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sion which is possible in an individual or in a family, but which produces either slavery or revolution when imposed upon a nation composed of lively thinkers and logical minds.
Let me now descend in the social scale and describe the Maire of the Commune, or rather his establishment, for I have not yet seen the man himself. To him I paid a visit, without consulting my adviser, who, after taking me to the élite of society, did not recommend any further visits. To me, however, it appeared the right thing to take notice of an official who represents the votes of the people among whom I desire to reside in peace.
I went on a Sunday afternoon to the wing of an ancient château which, having survived the Revolution, had been converted into a farmhouse (maison bourgeoise). The outside appearance of this wing is imposing, it looks ancient and spacious; but the inside is small and very inconvenient on account of the extreme narrowness of the building. It is, in fact, only one room deep, which, when one allows for the rooms necessarily devoted to farm purposes and farm servants, leaves but a few rooms at the disposal of the family. The salon into which we were shown is also the family bedroom, the bed being placed in an alcove. Madame was at home, gracious, pleasant, and pleased with our attention. She caused some wine and biscuits to be placed before us, and afterward conducted us through the gardens, which, like the house, have a faded look, being badly kept. Verily there lurks in France some spell which perpetuates divisions of rank despite the most revolutionary laws, despite all that can be said or sung of liberté, fraternité, et égalité. This family, this house, these grounds smell of the ancient noblesse, but they are used humbly, as by one who knows that he is not one of them. He is rich, very rich, honored, sufficiently powerful, but he never presumes to be more than an honest farmer.
One relic of the good old times, still preserved in perfect repair in the gardens, tells how absolutely necessary were the great changes of 1792. It is a colombier, a pigeon-house of gigantic dimensions, as large in fact as a church-tower, which would accommodate some thousands of pigeons, which were allowed to devour the crops of the poor tenants in order to garnish the table of the seigneur. I fancy that the more closely you examine the traces of the past, the more you learn of French life present and past, the more you will feel inclined to condone even the atrocities of the Revolution, for surely the only possible way to deliver the peasants from their servility, their hunger, and their terrors, was to tear up and root out the selfish noblesse, which
seems to have known no pity, and to have fed upon the very vitals of the people. One may detest and abhor Danton, Marat, Robespierre, and yet acknowledge that their work has given France a new and vigorous life which without their work it could never have known. I say this because the ideas still cherished by the existing noblesse are so ultramontane, so unsocial, so utterly opposed to all progress, that I feel certain they would go back upon the old paths if they had not been reduced to an impotence which makes them objects of pity rather than centers of reaction.
Curiously enough, the man of all others to justify the Revolution was the rector of the parish, upon whom I called alone. He is, I believe-indeed, he must be the very incarnation of Roman theories, being the priest of a society so devoted to the Pope; but, like other frail mortals, he does not always see the full meaning of his own expressions. He was telling me of the additions and repairs which had been effected in the fabric of the church since his coming to the place, and said that the parish used to be served from a monastery at a distance, which sucked up all the parochial revenues and allowed the church to fall into ruins; "but now," said he, “the parish is separated and there is a resident priest, which I believe is the very best thing for any parish. You see," he added, "it had to be separated when there were no parochial funds left, for the Revolution took away all the endowments!" Thus he proved that the Revolution had established a resident ministry and repaired the ecclesiastical buildings.
It was Sunday, also, when I called on the rector, between the services, when I knew I should find him at home. He was seated at dinner with his curate and two young women dressed as simple peasants, to whom he introduced me as his sisters. His history is that of most Breton priests. He is the son of a peasant, was brought up in a seminary, and on getting a parish of his own he brought his father, mother, and sisters to live in the clergy-house. The father was a drunkard of the very worst sort, who passed all his time at the village drinkingshops, to the scandal of the priest and church, so he had to be put away into a distant village, where he died about a year ago. The mother and sisters still live with the rector. They wear the dress of ordinary peasants, with caps, collars, and all, without any concealment or pretense whatsoever. You will say that it is as it should be, but there is another side to that question, if you will consider it well. Even Madame the Countess de K, the red-hot convert of whom I have already spoken, says there is one thing against the Roman Church, and that one thing
is, the priests are not gentlemen. Don't sum up the question with a pshaw! that means that the rector can not put his legs under the mahogany of the squire and be his companion. It may mean that with the noblesse, but it means something far more serious with the people.
There is a deep-seated dislike to the priests even among these superstitious and apparently devout Bretons. What is it founded upon? I asked myself this question-I asked the people themselves, and, when I got to the root of the matter, I found it arises from the deep-seated love of money peculiar to the French peasant. This passion for cash is offended, hurt, and roused to opposition by the continual demands of the priests for money. To realize how the matter works, take the case of our rector. He is paid by the government, I believe, eleven hundred francs, or forty-four pounds, a year. This eleven hundred francs is subject to a deduction for various taxes, national and diocesan, of three hundred francs, leaving the stipend of the rector at thirty-six pounds a year. I admit that he could live on this sum as an anchorite, as one of the peasants; but, however much the clergy may preach the loveliness of poverty, I never yet knew one who courted it for himself. I don't say they ask more than is reasonable, but I do say they ask to live as educated men live, as men live who have acquired by education habits and ideas which separate them from peasant-life and from the grossness of the manners and diet of the poor. The rector here does as other rectors, curés, and clergy do, he asks for more. At certain seasons he goes round for his tithes, which are voluntary, and from an unwilling peasantry he collects a decent income. He told me himself that people hated giving, and hence hated the priests. I could have told him how bitterly his own people had spoken to me about priests in general and himself in particular, although they said he was a decent man, and had no other fault to find with him but his love of money-a love of money which I found so moderate that I believe his whole income with all these additions does not touch one hundred pounds a year. In very fact, he is a nice man, with a pleasant manner, and he works as hard as a peasant at his services, fearing even to go out to sea with me in my boat, lest people should say he was absent from his parish and his duties.
There is also a deep-rooted suspicion of the priests seated in the minds of the people. My friend and neighbor, an old tar with a pension, a little government office, and a cute French head, amused me exceedingly the other day by his own version of parochial money matters. Of course I am repeating the word of an uneducated man, a boatswain, or perhaps quartermaster-yet his
glib tongue did but give expression to the ideas which almost all the peasants entertain, although they can not easily express them.
He said: "Pierre Denez is a born fool, so they chose him for church-warden. Pierre was very devoted to his duties, but took special charge of the offertories, because the rector told him that all the money must be carefully taken care of till Easter, when it must be divided into four parts—one part for the Pope, one for the bishop, one for the poor, and one for the priest. Pierre got together a goodly sum, and when the day came for the division he gave himself up to his work with great diligence. Into four parts all the moneys were divided, and then Pierre asked what was to be done with them. To which the rector replied, 'I will take care of them all.' Then said Pierre, ‘He took all the four parts and put them into his own pocket, and what was the good of all my trouble when the rector pocketed the whole lot at the end of the journey?' Pierre resigned his office. Thus it is," said my marin, "with these priests; even a fool like Pierre can see through them." Now you, reader, and I know or feel assured that the rector very faithfully fulfilled his trust and forwarded the respective amounts to headquarters, but the suspicions of the people were aroused and can not be set at rest. Whence do they all arise? Why this objection to a decent payment of the priests? Not only on account of the love of money of the peasants, but also because the priest himself is a peasant, and they can not understand why he should want a better income than they have themselves, or why his mother and sisters should sit at wine and dessert while they themselves eat black bread. Religion does not give them a reason, and of the effects of education they are ignorant.
If my readers will be patient enough to follow me in my description of Life in Brittany," I do not expect that any of them will choose Brittany as their permanent home, notwithstanding its many advantages. One great fact stares one in the face. It always rains here. Never a month, scarcely a day goes by without rain; and such rain! Soaking, all-wetting rain. Side roads are water-lanes three parts of the year, and it is only owing to the magnificent condition and great expenditure upon the departmental roads that one can get about at all. If we were dependent upon the roads made by the communes, we should be shut in nine months at least out of twelve.
Another great drawback to English people would be found in the joint occupation of houses, stables, barns, and out-buildings, which is the rule of this country. Gentlemen living in châteaux get weary of farming, and let out their land, with the right to use a certain portion of the stables and all other buildings, to a peasant
farmer. This arrangement seems to work well enough with Breton gentlemen, who know the ways and habits of the people, but it is simply unendurable to an Englishman. Your whole premises are slovenly. You have nothing to yourself. You lose your stores of hay, oats, etc., for the Breton peasant is a peculator. You lose your privacy; there is a continual intermeddling with your affairs and servants. This state of things is aggravated when the château has been deserted and the master has been long in Paris or elsewhere.
It is really wonderful how many beautiful houses have been deserted by their owners in this beautiful Brittany. Have they been washed out by the rain? or sucked out by the love of Frenchmen for large towns and social life? Be that as it may, here you may see houses full of furniture, which remind one of that celebrated tale about a wedding breakfast shut up for fifty years because some accident befell the bridegroom on the day of the wedding. I went to see the Château de Penaurun the other day. It is a splendid building, containing some thirty rooms, situated in a park, with ancient out-buildings, and gardens, and orchards. It is now to let for a mere trifle; and this is its history: Twenty years ago the son of an old soldier of France inherited the property, with new ideas. He pulled down the old mansion (which is said to have been better than his modern house), and built, at immense cost, the present château. For five years he lived there, then suddenly shut it up and left the country. Shut up it has remained for fifteen long years, except that, until six years ago, his brother-in-law and sister used to pay a visit of some weeks in the summer-time. Six years ago the said brother-in-law came as usual, and left after the fashion of the owner of the castle. He hung his coat, his change of raiment, his boots, in short, all his clothes, upon pegs in his bedroom ready for him when he came in to dress, but he never did come in to dress; and there they hang still, and there I saw them, all eaten by moth, as if they had been placed there only half an hour before. The whole house is in the same state: settees, chairs, pictures, all gradually subsiding into dust; beds, blankets, sheets, all in place, and all eaten up by moth, so that all is spoiled and useless. The out-buildings are let away to a farmer as usual, and who would like to face the reparations, refurnishing, and renew ing of a castle like that?
ple can be silent and ning over with jollity.
noisy, reserved and runYet so it is. There must be a strain of tiger in a population which could amuse itself as lately as 1847 in cutting the life out of friends with a whip made after this fashion: Lash, eighteen feet long, swelling at a little distance from the handle to the thickness of a man's arm, whence it tapered to a twisted and strongly knotted end, made more like a knife by the help of a mixture of glue. This plaything was fixed upon a strong, stiff stick, and often not only cut a man into steaks, but sometimes cut the life out of him at a single stroke. Yet a local historian gives an account of a fête which he attended in 1847, at which the chief attraction was a contest between twelve men, six on a side, with these deadly weapons. The smack of these whips made, he says, much more noise than a gunshot; they could be heard at the distance of two and a half miles, and, when several smack their whips in concert, the noise is so terrible that one must either run away or stop up one's ears. These twelve men were ranged opposite one another at a distance almost corresponding to the length of the lashes of their whips. They stood up, having for protection in the shape of dress only short felt breeches, and shirts made of stout sailcloth. Like all Breton peasants of the old style, their hair hung down their backs in long tresses, but was cut straight across the forehead after the fashion of Gainsborough's "Blue Boy." They wore no hats or head - covering. The left arm was naked, but the right arm, which held the whip, was protected from the fist to the neck by an armlet or shield of thick leather. The sides were distinguished by the color of the tuft of their whips, the one being white, the other red.
The great attraction of Brittany is "the peasantry," and no wonder, for they are quite sui generis, quite different from all other populations. They combine the somber, taciturn nature of the Spaniard with the droll, wild life of the Irish. It is difficult to understand how the same peo
These men thus standing face to face were there to be wounded almost to death for the glory thereof, and also for the prize, which consisted of half a dozen striped pocket-handkerchiefs and a pound of tobacco. The signal given. by an old peasant, the combatants put themselves into the attitude of defiance, the whip raised, while the lash was held in the left hand. "Strike," said the same voice, and the twelve cables were let loose in an instant, but no smack was heard as they met, twisted, and struggled in midair.
Those most renowned quickly disengaged their lashes and dealt the second and dreadful blow upon the persons of their antagonists, opening up long seams of livid or bleeding flesh; on the third stroke all the faces except two were seamed and flowing with blood. These two were the leaders--one tail, the other short; one heavy, the other light; one all flesh, the other, although only five feet high, all nerves and sinews. An
outsider would have backed the giant, but the boys of Pipriac knew too well the prowess of the dwarf to risk their money against him.
The combat now raged with fury; men disdained to parry, they were only eager to strike. The sound was that of a volley of musketry. The lashes soften into tow, but harden again and glue themselves together with blood. The faces are no longer human; the long hair hangs down in front, bathed in perspiration and blood. But not one blow has fallen on either champion. They have reserved themselves; they have guarded and parried, knowing that upon them the issue of the fight did depend. But now the tall man has hit home. A long, blue, spiral mark, which here and there squirts blood, twists round the left arm of the little Joseph, and makes him stagger with pain. He recovers himself; launches his whip at his foe, and but six inches intervened between its deadly point and the face of Joseph the great. Animated by his first success, Kaer stepped forward and bent his whole strength to the blow which he aimed at Josille. The little man never parried the blow, but pirouetted, as it were; while, without any effort, he threw out his lash softly. The blow of Kaer missed; but, when Josille sharply drew back his lash, the whole face of Kaer was cut in half-a gigantic gap opened up the very bones. These two stood alone in the lists; the rest had made a truce, and were engaged in attending to their grievous wounds. Kaer, blinded by the shock, put his armlet of leather before his face and paused. Josille, so far from profiting by the occasion and pressing his advantage, coolly took out his pocket-handkerchief and loudly blew his nose, to the great amusement of his backers, who thought it an excellent joke. The laughter made Kaer mad, threw him out of his sang-froid, and made him wild. He struck, stamped, and made wonderful points; but Josille was calm; and at the end of ten minutes the giant, covered with wounds, his shirt cut into ribbons, his mouth foaming, his eyes blinded, fell heavily upon his knees. “Don't give in!” cried some voices still; but the effort to rise was vain. Josille, apparently incapable of pity, like a true Breton peasant, again blew his nose, and prepared to give the falling man his coup de grâce.
A shiver ran through the crowd; but Josille was better than he seemed, for, instead of cutting the poor flesh, he dexterously drew the whip out of the hands of the victim, and folded his arms upon his breast. Kaer shut his eyes, and laid his burning head upon the sand. The whites were proclaimed the victors. Each subaltern had a pocket-handkerchief worth sixpence, and Josille the pound of tobacco. I know not whether any of these scenes are enacted now, but this
account is so recent that it throws light upon the Breton peasant as I find him.
As to the dress of the agricultural people, it is picturesque-so picturesque, indeed, that when some foolish servant is penetrated with the Parisian mode, and adopts it, she looks like a crow among birds of plumage. Yet I am sorry to say that the dress is changing. Our old men wear sabots, gaiters, large, loose, baggy breeches fastened under the knee, with jacket and vest; the hair is long, like that of a woman, and a broad, flat felt hat completes the costume. Our young men have taken to trousers, but still retain the vest embroidered round the neck, and the loose, flowing jacket, mostly made of cloth of a darkblue color, and embroidered behind with a representation of the Holy Sacrament; this back embroidery is dying out, as also the custom of wearing flowing locks. Our women wear short skirts, make of very thick material, plaited round the waist, more like a Scotch kilt than anything else; over the skirt they wear an embroidered cloth jacket, or vest with sleeves, and over that another without sleeves, cut square and low in front, to display their white, nicely starched chemisette; to the chemisette is attached an enormous collar, which reaches beyond the shoulders, and is a marvel of the arts of starching and ironing. This, with the great coiffe of the county, differing in each commune, completes the costume. Of course, there are varieties of head-dress, some loose and flowing, others close-fitting, some in colors, some embroidered, and this gives to any assemblage a very varied and pleasing appearance; but the description of these matters is beyond the reach of my pen.
The home of the Breton peasant is quite peculiar, and differs from anything I have seen elsewhere. An old stable, a cow-shed, any old outhouse does as well as any other building for his purposes, and is always used when it may be had; but, whether the house be built of stone or wood or mud, its exterior is almost always the same. It has a central door and two little windows about eighteen inches square; within, the floor is of mud, literally mud; for, as Brittany is a very wet place, the mud floors are almost always damp, and often contain miniature lakes or pools of water.
I recollect one day, when out fishing, calling in at one of these shanties where they kept an auberge, and finding it difficult to place my feet on dry land. Being inclined for a chat, I asked mine host how he, who, from the valuable furniture he possessed, I took to be a man decently well off, could bear to live in such a pigsty. He replied that he always wore sabots, which could not be wet through, and as to sleeping in such a place, what did it matter to him; when once
safely shut up in his lit clos (or wonderful Breton cupboard arranged as a bed), he did not care if the sea were to come in to the floor. The poorest shanties have their bedstead and armoire, mostly of fine-grained wood, and beautifully carved. This particular auberge had its whole side filled up with the family sleeping arrangements, all constructed in one single piece of furniture. A sort of tall, beautifully carved cupboard extended the whole length of the wall, which contained a bed at either end and an upright clock in the middle-a clock like the kitchen clock of our ancestors. During the daytime the bedding is invisible, as also, I suppose, during the night, for it is reached through two little sliding-doors, having little dwarf pillars for the admission of air. The doors are only opened to admit or give egress to the tenants. Day and night they are kept shut, so that you may go into such a room (as I have done) at midnight without seeing man, woman, or child, until the little doors slide back, and a whole family of heads peep out from within what may be called a night parlor. Add to this lit clos an armoire (a cupboard with large folding-doors), a few pots and ⚫ pans, a form or two, and a table, and you have a complete inventory of a Breton house, whether it be occupied by a farmer or a laborer. A year ago I went to see a château which was to be let. It belonged to a rich peasant farmer who, when he bought the estate, moved straight into the stable, and I saw him there with cows, horses, pigs, and servants, only divided from his dwellingroom by a slight wooden partition. I put the servants with the cattle, because it was literally so arranged; one man slept in a little box bedstead in a stable with ten cows, an arrangement which my farmer said was necessary, in case they broke loose in the night.
As the Breton peasant lives in a sort of primitive way amid the cattle, so he thinks and acts in a primitive way also. His ideas are few, and those few descend to him from his ancestors. I suppose that, with the exception of the crying abuses arising from priestly power, supported by the state in the middle ages, and priestly misconduct in accordance with the very rude life of those ages, the religion of Brittany remains much as it was in the days of St. Louis.
Farmer Jean has just returned from a pilgrimage of three weeks to Lourdes, which numbered fifteen hundred Bretons, nearly all of the peasantry. He must have spent a good deal of money-what with the railway and the hotels! It seems odd to speak of railways and hotels in connection with pilgrimages, and, in very fact, it is odd, for one naturally expects that the enlargement of view, the new ideas arising from the first, and the luxury suggested by the last, would be
the most effectual agents in arresting mediæval customs; and so they will be in time, but for the moment they are caught at and made to serve the turn of those who live and thrive on this strange and antique superstition. Many a temporary expedient to revive a dying dream does but make more sure the final awakening.
My bonne, Françoise, has also been on her pilgrimage, and has experienced a real miracle, worked upon herself, to which I can give the whole weight of my disinterested testimony.
Françoise was quite noted as a drinker-she had almost fallen into the ruck of life, and was considered irredeemable, when, all of a sudden, she took off her shoes and stockings, and started for a particular saint's abode to get cured of her drunkenness. Barefooted she went, and barefooted she returned, cured and in her right mind. For six months she tasted no fermented drinks, but solaced herself with vinegar-and-water. At the end of six months she went again barefooted to return thanks to the bon Dieu for her miracle. She lives now in our house, and is as sober as a judge (ought to be), and as lively as a cricket. This miracle I can attest, and if it lasts it will indeed be a miracle, and a proof of the power of means to an end, even although the means should only prove to be the action of the mind upon itself. What man can not do alone, he can do with the help of a little well-acted fiction, with the dramatis personæ and final tableau all duly arranged in the mind beforehand. Françoise thinks that she has her familiar devil, who thwarts her at all points and strives to make her swear. Yesterday she attempted to light a candle with a burning stick, and several times failed. She accused her devil with his villainy, but at last she lighted the candle and exclaimed, “Ah, I have conquered, and you did not make me swear"; but as she placed the candle on the table it went out, and she mournfully remarked, "No, he has conquered, after all." All these ideas are common to our Breton folk.
These people do not look dirty. Their dress is always decent, and on fête-days it is beautiful as well as costly. Yet I believe that a Breton peasant never washes once in his life. I never saw any washing apparatus in any of their rooms, nor did I ever see one of them washing in a tub, or at a stream, or at the well. None can have better opportunities of observation than I have. Opposite my window is the well, the one watersupply of a settlement; to it all must come for water, yet I never saw one wash anything but clothes at or about it. Really and truly they are and must be as dirty as the pigs who live and sleep at their bedsides. In all my dealings with them, I give them a wide berth, especially the children, and experience fully justifies my caution.