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It is the warmest in France, exceeding, perhaps, in' average temperature, that of the southern parts of Provence. The violent winds to which the whole coast to the north of the Pyrenees is exposed, are its chief drawback. The summer heat and drought are also excessive, and, on the confines of Languedoc, often burn up the crops before they are come to maturity; but in the rich valleys of the Tet and Tech, the numberless streams that descend from the mountains are so admirably distributed as to supply the place of rain, and, in conjunction with the heat of the sun, ensure in one and the same year a frequent repetition of luxuriant crops, while all around is dry and desolate. The vines, olives, and almonds that clothe the hills at the eastern extremity of the chain, suffer but little from the want of rain. Dug as they are about their roots, two, three, four, or seven or eight times a year, they imbibe from the abundant morning dews, moisture enough for their sustenance, sometimes for nearly a whole twelvemonth.
With all these advantages, it will not appear surprising that the peasant of Roussillon should derive ample compensation from what labour he chooses to bestow on the earth, and that he should live in afluence, notwithstanding the high price of provisions. Like the peasant of Lower Languedoc, or of Provence, he lives well, eats well, and dresses well, and lays by money besides. He is no drunkard, though he swallows his regular allowance of two or three bottles of strong wine a day. If he spends a part of his Sunday at a publichouse, if he frequents it after his return from work, on other diys, it is not to drink, but to eat a rabbit, a fowl, or some such dainty morsel, instead of his every day mutton. In this he has nothing to excite him to any great expense—he cannot swallow an unlimited quantity of meat as the inhabitants of more northern nations do of drink, or still more, arctic savages, of food of all sorts; and as to expensive dishes, they are out of his reach. Card-playing is the only ruinous vice in which he may sometimes indulge, but this is not very general, nor is it usually for large sums of money. The games of bowls, quilles, malle, &c. are either for very small sums, or for mere honour.
What he can save from his carnings he lays by till he has collected enough to add something to his territorial possessions. But here his calculation is frequently in fault: if he has twenty pounds he must needs purchase a field or vineyard for forty, pays down what he has in cash, and gives a bill for the remainder, chargeable by mortgage upon the land. Three or four years elapse; his bills become dne: sometimes he provides cash to meet them, but more frequently he has bought something else with what he had saved for the purpose, and must sell the first-purchased field in order to pay the debt upon it. The new buyer may perhaps pay down only a part of the sum, and thus leave two successive mortgages on the land. Thus I have witmessed the purchase of a piece of ground of not more than an acre, the price of which was to be divided among three successive proprietors. Nay, I have seen estates bought entirely upon a three years' credit, and when that time was elapsed, sold again to pay the whole of the original purchase-money.
The Roussillonais are in general a fine race of men, compared to their north-eastern neighbours; their features are strongly marked and ex
pressive, particularly when moved by the fiercer passions. Indeed their sun-burnt faces, early marked by wrinkles; their dark hair and eyes; their stout make and muscular limbs, never allow them to have any thing soft or amiable in their appearance. The women, in general, exposed like the men to the influence of the climate, partake of that masculine harshness of features which certainly does not become the fair sex. But here a fair sex certainly does not exist; and if beauty is to be sought for amongst them, it must be in that long dark hair, those bright, round, black eyes, expressive, as it were, of every thought or feeling; that beautiful set of teeth, and ever-laughing mouth ; in short, that bewitching activity in every feature and limh, which is never to be met with among the beautiful and fair, but cold and passive inhabitants of our northern climates.
The dress of the men, like their language, is nearer to the Catalonian than to the Languedocian; short jackets, high pantaloons, and occasionally a red sash. But the far more conspicuous part is the head-dress, a knitted woollen cap, of a bright scarlet colour, about two feet long and of equal breadth to the end, which is slightly rounded. These long ends hang down either on one side or behind, or are folded on the crown, as convenience or coquetry may suggest. The cap is warm and comfortable ; and when clean, as it usually is in districts so rich as Lower Roussillon, is really very elegant. On their feet, those who have not yet adopted the French shoes wear the Catalonian spardilles, a sandal made of pack-thread, with a very small heel-piece and toe-piece, and tied round the ancle with blue tape. The stockings they wear with these sandals, if indeed they wear any, are without feet, excepting a small strap under the sole to keep them down.
The dress of the women, I mean in the country, out of the town of Perpignan, is not showy. We seldom meet with that variety of colour that the Provençales delight in, or the eternal orange brown of the Montpellier grisettes ; they seem to prefer dark and dingy colours, greys of different shades, frequently in broad stripes, or occasionally scarlet, the only gaudy colour that pleases them. Their shortwaisted bodies and thick petticoats, gathered up into an enormous hunch on the back, are much the same as in Languedoc ; but in the head-dress, it is only on the northern limits of Roussillon that you still observe the small, narrow frilled cap, and broad, flat beaver hat of the other province. Farther south, it is the Catalonian ret and handkercbief. This ret is a black net, from two to three feet long, put on like the men's caps, except that it is firmly tied round the head with a black ribbon. The long tapering end hangs down the back, and is terminated with a handsome tassel. Over this is a three-cornered handkerchief, tied under the chin, so as to show over the forehead the ribbons of the ret, the third corner sticking out at the back of the head. With this head-dress, and their round bare foreheads and prominent features, shining and sun-burnt, they certainly do not, in general, look very graceful or lovely, yet I have sometimes seen it worn so as to become them exceedingly.
One quality both men and women, the latter in particular, possess to an extraordinary degree, that is vociferation, doubly striking in a country where the purity of the air adds so much to the conveyance of sound. The noise of a market or fair, or even of the every day.conversation of a town, may sometimes be heard for miles, and if yon happen to be present at the striking of any common bargain, and do not understand the language, you would think the parties were quarrelling for life and death; and when they really do quarrel, it is truly territic; their features are worked up to a pitch of animation scarcely conceivable by those who have not seen it; their heads bent forward, their arms thrown back, they stamp their feet, and both parties pouring forth at once a never-ceasing volley of words in a voice which drowns every other sound, you would believe that instant murder would ensue.
Yet they seldom come to blows; a quarter or half an hour of this vociferation usually terminates the dispute, each party, as he quits the contest to resume his work, still repeating the very word by which the battle began. Whether at work or at play, talk they must. In the fields, when alone, they sing or hold conversation with others at the distance of a mile or more. Among the hills about Collieure, I have often been surprised by loud chaunting, in alternate responses, when I could see no one ; at last I generally discovered among the vines, two peasants, on opposite sides of a valley, holding a conversation in this singular manner.
Dancing is one of their chief amusements. No holiday is suffered to pass by without it, and in many places they meet for the purpose almost every Sunday during the whole summer. They have not yet got the quadrilles and waltzes, now universal in Languedoc, but retain their old genuine Catalonian dance, and a most singular one it is. Their ball-room is either a court-yard, the village-green, or the public square of a town; the orchestra, raised upon wine-casks, consists of from one to half-a-dozen hautboys, if this name can be given to the jarring, screeching, noisy instruments, never in time, never in tune, which you may
hear a mile off from the village, trying, each in his own key, which can act most in opposition to every established principle of music and harmony. These are accompanied by a little drum (abont eight inches diameter), and a set of Pan's pipes, quite inaudible, whilst the hautboys are at work, but which are set a going with astonishing rapidity at every interval in the concert. The dance is begun by young men alone, who form a ring, holding hands, go round and round, backwards and forwards; or, breaking the circle, dance about in various directions, moving their feet with great activity for a few minutes, till suddenly stopped by a point d'orgue as long as the musicians' breath can hold it out. The whole then recommences in the same manner till after the second or third pause, when some of the young men beckon to those amongst the surrounding girls whom they wish for partners, and who immediately join in the ring. These ladies figure away opposite to their partners, alternately advancing as he retreats, or retreating as he advances, or turning round with him till the next pause, by which time the couples are all formed. As soon as the point d'orgue commences, all the girls are seen rising on a sudden high above the heads of the crowd, and remaining there sometimes for above a minute. This is done in two ways; the modern and genteel fashion is for the couples to join two and two, each girl places her hands on the two men's shoulders, and they, supporting her under the arm, raise them considerably above their heads, and hold them there as long as they can. Two girls being thus closely opposite to one another, they often
exchange a kiss in this position, to show their freedom and activity. But the far more common mode of elevation, as well as the one that pleases the girls most, as showing greater strength and dexterity in their partners, is for her to place her left hand on his right shoulder, taking his left hand with her right; he sets her on his right hand, and thus raising her at arm's length above his head, spins round and round with her sitting on his hand. The excellence of the cavaliers consists in the height to which they can raise their partner, the length of time they can keep her up, and the number of turns they can take. This elevation is the greatest delight of the girls; and as during the figuring they frequently change partners, according to the caprice of either, there is, immediately before the point d'orgue, a busy struggle to seize on the strong and active, and then universal smiles and laughter, in which, as a spectator, I always joined, for never did I see any thing more ridiculous. After the point d'orgue, the figuring about, followed by another elevation, is repeated two or three times, when the dance ceases, and the musicians (whose lungs must indeed be powerful to hold out as they do) are at last allowed to take breath.
This Catalonian dance, as it is called, is said to have been formerly a favourite among the higher classes at Perpignan. It is now confined, in that town, to shopkeepers and grisettes, but it is still universal in all country towns to the south of the Tet, more so even than in Catalonia, where the spirits and habits of the people do not allow at present of much idle mirth. The other amusements of the Roussillonais consist chiefly in bowls and nine-pins; the malle, so general in Languedoc, is but little played here ; and when neither bowls nor dancing are going forward, they frequently spend the Sunday, collected in groups, their arms folded, sitting before their doors, or leaning against a wall, absolutely doing nothing.
IM PERTINENT CURIOSITY;
Poor DebonAIR! Ifever man deserved a passing sigh from the lovers of sociality, it was Sam Debonair, for all his successes in the art of pleasing were the fruit of his own good spirit, while his only failure was the effect of the narrow-mindedness of others.
He had as little to answer for in the cause that cut short his popularity as a child coming into the world has to answer for the sins of its parent. But the world, we know, entails not only original, but conventional sins upon every descendant of Adam, and dooms an unhappy babe heir in reversion to all the contempt due to a reprobate parent. Sam had as much reason to complain as such a babe. The world made and decreed his mortal sin, for I will pledge my faith there was no virtual depravity in it; it was a metaphysical mode, a combination of simple ideas, harmless in themselves, but voted by the framers of virtues and vices, the right worshipful the public, to be bad; and so it became bad, nobody knew why, nor did any one care to ask himself why he should cut honest Sam's acquaintance, but cut it he did, because public opinion (the jade!) would have his offence to be unpardonable.
Now I fearlessly tell the self-same judges of poor Sam, that there was no transgression at all in his case. I am not going to suppress any part of his mysterious, imputed delinquency, but to enable the public to judge the case again dispassionately, as they have no mark now in Sam, nothing to keep alive their vindictiveness, since he is out of the way; and I will be content to be cut, rumped, and cold-shouldered as he was, if his offence was any thing but an imaginary one.
He had somehow got into a middling class of society, made up of the most agreeable constituents; men of moderate incomes, retired officers, professional candidates, commercial speculators, and literary aspirants. Such formed the principal ingredients of a circle united for amusement and conviviality. It included little of the forms of high life beyond what politeness exacted; no punctilious calls, and printed inquiries for all occasions ; no obligatory parties, and concerts of donna's and buffo's to crushed and mummied audiences. These were waived in favour of unceremonious invitations to partake of good fare and unfashionable mirth. On these occasions no one thought of leaving out rare Sam. Even if he made thirteen at a dinner-table, still it was no objection, for Sam was as good as two, which made all square again; or he was counted for nobody, but went included with the makers of the party, and, of course, was not the odd man. everywhere vice-president, being allowed by each to be, like Themistocles, the second best. He was evidently the pivot round which the circle moved. If you went to one coterie you saw Sam; if to another, though there might be a change of the set, you were still gladdened to meet Sam. The envious, indeed, called him trumps, spunge, burr, fixture, standing dish ; but even envy courted his society, and for a long time could not so much as spoil a dinner upon
Sam. He was not to be blown down by a breath, for he had taken root in the heart, or at least the void that passes for it; and if the root did not hold firm against a storm, it was not because he had not thrown out shoots and fibres enough to twine himself round any mortal heart, but because the heart was barren, and wanted soil for so generous a plant.
It would be difficult to define his agreeable qualities, and to say in what his universal power of pleasing consisted. Was it his face, his manner, his conversation ? but these were only secondary to something from which his own animation, affability, and power of entertaining sprang ; something that was indexed in his whole address, that made it impossible to impute bitterness or duplicity to any thing that he said or did. You were prepared by his look for a good-natured observation, and when it came, you naturally coincided in the remark, for it was timely, and the speaker was in good faith, and no bad judge of what influenced human opinions. But he was far from being a general panegyrist; and there were such shades between his admiration of a virtue and his palliation of a fault, as none but the blind could overlook. Of course his silence was severe censure; but Sam seemed loth to exercise such jurisdiction ; his pride was in exalting human nature, and human nature was grateful to him as long as could be expected from human nature. Thus I account for Sam's growing in the hearts of his friends, until a sudden blast supplanted him from so arid a site.
If we descend to particulars, Sam's address was easy, free, and uncopied ; it had nothing austere or dignified. He entered a room like