Page images

All eyes

“It's all the same,” replied the old gentleman ; "they who have got plenty of Henry Hase's signatures may call themselves Henry Hase, or any thing they please. What I buy I can pay for; and no one can say that I ever bargained or bid for a cabbage or an estate without having the money

in my pocket to pay for it. That's more than some folks can say that make more show."

Saying this, the old gentleman put his hand into the breast-pocket of his coat, and drew out a plain black pocket-book, of an enormous size, and secured with a piece of tape. From this receptacle he extracted a parcel of bank-notes, one of which he handed to the auctioneer, pointing at the same time to the signature at the bottom :

“ Henry Hase," said the old gentleman.
“A thousand pound note !” exclaimed the auctioneer.

There was a renewed sensation among the company. A thousandpound note is a rarity not to be seen every day of the

year. were fixed on it admiringly, and the old gentleman instantly rose a thousand per cent. in public estimation.

The old gentleman dealt out another note to the auctioneer.

“Another thousand-pound note," said that dignified functionary, with profound respect.

The old gentleman dealt out a third. The company now became intensely excited; presuming that each of the parcel of notes which the old gentleman held in his hand to express the same amount, here was a man with a large fortune in his hand! Who was he? Who could he be ? Was it the god of wealth himself ? Was the mysterious “ Henry Hase” a myth, a fictitious personage, a symbol, a conventional association of letters necessary to complete the hieroglyphics of a Bank of England note; or was he a real personage, and now actually before them in bodily presence, the type and representative of the incalculable wealth of the great money-distributor of the empire? They now looked on the person of the old gentleman so plethoric of bank-notes with intense curiosity, mingled with a sort of veneration-so great and so profound is the subserviency of respect which the possession, or the supposition of the possession, of enormous wealth commands ! His coat, albeit that it was brown and by no means of a fashionable cut, now appeared to them superior to the most aristocratic of Bond Street habiliments ; his very gaiters were regarded with affection; and in the eyes of the subdued spectators, his old brown wig assumed the character of sublime! A man of wealth stood before them ; of real money wealth ; not of the hypothetical wealth of mortgaged acres, but of bonâ fide ready money:—they bowed themselves before Mammon !

“ Three thousand pounds," said the man of bank-notes, breaking the silence for the first time, in a lengthened speech, “will more than cover the deposit of twenty per cent., according to the conditions of sale ; and I presume the name of Henry Hase at the bottom of the bills will be satisfactory" (the auctioneer bowed his assent), “ not that I mind giving my own name” (and the old gentleman said this, as I thought, with a sort of effort); “it's not a bad one, I'll take it on myself to say, to be written across a bill."

The old gentleman ceased ; the crowd murmured its applause ; for words that fell from so rich a man, all felt, had a hallowed meaning. Even my father, I observed, was struck with the quiet predominancy which the old gentleman had acquired over the assembly; and whether it was that he could not make up his mind at the moment to bid further against so powerful a competitor, or that he had already exceeded the sum which he had calculated on borrowing for the purchase of the estate, I do not know, but he saw the auctioneer's hammer descend for the last time in favour of « Henry Hase,” without any further attempt at competition ; being filled, however, with so intense a hate of the successful competitor, that he could not trust himself longer in his presence, from the fear of betraying in an unseemly manner the excess of his mortification-ready-money and bank-notes being a principle in direct antagonism with my father's habits and prepossessions—he left the room precipitately, followed of course by me, and we mounted our horses in silence to return home.

For the first four or five miles my father trotted on briskly without speaking a word, as if desirous of shaking off the recent disgrace of his defeat in having been outbid by a stranger, in the face of the whole county, and, as it were, close to his own door. Then he pulled up; took off his hat; wiped his forehead with his handkerchief ; and gave brief vent to his feelings :

“Who can that vulgar-looking old brute be ?”
“You mean the old gentleman in the brown wig ?” said I.

“Of course I do ; who else should I mean? And then the vulgar ostentation of pulling out that heap of bank-notes! As if any one could care for his bank-notes !"

“ No one could care,” said I. “But they did, though,” said my father, suddenly contradicting him

“ did you see how the grovelling fools were ready to worship him for his money

?” “Did you remark his gaiters ?" said I.

“ His gaiters !-depend on it," said my father, with warmth," he is some retired cheesemonger, or grocer, or fishmonger, he had an air of red-herrings about him."

“ His wig,” said I, was very funny.”

“ Funny! it looked like the cast-off wig of a hackney-coachman. Not that I wish to turn any person's appearance into ridicule, which is wrong, very wrong ; and I trust, Leander, that you will never be guilty of that impropriety. But there is one thing that I must particularly caution you against, and that is not to form any acquaintance with this person if he should come to reside here, for his appearance is so decidedly vulgar that I am sure your mother would object to it, and of course all his family must be as vulgar as himself.”

“Of course,” said I ; - but has he any family ?" “ The devil a bit do I care," said my father, spurring on his horse.

“ Nor I,” said I, merrily, as I put mine into a smart canter. On this point, however, I was mistaken ;-the man in the brown wig had a daughter! Certainly, no one who asked the Etonian question of “ under derivatur,” in relation to such a daughter, would have expected to be referred to the proprietor of that brown wig !-But the introduction of a lady in these pages demands the respect of a new chapter.


THE CAGOTS. Doctor MICHEL has lately visited personally the generality of the villages inhabited by that persecuted race of people called Cagots—the Pariahs of France--who have been supposed by many to be extinct; and we borrow from his statements the following curious details. He relates that at Bozate, the chief place of the Agots of Navarre, they were not formerly allowed to loiter on the square, to sit upon the public benches, or to join in publicamusements or in dancing. At Saint Gaudins, in the Haute Garonne, where they are called Capins, they lived in a particular district of the town, and their private church-door and particular vessel for holy water, still exists. At Saint Beat there is a street called “ Ech gouté des Cagots.At Montrejean, the Cagots were also designated as the “short-eared,” but Dr. Michel says, that it is the Cretins who are deficient in the lobe of the ear, and not always the Cagots; among whom he mentions having seen some who had the ears covered with hair.

In the Hautes Pyrénées, the little church door-ways and vessels for holy water are met with in three different places. Throughout these districts, the Cagots so generally ply the trade of carpenters, that the word Cagot is, as it is, also, in some other places, synonymous with the branch of industry which they profess. These poor people dwell in huts built in the hollow of valleys, so surrounded by trees that the sun can never reach them. It appears as if they wished to withdraw themselves from the

eyes of the superior castes. They once possessed in the hamlet of Mailhoc, a little church of their own. At Terranère, in the same district, a wall separated the cemetery of the Cagots from that of the other inhabitants. The Cagots of Lourdes are described, by a M. Arrou, as having the lower limbs shorter in proportion than the upper, small blue eyes,

small ears without any lobes. According to some, this type is only lost by intermarriage. At Saint Pé, the Cagots were only admitted into the vestibule of the church.

Some centuries back, a quarrel having taken place between the Cagots of this latter place and the inhabitants of Lourdes, several of them were slain, and their heads were cut off, and rolled about like bowls in the square of Saint Pé. In consequence of these misdeeds, the Cagots were condemned, by the parliament of Toulouse, to enter Lourdes by only one street, to walk only in the gutters, and not to remain there after sunset, under penalty of two ounces of flesh being cut out the whole length of the spine, for each offence.

So dreaded was the door-way of the churches frequented by the Cagots, that the trick of a peasant, who put gravel into the key-hole of the ordinary door-way to oblige the priest to enter by the accursed passage, was only wiped out by bloodshed. These tiines are, however, now gone by; the priests themselves set the example of passing through the door-way of the Cagots, and these separate passages are now walled up in the generality of churches.

It is related at Campvern, that a number of Cagots took refuge in the castle of Mauvezin, the ruins of which are still seen close by that place, and that they lived by plunder, and totally separated from the other inhabitants of the country, and that they protected themselves from popular enmity by means of a drawbridge. At length, a man of Mauvezin, who led his flocks daily to pasture near the castle, succeeded in establishing an intimacy with them, and in obtaining their confidence: He succeeded

and very

the spot.

so far, that one day, after having concerted the matter with the principal inhabitants of his village, he induced the Cagots to go forth out of their castle, even to one who was lame, and whom he bore on his shoulders, to play at bowls in a neighbouring field, which is still designated as that of the battle. After having played a short time, he pretended to be thirsty, and went to the castle to procure drink. Once in, however, he raised up the draw-bridge, and shouted out to the villagers, who rushed in a body upon the Cagots, and these being unarmed, were every one slain on

At the church of Tarm, in the neighbourhood of Pau, there still exists a blue stone in the centre of the door-way, which served as a mark to distinguish the

passage of the Cagots from that of the other inhabitants. At Lespielle there is a spring on the estate of M. de Saint James, commonly called “ La Houn deus Cagots.” At Bordes the repudiated doorway which is common to most of the churches in the Pyrenees and the Landes, is surmounted by a monogram of Christ, X. P. Š., accompanied by the A and the 2 according to the Roman style of the twelfth century.

A tax called runcale was levied in the parish of Lescar up to the period of the Revolution, and the tax-gatherer was accompanied by a dog, for whose benefit he had the right to exact a bit of bread. An anecdote is related of Henry IV. in reference to this parish, which would show that the monarch's inclinations were stronger than his prejudices. Suing a young girl of Bilhères in this parish, the latter declared amidst her tears that she was not worthy of his attentions, or of the feelings which he flattered her she had inspired him with.

“ Why so ?” exclaimed the prince. 6 Because I am Cagote.”

“ And I also,” immediately answered the verd galant, et jou tabe qu'en soy, au Dion biben."

At Jurançon, parish of Pau, the Cagots were obliged to have the figure of a man, sculptured in stone, above the door of their houses, and it would appear that the receptacle for holy water used by the Cagots was always distinguished by particular sculptures, but of what kind has not been determined, as being of an insulting character, they were either mutilated or destroyed at the period of the Revolution.

At Pau itself the Cagots monopolised the profession of chimney-sweeps, but in other places they exercised the trade of weavers, as well as that of carpenters and joiners—their most common pursuits. It appears that the discarded races also enjoyed certain privileges. Thus it is stated that if a loaf of bread was by any accident placed on the table upside down, it became the property of any Cagot who might be present, and this is even said to have extended to the load of a mule or a donkey if the said load happened to be placed mouth to mouth. They have also held responsible situations in some places. Thus a Cagot was admitted into the brotherhood of White Penitents at Pau, in 1756. The head of a family at Momas was elected into the municipality of that place, and the mayor of Neivailles still adds the epithet Chrestiaa to his name. They have also often become farmers and freeholders, and held small properties. Thus Antoine de Peyré was, in virtue of his marriage with Anne de Saint Abit, lord of the place of the latter name. A Cagot was also mayor of Louhossoa near Bayonne. The Cagots are very numerous around 'Oléron. In that neighbourhood they are more enterprising and

more courageous than the other inhabitants, and are much engaged in smuggling. They often become officers, in the municipality and of the national guard ; but the enmity entertained towards them by the pure races is as strong as ever. The use of the epithet of Cagot always leads to quarrels, in which sticks are freely resorted to, and blood is


often shed. Some of the wealthiest inhabitants of Escon and Herrière are descendants of these pariahs.

Mountainous countries being essentially conservative of institutions, habits, and manners, it is not surprising that in the Landes and the department of Gers, the Cagots are less numerous than in the Pyrenees. But still they are by no means uncommon. There is scarcely a town that has not a suburb bearing the name of Cagots or of Gezits; every church had once its particular door and holy water basin, and there still exists to this present day the same repugnance to any alliance by marriage with the repudiated races as is to be met with in the mountains. It is related that in the first year of the reign of Louis XVI., a rich Cagot of the Landes having been seen upon three different occasions making use of the holy water vessel of the pure races, an old soldier repaired on the ensuing Sabbath to the church, and lay in wait with a drawn sword. At the moment when the pariah was about to violate the injunction established by religious prejudice against bim, his hand was struck off, and the bystanders immediately seized upon it, and nailed it to the door of the church as a warning to others of his race.

The Gahets of Bordeaux were consigned from time immemorial to a particular suburb, where they had their own church, called that of St. Nicolas de Graves, or of the Gahets.* The race extended thence by Poitou to Brittany. Several notices exist of their residence in the latter country in the fifteenth century, when they were called Caquins, and their villages maladreries. Wherever they went, however much Doctor Michel may wish to pass it over slightly, the opprobrium of disease clung to them. In this maritime country these poor people particularly airected the business of rope-making, and the rope-makers of Trebison, at Lannilis, in Finistere, are still, according to Dr. Michel, contemptuously spoken of as Cacous. The race was held in similar aversion throughout Brittany as elsewhere, and was looked upon as attainted with leprosy. It was not till after the Revolution that they were permitted to bring a bench near the porch of the church of Pontivy in Morbihan. The Bretons preserved themselves from the spell of the Caqueux, by hiding the thumb under the four fingers, and saying, as they passed one or more of them, ar garet. In Brittany, however, as in other parts of France, the prejudice against these people is allowed to be considerably diminished since the Revolution, and the fusion with other races is rapidly removing all traces of their former existence.

The pariahs of France have not only been made the subject of many historical dissertations, but, although a degraded race, they have also furnished heroes for romance. The novel called “Corisande de Maulen," by Madame de Montpezat, is founded on an incident in the history of Bearn which has reference to this unfortunate race. In “ Le Cagot, nouvelle Bearnaise,” the author, M. J. Bade, has made use of many popular traditions in reference to the same race. A novel called “ Le Pariah des

The Gahets were at one period forbidden by an act of the Bordeaux parliament to appear in public without shoes, and without a piece of red cloth attached in a visible manner to their clothing, under the penalty of getting a beating.

« PreviousContinue »