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“ You don't understand the Eton boys,” said he ; " the more obstacles and dangers that you throw in their way, the more will their adventurous spirits be roused to defy and to overcome them. Take away your springguns and your man-traps, if you really have any set, and remove all your threatening placards from your walls, which only provoke to mischief and retaliation."
“What, then,” interposed the wretched man, “ am I to do nothing; but lose all my fruit year after year, without help or redress ?”
“Do this," said the old boy; “hang up a polite invitation to the Eton boys, addressed to them exclusively, and informing them that they may have free access to your garden, and eat as much fruit as they please, at all times, WITHOUT PAYING !"
The old gentleman pondered on this counsel, and liking the conceit, did even as he was advised. The next time that a marauding gang appeared, the first thing that caught their eyes was the “paper,” inviting them to eat as much of the fruit as they pleased, “WITHOUT PAYING.
“ Confound the fellow's impudence!" exclaimed Lackrent, “ do you see that? He says we may eat his fruit without paying! I'll be hanged if I'll eat the fellow's fruit without paying! Would you, Linden ?"
“No, indeed,” said Linden. • By Jove! what does he take us for ? Does he suppose that the Eton boys eat people's fruit without paying for it? What mean fellows he must suppose us to be! It's an insult to the college !"
“ I vote that we get a lot of fellows, and smash his windows for it,” resumed the indignant Lackrent, who had ever been first and foremost in the marauding expeditions ; "who cares for his confounded apples and pears ? When we want them we can buy them. What are we to do now?"
“ It's a bore,” said Elmes, who was one of the party, " and the fellow ought to be well thrashed for his insolence ; but it's clear we have no right to spoil the garden in the old way now that the owner invites us to walk in and eat as much as we please, without paying'—the old rascal."
And so said they all; the old Eton boy knew their tempers well; they were checkmated ; they could not take by force of arms what was freely offered—there was no fun in that ; they could not degrade themselves by eating the man's fruit without paying for it; that was a meanness not to be thought of. Cursing the old fellow, his apples and his pears, and themselves for their disappointment, they returned back to the school, re infectâ, and from that time the old horticulturist never lost an apple or a pear by the hands of the Eton boys; the principle of honour which animates them, preserved his garden as if it was an enchanted castle, from all future college marauders ; and although the old gentleman has long since been gathered to his fathers, his premises are held sacred even unto this day.
THE PARIAHS OF FRANCE,
If it was necessary to show with what an invincible persistence prejudices master mankind, and how powerless the law is to change those manners which it
reproves, the history of the accursed races of France would suffice for that purpose. It is easy to comprehend how the Jews, viewed as the descendants of the murderers of a Saviour, became objects of hatred and contempt among the more zealous Christians. It is equally easy to understand why the gipsy race, without law or faith, have been from all times proscribed by the nations among whom they rather wander than take up their permanent residence ; but there are races who resemble neither of these, who live in fixed abodes, who profess the same religion as their neighbours, who gain their livelihood by useful and honourable industry, and yet who mingle not with their neighbours by marriage or otherwise except in few and rare occasions, and who always preserve some features of physiognomy, language, dress, habits, or manners, which stamp them with the seal of difference of race and origin.
Many examples might be quoted in illustration of this state of things existing in a slight extent in our own country, but we have to do at the present moment with France, in parts of which, the deep-seated prejudices which were more particularly entertained during that long and uncertain period of semi-barbarity, designated as the dark or the middle ages, have been less effaced by the general diffusion of that civilisation which softens manners and rubs off the asperities of human prejudices, than in this country.
The small and discarded race called that of Oiseliers, or Ogelies, has almost disappeared from the Duchy of Bouillon, whose ducal castle they had once seized possession of, but being brought into subjection by the bishops of Liege, were reduced to the vilest offices within and around the same castle ; till they were erroneously looked upon by their neighbours, as descendants of those Jews who had been most clamorous for the Crucifixion, and who had been sent over by Godfrey de Bouillon as captives to the Christians.
But there exists in the present day, in the suburbs of St. Omer, called Haut-Pont and Lyzel, a community considerable as far as regards num. bers, who, without being oppressed, sedulously keep themselves apart and distinct from their French neighbours. The language of these people is like that of the Hellgolanders, a mixture of Flemish, German, and English, in which it has not yet been determined which of the Saxon elements most prevail, but which dialect is not comprehensible to the Flemings of the same neighbourhood.
The physical position of this peculiar race of people attests that they spring from a colony which originally recovered its territory from the great marsh that up to the eleventh century extended from the sea to the neighbourhood of St. Omer. The main thoroughfares of HautPont and Lyzell are in both cases water, and many a time have we taken boat from the latter village to shoot wild fowl, or to visit the once celebrated floating islands and the picturesque monastic ruins in the now royal forest of Clair-marais.
Most various, however, have been the theories advanced to explain the origin of the Hautponnais and the Lyzelards. An existing tradition traces them back to the epoch of the first invasion of England by the Saxons ; another refers them to a herd of Saracens, who carried their devastations into Artois. A M. Gudes makes them descendants of the Saxons dispersed by Charlemagne ; M. Legrand de Castelle argues that they are descendants of the ancient Morini. General Vallongue asserts that they spring from a colony of Flemings, who took refuge beneath the walls of St. Omer from the fury of the Normans ; and, lastly, M, Lesbroussart sees in them the descendants of those German soldiers whom Baldwin V., Count of Flanders, reformed after having made peace with the Emperor Henry III.
There exists more in the interior of France, at a village called Courtisols, near Chalons-sur-Marne, another race of strangers, whom the misfortunes of war, or other circumstances at present unknown, led to their settling at that particular spot. The tradition of the country is that these people are of Swiss origin, but this view of the case is not, in the opinion of qualified persons, corroborated either by their language or customs.
Still more centrically, at a little town called Paray le Monial, in the Charolais, as also in the department of Lozère, there exists a race designated as Polacres ; it is supposed from the kind of vessels in which they attained the coasts, who have also been supposed to be Moriscoes or Jews, chiefly from their burying their dead in grottoes open to the east.
There is a still more considerable population scattered over the department of l'Ain, known by various names, as Chizerots, Burins, and Sermoyens, who are as much discarded by the peasantry of their neighbourhood, as are the few Waldenses still to be met with in the same districts. A tradition makes them descendants of the Saracens who invaded France in the eighth century; but the learned Orientalist, M. Reinaud, has demolished this theory. These poor people were subjected in feudal times to all the miseries of serfdom, such as main-morte, &c. Among other duties that devolved upon them, one was to beat the ditches round the ducal mansion of Pont-de-Vaux to prevent the frogs from croaking and annoying the lordly inmates.
There also exists a small population with dark hair, and sun-burnt physiognomies in the peninsula formed by the union of the Loire and the Vienne, a spot which is designated as Le Veron, and which people have been supposed, but upon equally untenable grounds, to be descendants of the Saracens. It does not appear, however, that these poor people, who suffer much from malaria, are rejected in marriage, or contemned and despised like the discarded races of l'Ain, who speak of the country they inhabit as France, and of its inhabitants as Frenchmen, as if they did not consider themselves included in the same category.
But curious as in an ethnological point of view is the existence of small communities thus dwelling in the heart of a great nation, and yet more or less discarded by their neighbours ; such a strange and anomalous picture of long enduring prejudices is far exceeded by what is presented to us by the history of the race of people called Cagots in the Pyrenees, Gahets in Gascony, and Caqueux in Brittany--the true Pariahs of France.
This unfortunate people, degraded by popular opinion, and bearing the invisible stamp of malediction, have been held in aversion, banished, and repudiated everywhere as pestiferous beings, contact with whom, or even the sight of whom was a thing to be dreaded. They had no name, or if they had one their neighbours affected not to know it, in order to designate them solely by the humiliating epithet of Crestiaa or of Cagot. Their huts were erected at a distance from the villages, to which they only repaired to obtain their salary as carpenters or tilers, and to attend divine service at the parish church. They were only admitted into the latter by a little door, which was exclusively reserved for them; they partook o. the consecrated waters from a particular vessel, or it was distributed to them at the end of a stick. Even in the church itself they had a corner in which they were obliged to keep themselves apart from the rest of the faithful. People were even apprehensive that their ashes should contaminate those of purer races, and they were assigned a particular locality even in that place where all are reduced to an equality.
The populace was so imbued with the idea that the Cagots did not resemble other races of men in any one particular, that a father reduced to the last degree of misery would rather a thousand times have seen his daughter stretch forth her hand to ask charity, than to bestow that band upon a Cagot. This prejudice passed from the people to the higher classes of society, and both Church and State united to expel from all honourable employment, the victims against whom they were so cruelly and obstinately prejudiced. They were persecuted with such minuteness of detail, that they were only allowed to draw water from particular wells, and to the present day, there is scarcely a village in the Pyrenees where there is not a well or a spring designated as the “Fountain of the Cagots."
Can we be surprised then, that under the influence of such ideas, the most calumnious imputations, and the most discreditable suspicions were attached to this unfortunate people? They were denounced as witches and magicians ; the odour of their persons was declared to be infectious, especially during the great heats ; their ears had no lobes, like those of lepers; when the south wind blew, their lips, their jugular glands, and the goose's foot with which they were branded on the left arm,
up. The old traditions to which people give faith in the present day, represent the Cagots as luxurious and irascible, as greedy, proud, haughty, and full of pretensions. One old tradition asserts that when the epithet of Cagot was given to any member of this caste, branded by opinion, he had the right to exact a reparation before the magistracy, but he could only receive this on condition of bearing the mark of a duck's foot on the arm. It is certain that up to the end of the seventeenth century the Cagots of the Pyrenees, the Gahets of Gascony, and the Caqueux of Brittany, were obliged, by the laws then in force, to bear a distinctive mark, called a goose's or a duck's foot in the parliamentary verdicts of Navarre and Bordeaux.
We must ourselves personally plead guilty to having, when in the Pyrenees, confounded this condemned race with the Cretins of the valleys. Ramond was at that time our guide, and although we full well remember to have seen Gahets in the pinadas of the Landes, who bore no moral or physical disqualification, who, on the contrary, were of goodly stature, firm in their flesh, their features strongly marked, and their heads well developed; still it was not till we read Doctor Francisque Michel's elab
orate work just published, * that we felt how we also had allowed ourselves to be carried away by the stream of popular opinion.
It appears from Dr. Michel's learned work, that the first author who undertook to describe the Cagots was the physician Laurent Joubert, who designates them “white lepers.” Next came Francois de Belle Forest, who wrote in 1543, and spoke from actual examination. He recorded a variety of opinions upon the origin of the race, some of which have been handed down, with little change, to the present day. Some, he says, refer the bann that weighs upon these people to the curse of Elisha upon his servant Gehazi, and that they are of the race to whom the curse of Naaman must cling for ever and ever. (Hence he calls them Giezites for Gehazites.) Others say that they are the remains of the Goths ; while others believe that they are the remains of the heretical Albigenses, excommunicated by apostolic censure.
Florimond de Ramond, a magistrate and counsellor of the parliament of Bordeaux in the sixteenth century, appears to have first traced the origin of the name Cagots to Cans Gots, or “ Chiens Goths," "dogs of Goths.” Two Jesuits, who were missionaries in Bearn, called them Gascigothi. This opinion continued to receive favour till Pierre de Marca gave, in his “ Histoire de Bearn,” Paris, 1640, the result of his personal researches, and expressed his belief that they were descendants of the Saracens, who remained in Gascony after the defeat of Abd-el-Rahman by Charles Martel, from whence sprang, he adds, the name of Gezitains, the imputation of leprosy, and the brand of the goose's foot. This opinion of De Marca's was received as so satisfactory, that it remained unquestioned for a whole century, till several Spaniards, having returned to the old opinion that the Agots, as they are called in Basque and Navarre, were descendants of the army of Alaric II., dispersed by Clovis ; the witty Rabelais cut the Gordian knot by attributing to one race of people a double origin, asserting that they descended from the Goths and Saracens, and that they were “aussi puants que peu oro thodoxe."
One of the most curious opinions emitted upon the origin of the Cagots, was that of a solicitor of the parliament of Toulouse, who thus expresses himself :
We read in the universal history of Charron, that the valorous Yezith, or Gizith (Yezid), had filled the whole world with the glory of his name by the brilliant defeat of Hocmen (Husain), son of Ali, and son-in-law and nephew of Mahomet. Here is all the mystery that the word Yesite contains unveiled, and which no longer permits us to doubt that the Cagots descend from the Saracens, since the word Yezite is a compound from that of Yezith, grand emir, or khalif of the Saracens.t
Doctor Francisque Michel has not noticed that the opinion here emitted would establish a relationship between the Pariahs of the west and those of the east, at least of Anterior Asia, where the Yezidis, or l’zedis, so called after the renowned Yezid, live under the bann of the oft-repeated calumnies of devil-worship, of midnight extinction of candles, &c., &c. It is curious, also, that mysterious hebdomadal meetings are also laid to the account of the Cagots.
* Histoire des Races maudites de la France et de l'Espagne, par Francisque Michel, docteur en lettres, &c., &c. 2 vols. Franckfort.
† Dissertations sur les Anciens Monumens de la Ville de Bordeaur, sur les Galets, etc., par M. l'Abbé Venuti. Bordeaux, 1754.