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VIGNETTES OF LANGUEDOC.
BY JAN GORDON (AND CORA J. GORDON).
XI. THE PEASANT PROPRIETOR.
THE type we conventionally proprietorship the
sole depict for the Frenchman- method of preserving national dark, small, excitable, exagger- prosperity. We were to make ated, over dressy, and gesticu- England a land "fit for heroes” lating—is the very type at by giving retired soldiers plots which the larger part of the of arable land, and by pushing dwellers in France laugh. He them out into the dreariness is the Toulousain or the Mar- of the country. The delights seillais ; he may have come of tilling for oneself were preto England in considerable num- sumed to overbalance all the bers connected with the wine other more convivial urban trade, and so have assumed a enjoyments. But to inquire national type. Here in the
Here in the more closely into how the recent Rouergue the peasants are easy- developments of French peasant mannered, merging towards the proprietorship work, let us look stolidity of the Auvergne, which a little more closely at Nlies east of us. One is going to Here we have a village of be easily tempted to generalisa- peasant proprietors ; within the tion, and one is tempted for a memory of living persons it has definite reason. When all is lost at least one-third of its said and done, the future of inhabitants. civilisation rests on the shoul- Under the peasant system ders of the peasant. He is the peasant proprietorship gives your final chairman who has an exaggerated amount of work the casting vote. The Russian for little result. Let us take Utopia, all our funny little as an example the
cooperUtopias, break on the back of tobacconist, father-in-law to the landworker. Commerce, Monsieur Lemoule, ex-American industry, &c., are only the bees soldier. The cooper owns his which suck the honey from the house in the village, where he flowers rooted in the soil; if lodges with his mother, his the plants refuse to bear flowers, daughter, and her husband. the bees die. So that “back The daughter makes hats, linto the land " is a slogan full of gerie, and sells a few tapes fine purpose, though as im- and ribbons ; the mother looks practical as any other idealism. after the tobacco-shop; the
It has been the habit of a cooper, with the inadequate certain set of Utopists to hold help of Lemoule, who is a war up the French system of peasant relic, tends his fields and pur
sues his trade. The fields them- house. From all these outlying selves are scattered : a mile to unguarded fields the crops must the east, on the top of a hill, be carted into the homestead, is a small vineyard ; a mile and which cannot afford the elbowa half to the south is another ; room of a farm. The livestock a mile and a half to the east- go into the basement with the north-east is a hayfield ; a wine - vats — the basse cour,mile and a half to the north- from which the animal effluvia east is a field under corn ; a of pigs, chickens, ducks, rabbits, half a mile farther on in the and oxen filters up through same direction is a field of every cranny, till, as we have cabbages ; along the railway- already said, the inhabitants line to the west some three are steeped in the odour of miles away, in a deep valley their cattle. The produce goes very difficult to get at, is a into the loft—hay, corn, brushpatch of brushwood for winter wood, cabbages, potatoes,
fires, coal being dear in N—; maize, &c.,—where it remains e and about a mile away on the a danger in case of fire, and no
point of a hill, separated from small breeder of fleas.
Nby a deep valley and Here the intelligent Utopian the river, so that the road begins to protest—“Yes, but makes nearly four miles of why don't ...?" But as loops to travel there, is a wood soon as one has recourse to of chestnut-trees, from which Why don't ?”in dealing with he gathers chestnuts and cuts humanity, one is lost. There his material for barrel staves. are a million obvious why The haphazard chances of land don'ts ? ” which nobody has division by marriage or in- ever yet solved. Utopia is only heritance have brought all these just round the
corner, and detached pieces of land into "why don't?" is the sign
': his possession. To predict a post. No one ever turns that little further, he may be ex- way. The peasants don't conpected to leave these intact to centrate their farms, first, behis daughter. To westwards of cause they are peasants, for
deep in the valley, exactly the same pig-headed Lemoule has a childless uncle prejudices which bring them with other scattered property, squabbling into the Court of so that Lemoule may inherit the Juge de Paix on Tuesdays. yet another patch or two to Besides, suppose a peasant has add to his sons' dispersed occu- land which gives him a bare pation. It must be clear that subsistence, how is he to afford farming under these conditions
- even if he wanted to the 1 can be productive neither of arbitration fees which would much enthusiasm nor of profit. attend the most simple piece
A natural result of this scat- of land exchange Moreover, tering of property is that the corn land, hay land, chestnut village home becomes the farm- land, brushwood, and vineyard
do not all gather contiguously , poor will fill his vegetable convenient in these hills.
basket." No! The small proprietor, This year the hay was spread, complicated by family division and dried to the rich man's and succession, does not seem whole satisfaction. a satisfactory solution to all Indubitably the only ableagrarian difficulties. The result bodied man who stays here, is — depopulation. Inevitably buried in the country without a the old abuse of landlord and private income a Governtenant will spring up onco ment job, is the man who more, and the vicious circle is cannot get away. One and all begun again.
the dwellers in N. bemoaned But a curious result of this their lot. peasant proprietorship is very “Eh, it's all very well for annoying to the would-be visi- you coming here in the sumtor—I do not mean to a mer,” they protested, “but try restaurant visitor such as our- the winter. Then you'll see.' selves, but to one who would The consequence is that take rooms and begin house- N - peasant-owned though keeping at home. In N it is, will be more and more there is a butcher (who sells setting its face to the town. rarely anything but veal), a The eldest son must remain to baker, and many grocers, but till the soil; the others can not one root of vegetable, not develop. The French peasant one head of cabbage or salad, differs from his compeers in can the intruder purchase. Each some other lands in that he peasant proprietor plants only has no prejudice against bookenough for his own family ; learning. He may say faineant, if he sells, he will be forced to but he is not averse to his buy later on for his Own children mounting in the social supply. This year was excep- scale ; and mount they do in tionally dry-a drought, to be an extraordinary fashion. Let precise. N- starved for us take our little place, the vegetables, but the only green triangle A. B. C. before the stuff which reached the village Hôtel Sestrol. Here are the was that brought by a market shops of the baker and of the gardener and his wife, who epicier-cobbler (not St Mouxa, came speculatively once a week we remind you). The epicieron a Sunday from a distance of cobbler is a small old man, sixteen kilometres.
bowed with rheumatism. He A proverb in patois is apt on pursues a diversity of trades, this matter
including the selling of sweets,
which are liable to be tinged “Quan lou rixe biro la gabello,
with bits of cobbler's was as Lou paoure emplino l'escudelo."
he scrapes them from their “ When the rich must turn bottle with uncleansed fingers. his hay” (on account of rain His wife is tiny, and has the after the hay is cut), the face of a mask flattened by
packing. The son of this peas- the city ; his active mind, his ant pair is an assistant in a daring, his very build is extralarge Paris shop; his wife is ordinary when contrasted-as an elegant, good - humoured, it is sharply here—with the young Parisienne, though of awkward and bashful clumsiNG
descent, who startles ness of his village contemthe village with the modernity poraries. They strive to imiof her overalls when she comes tate him, and it is as if a cartto pay the annual ten days' horse would emulate a racer. visit to her husband's parents. Albert will become a profesHere we may note that the sional man, a soldier, a doctor, clannism of the villager is such a lawyer, probably. When that often a man living in the old people die, the son will Paris will chose his wife from let both house and fields. He some family of other Parisian- may sell them, but he will not ised compatriots, as in this in- return to N- Back to the stance. The husband is a country he may probably go healthy - looking intelligent in the end, but it will be to townsman, interested a little buy a shoddy villa in some in archæology as a hobby, and banlieue of Paris, where he will he has a map of the castle as drag out his declining years in it was in the fourteenth and the company of similar fugififteenth centuries. The son tives, finding sufficient country of this family, still a child, is romance in a few ranks of cabpure city-bred. He has the bages and an arbour of clamberalertness and the elegance of ing roses.
XII. THE GARDE CHAMPÊTRE.
He is a grizzled man of district, and the muzzling order about fifty, robust, still virile, was issued. The office of the with hair which might be con- garde champêtre was to see the sidered long in England, es- order carried out. The muzzles pecially surmounted by an offi- were of a most curious variety. cial hat.
Kissme, the dog of the Hotel He is charged with the gen- Sestrol, soon divested itself of eral municipal police matters the hindering piece of leather of the community, cleanliness about its face, and went from of streets, announcing of com- thence with the muzzle munal decrees, chief fireman, sticking out behind its ear, inspector of nuisances, and so until the dog, tired of the
He is a rude - tempered nuisance, chewed off the probut not a harsh man, and he jecting parts ; Cora, the puppy carries on the additional trade from opposite, was put into a of saddler. As an example of muzzle large enough for a how he performs his duty, mastiff, so that it could get its came a scare of rabies in the whole face through one of the
openings; Oursa, the tobacco- haps cynical in a man of his nist-cooper's black dog, had a achievements. We had supped strap wound round its mouth, out of doors at L'Escaret, the so that either the poor dog farm which Sestrol had bought. could not open its mouth at It was dusk, and, supper over
, all, and was tortured with we were all reclining on the thirst during the heat, or- grass-Monsieur and Madame when the strap had worked Sestrol, Raymond, Elise their far enough down-could bite girl lodger, the village sempas easily as before the order stress, Raymond's uncle from was propagated. In nine cases Mazarolles, and the garde chamout of ten the muzzles were pétre-he had left his wife at quite useless, and in five cases home. It was the feast-day out of ten the dog divested its of the Railway Station. They jaws of the muzzle, which it were going to illuminate the carried dangling on the neck. castle with red flares, and from As often as not the dog of the this old farm in the valley was garde champêtre itself went un- an admirable point of view. muzzled. Not effectiveness To enliven the tedium of our seemed to be demanded, but waiting, the garde champêtre merely some evidence of good- was enticed to sing an old song will, a general acquiescence. in patois :
Wedded to this robust useful citizen was
a withered, “In Paris lived a woman who was at bent, quarrelsome, filthy, old
least eighty years old ; hag, who could well have
(Refrain) Trin, tran labourieuse ;
trin, tran labourieusement. been posed as a witch out On Sunday, at the church, sho sat berof Macbeth. She appeared to self down by a fine young man. be a half idiot, daughter of 'Oh, fino young man, if you'll marry a decrepit, senile, tottering I don't marry an old woman without
me, I'll make you a rich merchant.' crone, whose many greeds have
knowing if she has any teeth.' dwindled into one lingering The old woman began to laugh. She desire for coffee. But the
had two front teeth, and the garde champêtre is rather proud
One went rigorango, and the other
bara bin baraman. of his marriage. He married I don't marry an old woman without well. He, a landless portion- knowing if she has any money.
' less tradesman, has wedded The old woman went to the cellar, and an heiress. She
brought up a great full sack of silver owns two
pieces. houses, a garden, vineyards, And on Sunday was the wedding, and corn lands, and brushwood. on Monday the funeral. Rashly he had said, "She's
. With the money of that old woman,
I'll marry a girl who is fifteen years dirty, yes, but I'll clean her up after marriage." He has not succeeded in his boast. And it was the garde cham- taste on the part of the garde
Not perhaps the best of pêtre who sang us the song of champêtre, you will say, to sing “Lo Biello," which was per- that song.