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comb my hair (by the by, I doubt whether there ever were any mermans, and whether they ever had long hair-but let that pass). Mine is an inner bay; outside roll the waves of the Bay of Biscay. My sea à moi borders on a parc aux huîtres, or (as it is written on the boards which mark its boundaries) parc à huitres, belonging to the French Government, which is kept up as a feeder for all the rivers, estuaries, and other possible spots where oysters can be sown by a paternal government.
I went to inspect this parc a day or two ago, and now consider myself quite learned in the matter of oysters, so I will put down what I learned. Of course I saw it at low water, for the whole affair is down in the deep at high
First, there is a series of walls about two feet high and eighteen inches broad, which appear to be constructed to keep the peace among the oysters—or, in other words, to prevent currents and storms disturbing their tranquil lives. Inside these walls is a series of little houses, constructed rapidly, by putting together-much as soldiers stack their muskets-half a dozen rather narrow tiles thickly covered with lime.
These tiles receive the milk or spat of the older oysters, which, adhering to them, remains and grows into the oysters which some day are to be carried away as seed, or as future mothers in a future bed. I saw oysters at all stages of their growth: tiny little specks of this year, babies a year old, young people of two years, and others ready for eating or deporting, of three, four, and five years' growth. As a rule, they are not eaten until they are three years old, but dredgers would not reject those of two years, although at that age they would be small. Oysters are quiet people, and only ask to be left alone. They never move from the spot upon which they are deposited, yet like all other quiet people they have very unquiet enemies, which not only disturb their lives, but even destroy them. One of these enemies is sought for with great eagerness by the guardian of the parc, as it is most deadly, and devastates his beds. It is a small whelk (called Luskina Bigourneau) in a spiral shell, which fastens on and bores a hole through the shell until it reaches the oyster, upon which it feeds until there is no more oyster left. I saw many of the shells of the unfortunates which had been thus penetrated and devoured, and I saw several of the little whelks which had killed them. They did not appear to possess any weapons, or to be anything but little innocents; such is the deceptive character of the outside appearance both of men and fishes.
Some fifty or eighty women work daily at low tide among these oysters, yet the bed is not well
cultivated. It yields a profit, if you calculate the market value of the oysters exported, but it would yield a far larger profit if properly worked, as doubtless it would be worked by a private individual; by which it appears that governmental control is not always the most profitable.
Now come inside my garden. First, look at my pleasure-garden. It is elaborately laid out with lawns and fountains and beds, but, like all other ideal plans, it has yielded to the necessities of actual French life. The lawns have been utilized for the growth of hay for the horses and cows. The fountain was once supplied by a cistern on the roof of the kitchen, but it leaked and made the house damp, so it was removed, and the pipes, taps, and empty fountain give an expression to an idea rather than a reality. All round the fountain are beds with pear-trees as sentinels, looking continually into the empty reservoir. Pear- and apple-trees stand also marshaled round all the walks, and flowers grow in happy disorder, sometimes in the beds, sometimes in the paths; while the strawberries have crept up into the lawns and sprinkle the hay for the horses and cows.
It is, perhaps, difficult to understand the plan of this my flower-garden, but it is like a courtyard of an ancient castle inclosed within an earthen rampart upon which there is a broad walk.
My kitchen-garden is very large indeed, and contains such a wealth of strawberries and asparagus as I have never before beheld. Day after day we send twenty-five or thirty pounds' weight to market, and yet we eat them ourselves all day long, and give them in great quantities to our neighbors. I could linger long over these gardens, but, as I want to keep you in good humor, so that you may love this Brittany of ours with its picturesque scenery and still more picturesque inhabitants, I pass on.
A few days ago, under press of circumstances, and because I could not secure our regular marketer, I sent my garçon Thoma to the city, ten miles away, with a large basket of strawberries for sale. He left here about four o'clock in the morning, arrived at the town before the markethour, sold his strawberries, and ought to have been back here about 10 A. M. Instead of which, Thoma, who is a sailor and jack-of-all-trades, who wears a sort of sailor's guernsey and talks a patois between French and Breton, got into temptation and fell.
Drink did it all. Drink lays low the greater part of our poor Bretons. One sees more people helplessly drunk or maudlin drunk here far away from towns in these rural abodes than even in England; only they are for the most part quiet: they neither swear nor fight.
Poor Thoma kicked quite over the traces.
Perhaps he had felt too much of the Englishman's yoke; perhaps he had done enough work for a month or more. At any rate, he drank, then engaged himself to marry a dirty little ugly woman who did his washing (that is, when he did not do it himself), and finally he bolted with all my strawberry-money, and I have not seen him since. I am grieved, not on account of the money, for I owed him as much in wages, but because, now my poor Thoma is gone, I have no sailor for my boat, no one so utterly droll, or so beautifully picturesque to look at and laugh. For Thoma was the most slippery sailor, the most idle fellow in the world. He never did half a day's work while I had him. He waited till my back was turned, and then left spade, vessel, rope, or barrow, without attempting even to put tools away. Only in one way was he ever working happily, and that was the way he knew was wrong. Under such circumstances he would display an energy worthy of a better cause. Once he went with me to buy a little pleasure-yacht, but before meeting the owner he agreed with me that he would only give his opinion in sly winks. We went on board with the owner, who pointed out the various good points of his vessel, constantly appealing to Thoma for confirmation, and always being backed up by my garçon, but, when the owner for an instant turned his back, Thoma screwed up his face into all sorts of contortions, and managed to convey to me his disapproval of the purchase.
Our other servant is also an experiment, and a failure. The servant difficulty not only exists here as elsewhere, but it is aggravated by the independence of the people and their exceedingly dirty habits. Very few country girls care to go out to service, in fact, scarcely any at all. Here in the country we are driven into the towns for servants. The women work on the land as hard as or harder than the men; moreover, they prefer their independent life to service; they like better to dig, or hoe, or weed, or get together the seaweed for manure, in dirty clothes and sabots, than to submit to the neatness and respectability of domestic life. They are also in demand for wives. The peasants marry when mere boys, without any apparent means of living, trusting to Providence, and at worst content with black ryebread and a lick of greasy soup. Our Jacquette is a jeune fille, which is the French euphemistic expression for an old maid. She will never see fifty-five again, if she be not quite sixty; yet, when I asked if she were veuve, I was told she is a jeune fille. She is honest as daylight, which is more than I can say for most Bretons, who are pilferers, not robbers, at least in these parts. She is economical to a fault; wastes nothing, almost eats nothing; keeps the men on soup made of
greasy water and bits of bread, and puts even water used in cooking into the universal soup. Yesterday she sent in the peas with a lot of greenlooking water, which one of our party, disliking, took into the kitchen to pour away; Jacquette requested as a favor that it might be put into her own particular plate of soup, and it was. But Jacquette never washes, or, if she does wash, she does not conquer her dirt. She is dirty in person and dirty in cooking our food. She is a bad cook, and smokes everything she cooks. She potters about all day, yet does not even keep the rooms clean. Upon the ladies falls almost all the household work. Why, then, do we keep Jacquette? First and foremost, because we can not get a better; next, because we like her very much for her good qualities; and, lastly, because when once we told her to go in a week, the dear old thing was so meek, so patient, so enduring, that we almost wept for her, and kept her on. Just now I hear her shrill voice talking to little Marie, the farmer's daughter, in the kitchen.. Marie goes just where she likes, and does just what she likes. She is an only child, not three years old. Her little brother Jean died just as we were moving in. Marie is very pretty, but also very dirty. She wanders about in sunshine and storm, early and late, with her father, mother, or grandmother. She pulls up plants, treads down seeds, walks knee-deep in manure, and, no matter how clean she may start, she makes herself into a little pig in half an hour. The ladies make a great pet of Marie, for we have no little ones here. Marie knows her power, talks French, plays at bo-peep with us, has rather an awe of monsieur and his great pipe; but still, even with him, pops round the corner and cries "Coocoo!" Yesterday, madame was playing with her some time, then turned her out into the garden, shut the door, and went up stairs, thinking all below snug and safe. In an hour or less she went down to her salon again, and found Marie seated amid all her knickknacks and books, which she had removed from the tables on to the floor, and made into a heap of unutterable confusion. Ere a word could be spoken, Marie burst into a scream. She knew that she was naughty, and no reproach could be leveled at her because of her noise. However, she was put out in disgrace, well scolded by Jacquette, and presently came in very prettily to say, "Pardonnez-moi, madame-pardonnez-moi." (Jacquette has just passed my window, in an old close-fitting nightcap, with a patched petticoat and dirty face.)
Marie can look just like a pretty Dutch doll, when she is washed and dressed. She wears long clothes, just like her mother, only longer, with a tight-fitting, square skull-cap embroidered with gold. Under such circumstances the little lady
is proud enough, I can tell you. She has a droll way, too, of referring to her dead brother, who was younger than herself. If she does not like her food, she requests that it may be given to Jean. Yesterday she declared that Jean had moved the articles in madame's room. Poor little Jean (if he had lived) would, I fear, have experienced what most younger brothers experience from their elder sisters—a great deal of bullying.
I hear Jean's step; he is going in to dinner; it is twelve o'clock. Poor Jean! he is a dying man. He is in a consumption, and will not live another year. He is one of the best specimens of a Breton farmer; yet hardly a fair specimen, as he speaks French, has been in the army, served in Algeria, got taken prisoner by the Germans, and is most intelligent. He attributes his sickness to ill-treatment in the army, and to German prisons. Really, they do treat their soldiers in France in a most brutal way. If such things occurred in England, all the press would ring with them; Parliament would be set aflame, dinner-tables discuss them. This poor fellow (in a galloping decline) is in the territorial reserve, which made it incumbent on him to go to our town and pass fifteen days in barracks. He is so ill that he got a medical certificate, upon which he relied to get excused, and he was excused, but not until he had spent two days in barracks, almost without food, and sleeping on the floor. He went in on Thursday noon, and never got any food till Friday night; and he says this was so with all the others, and is generally so in the French army. Jean is about thirty years of age, has a nice wife, and little Marie is his daughter. He has land of his own, but lets it, preferring to farm, at a rental of ten pounds a year, the eight acres which belong to this château. All that I have said of Jean will show that I am not anxious to run down the Breton farmer; so now, if I say a little more, you must take it as arising from a great desire to tell you the whole truth about our life in Brittany. Jean is, in two respects, a typical man, a fair representative of his class. He is greedy of money, and he does not mind little acts of dishonesty in order to gain the money he covets. By the nature of his tenancy, he holds half the stables, half the coach-houses, half the various out-buildings. He will now and then make a mistake about the hay, and give some of mine to his own horse; he will, if he can, help himself to a little out of my gardens. When he goes to market for me, he takes something of his own at the same time, so as to mix up matters, and make calculation or detection of petty thefts difficult. This I know, because I have several times been to market myself, and always brought home more money than Jean is pleased to give me.
Yvonne, Jean's wife, is a well-built woman, large, muscular, of the Breton type, and fairly good-looking. She is pleasant of speech and can talk French well. She seems to me the nicest person of the family, but time may modify this opinion, and if it does I will let you know. Yvonne works in the fields with her husband, but has special care of the cows, which she takes out in the morning and brings in at night. For these cows she gathers grass, tares, weeds, and varieties of all sorts. She milks, churns, carries the butter to market, and does that part of the farming which is the realization of all the rest. I say realization of all the rest, but I mean that it is the end of the machine, out of which comes the fully made coin or cash. Off eight acres of land there can be little of produce to sell; all is consumed by four cows and one horse. Therefore, what these four cows produce is the net result of the farm, and it is sufficient to enable Jean, Yvonne, Marie, and a disagreeable mother-in-law to live well, to pay their rent of ten pounds a year, and to save annually another ten pounds. Living well with a Breton farmer means blackrye bread, galettes of buckwheat flour, crêpes of buckwheat flour, vegetables, soup with lumps of bread and a skim of grease, and a piece of meat when they kill a pig or go out to a wedding. It seems to agree with them well, as they look healthy and work well, at least when working for themselves.
You know now our household. Come with me next, and let me introduce you to our neighbors. Strictly speaking, neighbors we have none, unless the guardian of the oyster-beds and Jean, and a widow who lives in a hovel at the end of the gardens, are counted as such. But by neighbors one generally means those gentry who live round about; of these I desire to speak now. Monsieur le B- is young, and a bachelor. He lives in a pretty little house near the village. We pass his house whenever we drive into the town, and whenever we pass it we admire it, because it looks so snug amid its roses and dahlias (yes, dahlias bloom here in June). Once or twice we met a young man near the gate, who took off his hat, and never replaced it until we had passed. Of course we reciprocated his politeness, although we did not know who he was, until one day he walked up to me and introduced himself as Monsieur le B-——, and stated that he had come to me to tell me that the neighbors were rather astonished that I did not call upon them, and had expressed a wish to know us. I thanked him heartily, but told him that it was not the custom in England to call upon people until they had first called upon you; to which he replied that the custom of France was for new-comers to call first, which custom he felt it his duty to make
known to me as a stranger. He offered also to go with us and introduce us to the houses of those upon whom we ought to call. His offer was accepted, and next day we traveled in company to our next neighbor, who is also the leading member of our society, the Comte de K, who is married to an American lady. I desire to represent to you these Breton gentlemen exactly as they are, not as romance on the one hand, or ridicule on the other, might paint them. Some people travel the world with an English "bee in their bonnet," nothing pleases them if it differs from the English idea, and yet when in England they are dissatisfied with the English. I am a cosmopolitan, and have lived in divers lands, so I admire what is good and dislike what is bad, without any reference to English customs. Behold, then, Monsieur le Comte de K. He is in manner a perfect gentleman; in dress careless-not slovenly, but content with a country cut and comfortable clothes. He speaks a few words of English, which he has picked up from his wife, but he says that he can not understand my accent, being accustomed to the American. He is a busy man; not that he holds any office, but he farms his own land, besides doing a smart business in sardine fishery, and in a sort of carrying trade with vessels of small tonnage. His house is on the seashore, so that he can overlook his marine business as well as his farm. It is, when viewed from a distance, picturesque; but when viewed close it is something, as regards repair, like a Turkish building, and that means tumbling down, because the Turks build but never repair. Pleasant, courteous, friendly, is le Comte. His house is rough in the exterior, and does not possess the ordinary comforts of an English third-rate house within; but the salon is spacious and well furnished. Madame was once a Presbyterian, but has jumped from that denomination into extreme Ultramontanism, in which now she revels both in tongue and person. I fancy she overleaps them all who were "to the manner born," and that she rather bores them, as she most certainly bores me with her fervid vertism. Le Comte was one of the officers of the Pope's foreign legion, and was taken prisoner at the siege of Rome, and all our Breton nobles here were in the Pope's army either in Rome or France, so that their loyalty to Ultramontanism may not be questioned, yet madame goes beyond them all. She has, however, fallen into congenial company in her married life-if, indeed, she was converted after marriage, of which fact I am not certain. She is a pleasant lady, with a little family of a rather mongrel character, but, so far as I know, very nice and good. Pray don't think I mean anything disparaging by mongrel, but it is the only word which expresses well a cross
breed. The Count is very fond of sea-fishing, but rarely indulges his taste, because he says he has so much to do. By this you will perceive that he is hardly a fair type of the Breton gentleman, having, as it were, taken to commerce, whereas the others content themselves with the smaller economies, or rather smaller trade of growing things for the market, and turning a penny on their land; for here our gardens are really "market-gardens," out of which we take as much as we want, and send the rest to market. We are not ashamed to sell the produce of our gardens, not even the best and highest of us, for we are none of us rich enough here to do the grand seigneur. I must pause in my account of the Breton squires to describe the successor of poor droll Thoma. He is quite as funny as Thoma, and perhaps better-you can't think how I laugh inwardly and outwardly too, sometimes, at this funny little Breton mariner. He is an ancient mariner. His age is perhaps fifty-five; his hair long, and streaming in the wind; his stature about five feet four inches; his face thin; his feet either in sabots or bare; his nose always moist; his hearing hard; his understanding deficient; his pipe a weeny little thing two inches long; his dress Breton. Yesterday was a very windy day, but I would go out in the yacht. Patient Daniel did not approve of attempting to get out of a land- and rock-inclosed bay with a fierce head wind, but patient Daniel went at the bidding of the fierce Englishman. Patient Daniel suggested two reefs in the mainsail, which were duly tied up, and then he hoisted the sails in a mournful sort of way, as if we were a doomed crew. Up went the anchor with only the jib on her, and round she flew like a top, heading for the shore. We could not bring her about, so up went the mainsail, and then she flew like a gull at the rocks. More than once it looked as if she must strike, but patient Daniel and the fierce Anglais, and a brave lady who was on board, pulled at the ropes, tacked, put out the sweeps, and after two hours of skin-tearing work got out into the open sea. There the wind blew half a gale, and fishing was out of the question; but there Daniel lit up his little pipe, tucked up his little legs, and exposed his little bare feet as he hugged the tiller and luffed at every fierce gust. Mild were Daniel's oaths as the vessel drifted in stays. Sacré! and a few muttered words were but a mild "French-soup " edition of the language of the British tar. Now you see Daniel as he was yesterday. As he is to-day, you may see him if you will. He has to dig a bit of ground for cabbages, but he won't do it. He finds a hundred other things to do, so as not to do that. I have my eye on him, but it is no good. Just now I went down the garden to have a look, but my
bird had flown. It was low water, and yesterday we lost the anchor of the little canot, or small rowing-boat, which we use to get aboard and ashore. So Daniel was out in the sea with bare legs feeling about for it. I was determined to bring him back, so tucked up breeks and went in with him. We found it, of course, with my help, very quickly, and now, while I am writing, Daniel should be at that piece of digging. I will just go out and see, and bring you word when I come back. Not a bit of it. There is not a single spadeful turned, and Daniel is not even in sight. These Bretons are Irish, I am sure-so droll-so lazy.
Our next visit was paid to the Comte de T——, a nobleman of very ancient descent, young, pleasant, with a pretty Norman wife, a sportsman, an ex-pontifical dragoon. His house is new or newish, but the grounds, although extensive, are nothing worth, from an English point of view. The salon looks out upon fine level lawns, which, according to our Breton ideas, look better knee-deep in grass, bring more in, and cost less in labor than our English close-cut sward. As for sporting, there is none in summer; so le Comte de T― must find it difficult to fill up his time; but I have learned in America that there is a very clever way of doing nothing very slowly, so as never to feel tired of doing it, and such is the fashion also here. Certainly the Comte was judge, manager, and everything of a local race or race-meeting not long since, but race-meetings are rare here. After the races the Maire and other local celebrities of the second rank got up a grand wrestling-match, for which this part of France is famous. It was held at a large village some four miles away from us. I went of course. On my arrival at the field of battle the fun had commenced. Within an immense circle, in the middle of which were the judges, were two young athletes struggling and tugging each other's vests, as if the grand idea was to denude the adversary. I suppose they struggled for more than half an hour; but, as one of the wrestlers was very agile and stuck his head right into the other man's stomach, thus keeping him far away, there was no fair throw, and they had to be parted without any result. Many times they went down, but nothing counts here except a fair throw upon the flat of the back, so that both shoulder-blades touch the ground. This was not wrestling such as the people delight in, but soon they had their pleasure. A strong, tall man jumped into the ring, took the prize out of the judge's hand, and, hat in hand, walked round, defying all present. Another jumped into the ring, threw down his hat as gage of battle, and to it they went with a will; in fact, wrestling as it ought to be. Within two minutes there was a
close, a springing out of muscles, a toss in the air, and the losing man was lying flat on his back.
A sort of double visit was next paid to an old nobleman and his sons, one residing with him and one at a solitary farm cut out of the native woods. This man is more than "peculiar." He is the product of the soil of France and of the French laws. Monsieur de P—, representative of one of the old French noblesse, did live in the family château, which is no great things, surrounded by his family. His father was brother to one of the bishops of Quimper, and all the family are what they call here "blanc," which means devoted to the priests and the Roman Church. There are of course many whose devotion to Rome is purely political or controversial, but such is not the case with Monsieur de P, nor do I think it is so with his sons.
Monsieur de P is a perfect specimen of a perfect French gentleman. His manners are not constrained, but they are perfect. His intellect has been cultivated, and his religion is both simple and fervent. When his family grew up, he parted his property among them, so as to give the family seat to the eldest son, without subjecting them or himself to the French laws of subdivision. He must have been rich, for all the family have land. After this act he built a little Canadian shanty upon land which he had given to his youngest son, and now he lives a sort of semi-monastic life with that son. For amusement and profit he has flooded, by means of the tide, his low-lying meadows for the cultivation of fish for the Paris market. These meadows he stocked from the sea, so that now they are held without any need of the introduction of fresh fish, and he says the thing pays fairly well. The tide flows in and out, being regulated by floodgates. When I called, the old man was at home. He received me as a nobleman, and would not be seated until I had taken the chair of honor, beneath a niche in which was a statue of the Blessed Virgin. The room was small, warmed by a stove, paneled with unpainted wood, and the furniture consisted of a rough table and a few chairs. The conversation was easy, as Monsieur de P— seemed perfectly acquainted with England as well as other lands, and my hour passed away agreeably enough. When we parted, he escorted me to the outer gate bareheaded. I need only add that the sons agree perfectly well in the religious opinions of the father, and that Catholicism assumes in their case its very loveliest type. They yield a willing obedience to all the behests of the Church, yet suffer under no oppression from the clergy; and all this arises because they are content to live in the half-light of intellect, the unquestioning obedience, the willing submis