthy nearest the ring, as in the 
stalls with us, and the lower and slave population 
high up on the further benches, like the humble 
folks and the footmen in the gallery — and then would 
recommence that exhibition of which the Romans 
could never have enough, and of which they never 
tired — the excitement of the shedding of blood. 

From the arena I walked slowly on to the Maison 
Carrie. All the great Roman remains lie upon the 
open Boulevard, on the edge of the stacked and 
crowded old town, while without the circle rise the 
spacious streets of new qiiartiers for the rich, and 
many a long straggling suburb, where, in mean 
garrets and unwholesome cellars, the poor handloom 
weavers produce webs of gorgeous silk which rival 
the choicest products of Lyons. Presently, to the 
left, appeared a horribly clumsy theatre ; and, to the 
right, the wondrous Maison Carree. The day of 
which I am writing was certainly my day of archi- 
tectural sensation. First, Rome, with her hugeness 
and her symmetric strength, gripped me ; and now, 
Greece, with her pure and etherial beauty, which is 
essentially of the spirit, enthralled me. The Maison 



THE MAISON CARREE. 247 

Carree was, no doubt, built by Roman hands, but 
entirely after Greek models. It is wholly of Athens: 
not at all of Rome-^-a Corinthian temple of the purest 
taste and divinest beauty — small, slight, without an 
atom of the ponderous majesty of the arena — reign- 
ing by love and smiles, like Venus ; not by frowns 
and thunder, like Jove. Cardinal Alberoni said that 
the Maison Carree was a gem which ought to be set 
in gold; and the two great Jupiters of France — 
Louis Quatorze and Napoleon — had both of them 
schemes for lifting the temple bodily out of the ground 
and carrying it to Paris. The building is perfectly 
simple — ^merely an oblong square, with a portico, and 
fluted Corinthian pillars — yet the loveliness of it is 
like enchantment. The essence of its power over the 
senses appears to me to consist in an exquisite 
subtlety of proportion, which amounts to the very 
highest grace and the very purest and truest beauty. 
How many quasi Grecian buildings had I seen — all 
porticoed and caryatided — without a sensation, save 
that the pile before me was cold and perhaps correct 
— a sort of stone formulary. I had begun to fear that 
Greek beauty was too subtle for me, or that Greek 
beauty was cant, when the Maison Carree in a mo- 
ment utterly undeceived me. The puzzle was solved : 
I had never seen Grecian architecture before. The 
things which our domestic PecksniiFs call Grecian — 
their St. Martin's porticoes, and St. Pancras churches 
— bear about the same relation to the divine original, 
as the old statue of George IV. at King's Cross to the 
Apollo Belvidere. Of course, these gentry — of whom 
we assuredly know none whose powers qualify them 



248 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

to grapple with a higher task than a dock-warehouse 
or a railway tavern — have picked all manner of faults 
in the divine proportions of this wondrous edifice. 
There is some bricklaying cant about a departure 
from the proportions of Vitruvius, which, I presume, 
are faithfully observed in the National Gallery, and 
some modification of them, no doubt, in the Pavihon 
at Brighton — which variations are gravely censured 
in the Maison Carree ; while, in order, doubtless, to 
shew our modern superiority, the French hodmen 
have erected a theatre just opposite the Corinthian 
temple, with a portico — ^heavens- and earth ! such a 
portico — a mass of mathematical clumsiness, with 
pillars like the legs of aldermen suffering from 
dropsy. Anything more intensely ugly is not to be 
found in Christendom. It actually beats the worst 
monstrosity of London ; and this dreadful caricature 
of the deathless work of the glorious Greeks is erected 
right opposite to, perhaps, the most perfect piece of 
building and stone-carving in the world. 

I believe that it requires neither art- training nor 
classic knowledge to enjoy the unearthly beauty of 
the Corinthian temple. Give me a healthy-minded 
youth, who has never heard of Alcibiades, Themis- 
tocles, Socrates, or ^schylus, but who has the natural 
appreciation of beauty — who can admire the droop of 
a hly, the spring of a deer, the flight of an eagle — set 
him opposite the Maison Carree, and the sensation of 
divine, transcendant beauty, will rush into his heart 
and brain, as when contemplating the flower, or beast 
or bird. The big man in the parish at home will 
point you out the graces of the new church of St. 



GREEK ARCHITECTURE. 249 

Kold Without, designed after the antique manner, 
by the celebrated Mr. Jones Smith, and because you 
hesitate to acknowledge them, will read you a be- 
nignant lecture on the impossibility of making people, 
with uneducated taste, fully appreciate what he will 
be sure to call the " severity" of Greek architecture ; 
the worthy man himself having been dinned with the 
apocryphal loveliness in question until he has come 
actually to believe in it. Never mind the grave 
sermons preached about educating and training taste. 
An educated and trained taste will, no doubt, admire 
with even more fond appreciation and far higher en- 
joyment ; but he who cannot, at the first glance, see 
and feel the perfect grace of pure Grecian art, must 
be insensible to the blue of the sky, to the beauty of 
running water, to the song of the birds and the silver 
radiance of moonlight. I never revisited the amphi- 
theatre while I remained in Nismes, but I haunted 
the temple. The grandeur, and the massiveness of 
the Roman work, was like the north wind. It rudely 
buffeted the wayfarer, but he clung to his cloak. 
The Grecian trophy shone out like the gentle sun, 
and the traveller doffed mantle and cap to pay it 
adoration. 

Nismes, as most people know, is one of the points 
of France where Protestantism and Catholicism still 
glare upon each other with hostile and threatening 
eyes. The old Catholic and Huguenot hatred has 
descended lineally from the remote times of the Albi- 
genses, and at this moment broods as bitterly over the 
olive city as when Raymond of Toulouse proclaimed 
a crusade against the Paulician heretics, and twenty 



250 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

thousand people were slaughtered under the pastoral 
care of the Bishop of Beziers. That the animosity, 
however, has not died out centuries ago, we have to 
thank the pious precautions of Louis XIV., Madame 
de Main tenon, and the priest, who waged as bitter 
war upon the Huguenots of the Cevennes as ever 
their fathers of these same mountains had been ex- 
posed to. The dragoonades are still fiercely remem- 
bered in the South. The old-world stories in Scotland 
of the cruelties of Claverhouse and his life-guards, 
have well-nigh ceased to excite anything like personal 
bitterness; but in portions of Languedoc, the animosity 
between neighbour and neighbour — Catholic and Pro- 
testant — ^is still deepened and widened by the oft- told 
legends of those wretched religious wars. Nismes is 
the head quarters of the sectarianism — Catholics and 
Protestants are drawn up in two compacted hostile 
bodies, living, for the most part, in separate quartiers ; 
marrying each party within itself; scandalising each 
party the other whenever it has a chanqe ; and carry- 
ing, indeed, the party spirit so far as absolutely to 
have established Protestant cafes and Catholic cafes, 
the habitues of which Avill no more enter the rival 
establishments than they would enter the opposition 
churches. 

The day after my arrival, I had a singular oppor- 
tunity of becoming acquainted with the spirit of the 
place. North from Nismes rises a species of chaos 
of steep hills and deep valleys, or rather ravines, 
composed almost entirely of shingle and rock, covered 
over, however, with olive-groves and vines, and dotted 
with little white summer-houses, to which almost the 



CATHOLIC AND PROTESTANT. 251 

entire middle and working class population retire 
upon Sundays to pass the day, partly in cultivating 
their patches of land — there is hardly a family with- 
out an allotment — and partly to amuse themselves 
after the toils of the week. Rambling among these 
rugged hills and dales, I chanced to ask my way of 
a person I met descending towards Nismes. He was 
a tall, ungainly, raw-boned man — pallid and worn, as 
if with sedentary labour ; but he seemed intelHgent, 
and was very polite — pointing out a number of loca- 
lities around. Presently, he told me that he had been 
up to his cahaneyOx summer-house; that he was a silk- 
weaver in Nismes ; that his wages were so poor, that 
he had a hard struggle to live; but that he still 
managed to give up an hour's work or so a-day to go 
and feed his rabbits at the cahane. As we talked, he 
inquired whether I were not a foreigner — an English- 
man — and, with some hesitation, but with great 
eagerness — a Protestant ? My affirmative answer to 
the last inten'ogatory produced a magical effect. The 
man's face actually gleamed. He jumped off the 
ground, let fall his apronful of melons and fresh 
figs, while he clutched both of my hands in his, and 
exclaimed, " A Protestant ! Dieu merci! Dieu merci! 
an English Protestant ! Oh, how glad I am to see an 
English Protestant ! Listen, monsieur. We are here. 
We of the religion (the old phrase — as old as Rosny 
and Coligni), we are here fifteen thousand strong — 
fifteen thousand, monsieur. Don't believe those 
who say only ten. Fifteen thousand, monsieur — 
good men and true. All ready — all standing by one 
another — all braves — all on the qui vive — all prepared, 



252 CLAKET AND OLIVES. 

if the hour should come. We know eacn other — we 
love each other, and we hate " — a pause ; then, with a 
significant grin — " les autres. You will tell that, in 
England, monsieur, to our brothers. Fifteen thou- 
sand, monsieur ; and every man, woman, and child, 
true to the cause and the faith." 

The whole tone of the orator did not appear to 
me to be so much a matter of religious bitterness, as 
it marked a hatred of race. The two contending 
parties at Nismes were evidently of different blood : 
their rehgious animosities had gradually divided them 
into two distinct and hostile peoples. 

" See !" said the weaver ; " this is the Protestant 
side of the valley, — all Protestants here. Not a Ca- 
tholic cahane — no, no ! they must go elsewhere, 
— we have nothing to do with them, — we shake off 
the dust of our feet upon them and theirs. You and 
I are one, upon our own ground — Protestant ground 
— staunch and true ;" and he stamped with his foot 
upon the pebbles. " Monsieur must absolutely go 
with me to my cahane, and drink a glass of wine to 
the good cause ; and see my rabbits — Protestant 
rabbits." 

Who could resist this last attraction ? We turned 
and toiled up the flinty paths together ; my acquaint- 
ance informing me, with great pride, that M. Guizot 
was a good Protestant of Nismes, as his father, who 
had fallen, dans le terreur, was before him. He un- 
derstood that M. Guizot was then in England, and 
he was sure that he would be delighted at seeing 
such a fine Protestant country, and such a staunch 
Protestant people. Stopping at length at an un- 



THE weaver's cabane. 253 

painted door, in the rough, unmortared wall, my friend 
opened it, and we stepped into a little patch of gar- 
den, planted with olives and straggling vine-bushes. 
" They are much better cultivated, and give better 
oil and better wine," he said, " than the Catholic 
grounds;" and I am sure he believed the assevera- 
tion. Having duly inspected the " Protestant rabbits," 
we entered the cabane, a bare, rough, white-washed 
room, with a table, a few chairs, and unglazed lat- 
tices. Unless when the mistral blows, the open air 
is seldom or never unpleasant; and then wooden 
shutters are applied to the windward side of the 
houses. On this occasion, however, there was not a 
breath stirring amid the silvery grey leaves of the 
olives. The grasshoppers— fellows of a size which 
would astound Sir Thomas Gresham — chirped and 
leaped in the grass at the foot of the wall ; scores and 
scores of lithe, yellow lizards, with the blackest of 
eyes, flashed up and down over the rough stones, and 
shot in and out of the crevices ; but, excepting these 
sights and sounds, all around was hushed and motion- 
less; and the sun, wintry though it was, flooded all the 
still, brown valley with a deluge of pure, hot light. 

The weaver filled a very comfortable couple of 
glasses with a small, but not ill-tasted, wine. *^ Here's 

to ; " he uttered a sentiment not complimentary 

to the Catholic Church, and, indeed, consigning it to 
the warmest of quarters, and took off" his liquor with 
undeniable unction. I need not say whether I drunk 
the toast : anyhow, I drunk the wine. 

" And now look there," continued my host, 
pointing with his empty glass through the open 



254 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

window, to the north. The bare, blue iiills of the 
Cevennes lay — a long ridge of mountain scenery, 
stretching from the valley of the Rhone as far and 
farther than the eye could follow them — towards 
that of the Garonne. 

" There it was, " he said, " that were fought the 
fiercest battles, in those cruel times, between the 
people of the religion and the troops of the king. 
Can you see a valley or a ravine just over the oHve 
there ? My eyes are too much worn to see it ; but we 
look at it every Sunday — ^my wife and my children. 
That was the valley, monsieur, where my family 
lived for ages and ages, weaving the rough cloth that 
they made in those days, and tending their flocks 
upon the hill. Early in the troubles, their cottage 
was beset by the dragoons of the king. The mother 
of the family was suckling her child. They bound 
her to the bed-post, and put the child just beyond her 
reach, and told her that not a drop more should pass 
its lips till she cried Ave Maria and made the sign of 
the cross. They took the father and hung him by 
the feet, head downward, from the roof- tree, and he 
died hanging. The children they ranged round the 
mother, and tied matches between their fingers ; and, 
when the first match burned down to the flesh, the 
mother cried Ave Maria and made the sign of the 
cross. Then they released her, and held an orgie in 
the cottage all night long, and the widow and the 
children served them. Next morning, the woman 
was mad, and she wandered away into the woods 
with her baby at her breast, and no one heard of her 
more. The children were scattered over the country; 



I 



PROTESTANT AND CATHOLIC. 255 

and, whether they lived or died, I know not ; 
but one of them, monsieur, the eldest girl, whose 
name was Nicole, became a famous prophetess. Yes, 
monsieur, she was inspired, and taught the people 
among the rocks and the wild gorges of the hills. 
First, she had Vavertissement — that is, the warnino-, 
or first degree of inspiration ; and then the souffle, 
or the breath of the Lord, came on her, and she 
spoke ; at last, she was endowed with la prophetie, 
and told what would come to pass. Yes, monsieur ; 
and many of her prophecies are yet preserved, and 
they came true ; for, in times like these, God acts by 
extraordinary means. The people, monsieur, loved 
her, and honoured her, and kept her so well, and hid 
her so closely, that the persecutors could never seize 
her ; and she survived the troubles; and I, monsieur, 
a poor weaver of Nismes, have the honour to be her 
descendant." 

That night I walked late along the Boulevards. 
Protestant cafes and Catholic cafes were full and 
busy, and, no doubt, resounding with the polemics 
of the warring creeds. Outside all, the by turns 
straggling and crowded town lay, bathed in the most 
glorious flood of moonlight, poured down, happily, 
alike upon Papist and Protestant, lighting up the 
grey cathedral with its Gothic arches, and the hea- 
then temple with its fluted columns, and surely 
preaching by the universal-blessing ray that sermon 
— so continuous in its delivery, yet so little heeded 
by the congregation of the world — the sermon which 
enjoins charity and forbearance, and love and peace, 
among all men. 



CHAPTER THE LAST. 

Agriculture in France — Its Backward State — Cen- 
tralising Tendency — Subdivision of Property — Its 
Effects — French "Encumbered Estates." 

In the foregoing pages I have sketched, with as 
much regard to a readable liveliness, and to vivid 
local colouring as I could command, the features 
and incidents of part — the most interesting one — 
of an extended journey through France. My primary 
purpose in undertaking the latter was, to prepare a 
view of the social and agricultural condition of the 
peasantry, for publication in the columns of the 
Morning Chronicle ; and accordingly a series of let- 
ters, devoted to that important subject, duly appeared. 
These communications, however, were necessarily 
confined to statements of agricultural progress, and 
the investigation of solid social subjects, to the ex- 
clusion of those matters of personal incident and 
artistic, literary, and legendary significance, which 
naturally occur in the prosecution of a desultory and 
inquiring journey. To this latter field — that of the 
tourist rather than the commissioner — then, I have de- 
voted the foregoing chapters ; but I am unv^illing to 
send them forth without appending to them — extracted 
from my concluding Letter in the Morning Chronicle 
— a summary of my impressions of the social con- 
dition of the French agricultural population, and the 
effects of the system of the infinitesimal division of 



BACKWARD FRENCH AGRICULTURE. 257 

the land. These impressions are founded upon a 
five months' journey through France^ keeping mainly 
in the country places, being constantly in communi- 
cation with the people themselves, and hearing also 
the opinions of the priests and men of business en- 
gaged in rural affairs, as well as reading authors 
upon all sides of the question. My conclusions I 
have summed up carefully, and with great dehbera- 
tion; and I offer them as an honest, and not ill- 
founded estimate of the present state and future 
prospects of rural France. 

The French are undoubtedly at least a century 
behind us in agricultural science and skill. This 
remark applies alike to breeding cattle and to raising 
crops. Agriculture in France is rather a handicraft 
than what it ought to be — a science. As a general 
rule, the farmers of France are about on a level with 
the ploughmen of England. When I say this, I 
mean that the immense majority of the cultivators 
are unlettered peasants — hinds — who till the land in 
the unvarying, mechanical routine handed down to 
them from their forefathers. Of agriculture, in any 
other sense than the rule-of-thumb practice of plough- 
ing, sowing, reaping, and threshing, they know 
literally nothing. Of the rationale of the manage- 
ment of land — of the reasons why so and so should 
be done — they think no more than honest La Balafre, 
whose only notion of a final cause was the command 
of his superior ofiicer. Thus they are bound down 
in the most abject submission to every custom, for 
no other reason than that it is a custom : their fathers 
did so and so, and therefore, and for no other reason, 

R 



25S CLARET AND OLIVES. 

the sons do the same. I could see no struggling 
upwards, no longing for a better condition, no dis- 
content, even with the vegetable food upon which 
they lived. All over the land there brooded one 
almost unvaried mist of dull, unenlightened, passive 
content — I do not mean social — but industrial content. 
There are two causes principally chargeable with 
this. In the first place, strange as it may seem in a 
country in which two-thirds of the population are 
agriculturists, agriculture is a very unhonoured occu- 
pation. Develop, in the slightest degree, a French- 
man's mental faculties, and he flies to a town as 
surely as steel filings fly to a loadstone. He has no 
rural tastes — no delight in rural habits. A French 
amateur farmer would, indeed, be a sight to see. 
Again, this national tendency is directly encouraged 
by the centralizing system of government — by the 
multitude of officials, and by the payment of all 
functionaries. From all parts of France, men of 
great energy and resource struggle up and fling 
themselves on the world of Paris. There they try 
to become great functionaries. Through every de- 
partment of the eighty-four, men of less energy and 
resource struggle up to the chef -lieu — the provincial 
capital. There they try to become little functionaries. 
Go still lower — deal with a still smaller scale — and 
the result will be the same. As is the department to 
France, so is the arrondissement to the department, 
and the commune to the arrondissement. Nine- 
tenths of those who have, or think they have, heads 
on their shoulders, struggle into towns to fight for 
office. Nine-tenths of those who are, or are deemed 



FRENCH RURAL SOCIETY. 259 

by themselves or others, too stupid for anything else, 
are left at home to till the fields, and breed the cattle, 
and prune the vines, as their ancestors did for gene- 
rations before them. Thus there is singularly little 
intelligence left in the country. The whole energy, 
and knowledge, and resource of the land are barrelled 
up in the towns. You leave one city, and, in many 
cases, you will not meet an educated or cultivated 
individual until you arrive at another — all between 
is utter intellectual barrenness. The English country 
gentleman, we all know, is not a faultless character, 
but his useful qualities far prevail over his defects ; 
and it is only when traversing a land all but destitute 
of any such order that the fatal effects of the blank 
are fully realized. Were there more country gentle- 
men in France, there would be more animal food 
and more wheaten bread in the country. The very 
idea of a great proprietor living upon his estates 
implies the fact of an educated person — an individual 
more or less rubbed and polished and enlightened by 
society — taking his place amongst a class who must 
naturally look up to him, and whose mass he must 
necessarily, to a greater or less degree, leaven. It is 
easy to joke about English country gentlemen — about 
their foibles, and prejudices, and absurd points ; but 
to the jokers I would seriously say, " Go to France ; 
examine its agriculture, and the structure and calibre 
of its rural society, and see the result of the utter 
absence of a class of men — certainly not Solomons, 
and as certainly not Chesterfields, but, for all that, 
most useful personages — individuals with capital, 
with, at all events, a certain degree of enlightenment 

r2 



260 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

— taking an active interest in farming — often amateur 
farmers themselves — the patrons of district clubs, and 
ploughing matches, and cattle-shows — and, above all, 
living daily among their tenantry, and having an 
active and direct interest in that tenantry's prospe- 
rity." I do not mean to say that here and there, all 
over France, there may not be found active and 
intelligent resident landlords, nor that, in the north 
of France, there may not be discovered intelligent 
and clear-headed tenant-farmers ; but the rule is as 
I have stated. Utterly ignorant boors are allowed to 
plod on from generation to generation, wrapped in 
the most dismal mists of agricultural superstition; 
while what in America would be called the " smart" 
part of the population, are intriguing, and construct ■ 
ing and undoing complots, in the towns. To all pre- 
sent appearance, a score of dynasties may succeed 
each other in France before La Vendee takes its 
place beside Norfolk, or before Limousin rivals the 
Lothian s. 

A word as to the subdivision of property. I 
know the extreme difficulties of the subject, and 
the moral considerations which, in connection with 
it, are often placed in opposition to admitted phy- 
sical and economical disadvantages. I shall, there- 
fore, without discussing the question at any length, 
mention two pr three personally ascertained facts : — 

The tendency of landed properties, under the 
system in question, is to continual diminution of 
seize. 

This tendency does not stop with the interests of 
the parties concerned — it goes on in spite of them. 



THE SMALL PROPERTY SYSTEM. 261 

And the only practical check is nothing but a 
new evil. When a man finds that his patch of land 
is insufficient to support his family, he borrows 
money and buys more land. In nine cases out of 
ten, the interest to be paid to the lender is greater 
than the profit which the borrower can extract from 
the land — and bankruptcy, and reduction to the con- 
dition of a day-labourer, is sooner or later the inevit- 
able result. 

The infinitesimal patches of land are cultivated 
in the most rude and uneconomical fashion. Not a 
franc of capital, further than that sunk in the pur- 
chase of spades, picks, and hoes, is expended on them. 
They are undrained, ill-manured, expensively worked, 
and they would often produce no profit whatever, 
were it not that the proprietor is the labourer, and 
that he looks for little or nothing save a recompense 
for his toil in a bare subsistence. It is easy to see 
how the consumer must fare if the producer possess 
little or no surplus after his own necessities are 
satisfied. 

It is not to be supposed from the above remarks, 
that I conceive that in no circumstances, and under 
no conditions, can the soil be advantageously divided 
into minute properties. The rule which strikes me 
as applying to the matter is this : — where spade- 
husbandry, can be legitimately adopted, then the 
extreme subdivision of land loses much, if not all, of 
its evils. The reason is plain: spade -husbandry, 
while it pays the proprietor fair wages, also, in 
certain cases, develops in an economical manner the 
resources of the soil. The instance of market-gardens 



262 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

near a populous town is a case in point. But in a 
remote district, removed from markets, ill provided 
with the means of locomotion — where cereals, not 
vegetables, must be raised — spade-labour is so far 
mere toil flung away. Near Nismes I found a man 
digging a field which ought to have been ploughed. 
He told me that the spade produced more than the 
plough. Then why did not the farmers use spade- 
husbandry? "Because, although spade -husbandry 
was very productive, it was still more expensive. It 
paid a small proprietor who could do the work him- 
self, but not a large proprietor, who had to remunerate 
his labourers." Herein, then, lies the fallacy. Truly 
considered, a mode of cultivation unprofitable for the 
great proprietor, must be unprofitable, in the long 
run, for the small proprietor also. The former, by 
spade-husbandry, loses his profit by paying extrava- 
gantly for labour ; the latter must pay for labour as 
well, but he pays himself, and is therefore unconscious 
of the outlay — an outlay which is, nevertheless, not 
the less real. If the plough, at an expense of 5s., 
can produce 20s. worth of produce — and if the spade, 
at an expense of 20s., can produce 30^. worth of 
produce — the difference between the proportionate 
outlays is so much deducted from the resources of the 
country in which the transaction takes place ; and 
this because that difference of labour, or of money 
representing labour, if otherwise applied — as by the 
agency of the plough it would be free to be applied — 
might, profitably to its proprietor, still raise the sum 
total of the production to the stated amount of 305. 
Are small properties, then, in cases in which 



FRENCH ENCUMBERED ESTATES. 263 

spade-husbandry cannot be economically applied, in- 
jurious to tlie social and industrial interests of the 
community in which they exist ? 

The following propositions appear to me to sum 
up what may be said on either side of the question : 

Small landed holdings undoubtedly tend to pro- 
duce an industrious population. A man always 
works hardest for himself. 

Small landed holdings tend to breed a spirit of 
independence, and wholesome moral self-appreciation 
and reliance. 

On the other hand — 

Small landed holdings, by breeding a poor and 
ignorant race of proprietors, keep back agriculture, 
and injure the whole community of consumers; and — 

Small landed holdings tend to grow smaller than 
it is the interest of their owners that they should 
become. Capital, borrowed at usurious rates of in- 
terest, is then had recourse to for the purpose of 
enlarging individual properties — and the result is the 
production of a race of involved, mortgaged, and fre- 
quently bankrupt proprietors. 

At this presentmoment, I believe the proprietorship 
of France to be as bankrupt as that of the south-west 
of Ireland. The number of "Encumbered Estates" 
across the Channel would stagger the stoutest calcu- 
lator. The capitalists, notaries, land-agents, and 
others in the towns, and not the peasantry, are the 
real owners of the mortgaged soil. The nominal pro- 
prietors are sinking deeper and deeper at every 
struggle, and they see no hope before them — save 
one — Socialism. French Socialism is simply the 



264 CLARET AND OLIVES. 

result of French poverty. A ruined labourer has 
no resource but casual charity. No law stands be- 
tween him and starvation. He has no right to his 
life unless he can support himself; and as the pon- 
derous machine of the law gradually grinds down his 
property to an extent too small for him to exist on, 
and as the increasing interest swallows up the com- 
paratively diminishing products, he sees nothing for 
it but a scramble. There is property — there is food 
— and it will go hard but he shall have a share of 
them. Herein is the whole problem of the dreaded 
Socialism. I cannot put the jnatter better than in 
the words of the old song — 

" Moll in the wad and I fell out, 
And this is what it was all about, 
She had money, and I had none. 
And that was the way the row begun." 

Whether a Poor-law, and a change in the law of 
heritage might not check the evil, I am not, of course, 
going to inquire; but the present state of rural 
France — all political considerations left aside — ap- 
pears to me to point to the possibility, if not the pro- 
bability, of the world seeing a greater and bloodier 
Jacquerie yet than it ever saw before. 



THE END. 



SjnSRT VUtfTELI.T, r^INTER AXD ENORAVER, COCGH SQUARE, FLEET STREET I.ONDOX. 



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