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Title: Le Morvan, [A District of France,] Its Wild Sports, Vineyards and Forests; with Legends, Antiquities, Rural and Local Sketches
Author: Crignelle, Henri de
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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by the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF/Gallica) at
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Transcriber's Note

The punctuation and spelling from the original text have been faithfully
preserved. Only obvious typographical errors have been corrected.


[Illustration]



  LE MORVAN,

  [A DISTRICT OF FRANCE,]

  ITS

  WILD SPORTS, VINEYARDS AND FORESTS;

  WITH

  Legends, Antiquities, Rural and Local Sketches.

  BY

  HENRI DE CRIGNELLE,

  ANCIEN OFFICIER DE DRAGONS.

  TRANSLATED FROM THE ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT IN FRENCH,

  BY

  CAPTAIN JESSE,

  AUTHOR OF "NOTES OF A HALFPAY;" "LIFE OF BRUMMELL;"
  "MURRAY'S HAND-BOOK FOR RUSSIA," ETC., ETC.

  SAUNDERS AND OTLEY, CONDUIT-STREET.

  1851.

  LONDON:
  PRINTED BY WILLIAM TYLER,
  BOLT-COURT.



PREFACE.


Born in one of the most beautiful provinces of France, in a country of
noble forests and extensive vineyards; brought up in the open air amidst
the blue hills, and ever wandering over the fields and mountains with a
gun on my arm--all the hours of my youth, if I may so say, were spent in
search of partridges and hares in the dewy stubbles, and in the pursuit
of the wild cat and the boar in the shady depths of the woods.

When relating the adventures of these different shooting rambles to a
friend, talking over with him our mode of sporting so different from
that of England, and when in imagination I carried him along with me
into the dells and dark ravines, and described to him the chase and
death-struggle of the ferocious wolf, or the odd characters and
antediluvian customs of the primitive people amongst whom I passed the
days of my happy boyhood, astonished, he could hardly believe that such
sports and such singular personages existed within so short a distance
of his own country.

"Why not scribble all this?" he would say, "your sketches would make
capital light reading."

"But to write is not easy; and, besides, what a poor figure I and my
dogs and wolves, woodcocks and vineyards, would cut after the terrible
Mr. Gordon Cumming. How could any description of mine interest the
public in comparison with those of that famous shot and his three
coffee-coloured Hottentots, with his bands of panthers and giraffes, his
troops of yellow lions dancing sarabands round the fountains, and his
jungles and swamps swarming with elephants and hippopotami?"

"But we might be able to go to Le Morvan," said my friend, "whereas few
indeed, if they wished it, can go to the South of Africa to shoot
elephants through the small ribs; neither is it probable that many of us
would like to pass several years of their valuable lives shut up in a
loose, rolling, sea-bathing-machine-like wagon, with their own beloved
shadow alone for all Christian company. Let us have a narrative of your
exploits?"

"You do not consider what you ask," I replied; "my gossip may have
amused you, but the effusions of my pen would to a certainty make you
yawn like graves."

"Nonsense," whispered the flatterer, "you will open to us a new country,
you will confer a real service upon hundreds of restless Englishmen, who
when summer comes know not for the life of them where to go, or where
not to go;--write your work, and advise them to turn their steps to Le
Morvan at the time of the vintage."

But now another, a huge difficulty, sprung up. Printers do not lend
their types for nothing any more than they give gratis their time and
paper. To publish a book is always an expensive affair; misfortune,
which had touched me with its wing, which has been the sad guest of my
house, deprived me of the power of undertaking it myself: and where to
find a person so generous as to take upon himself the responsibility of
the undertaking? Happily I was in England, in the land of kind hearts
and warm sympathies. A noble lady, the mother of a distinguished English
nobleman, who passes her life in doing good, took an interest in my
forlorn history, and was pleased to honour me with her patronage. With
this mantle of protection thrown around me, and my generous friend
having undertaken to bear the responsibilities of publishing, the
difficulties were soon swept away, and Le Morvan was written.

I had hoped that I should in this Preface be permitted to mention her
name, which would have been less a compliment to her than an honour to
me; but her modesty has refused this public acknowledgment of my
unbounded gratitude,--a veil of respectful reserve shall therefore
remain suspended over her name. As for me and mine, we shall treasure it
in our thankful hearts--every day shall we pray that the Great Giver of
all good may confer upon her His most precious and gracious blessings.

  HENRI DE CRIGNELLE.

LONDON, _August_, 1851.


CONTENTS.


CHAPTER I.

English propensity to ramble--Where and how--Le
Morvan--Vezelay--Description of the town--Historical associations
connected with it--Charles IX.--Persecutions of the Protestants--View
from Vezelay--Scenery and wild sports--The Author--Object of the
Work      _p._ 1


CHAPTER II.

Le Morvan--Forests--Climate--Patriarchs and Damosels--Peasants of the
plain and the mountains--Jovial Curés--Their love of Burgundy--The
Doctor and the Curé      14


CHAPTER III.

Geology--Fossil shells--Antediluvian salmon--The Druids--Chindonax, the
High Priest--Roman antiquities--Julius Cæsar's hunting-box--Lugubrious
village--Carré-les-Tombes--The Inquisitive Andalusian      26


CHAPTER IV.

Le Morvan during the Middle Ages--Legendary horrors--Forest of La
Goulotte--La Croix Chavannes--La Croix Mordienne--Hôtel de
Chanty--Château de Lomervo--A French Bluebeard--Citadel of Lingou      35


CHAPTER V.

Castle of Bazoche--Maréchal de Vauban--Relics of the old
Marshal--Memorials of Philipsburg--Hôtel de Bazarne--Madame de
Pompadour's maître d'hôtel--Proof of the _curés'_ grief--Farm of St.
Hibaut--Youthful recollections--Monsieur de Cheribalde--Navarre the
Four-Pounder--His culverin      43


CHAPTER VI.

Bird's-eye view of the forests--The student's visit to his uncle in the
country--Sallies forth in the early morning--Meets a cuckoo--Follows
him--The cuckoo too much for him--Gives up the pursuit--Finds he has
lost his way--Agreeable vespers--Night in the forest--Wolves--Up a beech
tree--A friend in need--The student bids adieu to Le Morvan      55


CHAPTER VII.

Charms of a forest life to the sportsman--The Poachers--Le Père
Séguin--His knowledge of the woods and of the rivers--The first buck--A
bad shot      65


CHAPTER VIII.

Le Père Séguin's collation--The young sportsman and the hare--The
quarrel--The apology--The reconciliation--The cemetery--Bait for
barbel--Le Père Séguin's deceased friends--The return home      75


CHAPTER IX.

Passage of the woodcock in November--Laziness of that bird--Night
travelling--Mode of snaring them at night--Numbers taken in this
way--This sport adapted rather for the poacher--The _braconnier_ of Le
Morvan--His mode of life--The poacher's dog--The double poacher      88


CHAPTER X.

The woodcock--Its habits in the forests of Le Morvan--Aversion of dogs
to this bird--Timidity of the woodcock--Its cunning--Shooting in
November--The Woodcock mates--The Woodcock fly      100


CHAPTER XI.

Fine names--Gustavus Adolphus and the cabbages--Gustavus Adolphus no
hero!--The Parisian Sportsman--Partridge shooting despicable--Wild
boar-hunting--Rousing the grisly monster--His approach--The post of
honour--Good nerves--The death--The trophy and congratulations      117


CHAPTER XII.

The _Mares_--Manner in which they are formed in the depths of the
forest--_Mare_ No. 1.--Description of it--The appearance of the
spot--Mode of constructing the hunting-lodge--Approach of the
birds--Animals that frequent the _Mares_ in the evening      141


CHAPTER XIII.

Appearance of the _Mare_ in the morning--Forest etiquette--Mode of
obtaining possession of the best _Mare_--Every subterfuge fair--The
jocose sportsman--The quarrel--Reveries in the hut--Comparison between
meeting a lady and watching for a wolf      157

CHAPTER XIV.

_Mare_ No. 2.--Description of it--Not sought after by the sportsman--The
sick banker--The doctor's prescription--The patient's disgust at it--Is
at length obliged to yield--Leaves Paris for Le Morvan--Consequences to
the inmates of the château--The banker convalescent      170


CHAPTER XV.

Summer months in the Forest--_Mare_ No. 3.--Description of it--The
Woodcock fly--The Banker has a day's sport--Arrives at the
_Mare_--Difficult to please in his choice of a hut--Proceeds to a larger
_Mare_--His friends retire--The Banker on the alert for a Wolf or a
Boar--Fires at some animal--The unfortunate discovery--Rage of the
Parisian--Pays for his blunder, and recovers his temper      188


CHAPTER XVI.

The _Curé_ of the Mountain--Toby Gold Button--Hospitality--The _Curé's_
pig--His hard fate and reflections--The _Curé_ of the plain--His worth
and influence--The agent of the Government--Landed Proprietors--Their
influence--The Orator--Dialogue with a Peasant      207


CHAPTER XVII.

The wolf--His aspect and extreme ferocity--His cunning in hunting his
prey--His unsocial nature--Antiquity of the race--Where found, and their
varieties--Annihilated in England by the perseverance of the kings and
people--Decrees and rewards to encourage their destruction by
Athelstane, John, and Edward I.--Death of the last wolf in
England--Death of the last in Ireland      221


CHAPTER XVIII.

The _battues_ of May and December--The gathering of
sportsmen--Preparations in the forest--The _charivari_--The fatal
rush--Excitement of the moment--The volley--The day's triumph, and the
reward--The peasants returning--Hunting the wolf with
dogs--Cub-hunting--The drunken wolf      236


CHAPTER XIX.

Wolf-hunting, an expensive amusement--The _Traquenard_--Mode of setting
this trap--A night in the forest with Navarre--The young lover--Dreadful
accident that befell him--His courage and efforts to escape--The fatal
catastrophe--The poor mad mother      248


CHAPTER XX.

Shooting wolves in the summer--The most approved baits to attract
them--Fatal error--Hut-shooting--Silent joviality--The approach of the
wolves--The first volley--The retreat--The final slaughter--The
sportsman's reward--The farm-yard near St. Hibaut--The dead colt--The
onset--Scene in the morning--Horrible accident--The gallant
farmer--Death of the wolves, the dogs, and the peasant--The wolf-skin
drum--Anathema of the naturalists      261


CHAPTER XXI.

Fishing in Le Morvan--The naturalist--The _Gour_ of Akin--The English
lady--The mountain streams--Château de Chatelux--Sermiselle--New mode of
killing pike--Pierre Pertuis--The rocks and whirlpool there--The syrens
of the grotto--Château des Panolas--The Cousin--The ponds of Marot and
lakes of Lomervo--Mode of taking fish with live trimmers--The Scotch
farmer      280


CHAPTER XXII.

Village _fêtes_--The first of May--The religious festivals--The _Fête
Dieu_--Appearance of the streets--The altars erected in them--Procession
from the church--Country fairs--The book-stalls at them--Pictures of the
Roman Catholic Church--Before the _Vendange_--Proprietor's hopes and
fears--Shooting in the vineyards--The first day of the
_Vendange_--Appearance of the country--Influx of visitors at this
season--The consequences--Herminie--Her sad history--Le
Morvan--Recommended to the English traveller--Lord Brougham and
Cannes--Contrast between it and Le Morvan      297



LE MORVAN.



CHAPTER I.

     English propensity to ramble--Where and how--Le
     Morvan--Vezelay--Description of the town--Historical associations
     connected with it--Charles IX.--Persecutions of the
     Protestants--View from Vezelay--Scenery and wild sports--The
     Author--Object of the Work.


Every nation has its characteristics, and amongst those which are
peculiar to the genius of the English people, is their ardent and
insatiable love of wandering.

To locomote is absolutely necessary to every Englishman; in his heart is
profoundly rooted a passion for long journeys; each and all of them, old
and young, healthy and sickly, would if they could take not merely the
grand tour, but circulate round the two hemispheres with all the
pleasure imaginable. At a certain period of the year, when the
weathercock points the right way, the sun burns in the sign of the
Lion, and the husbandman bends his weary form to gather in the golden
corn, the legs of the rich Englishman begin to be nervously agitated, he
feels a sense of suffocation, and pants for change--of air, of place, of
everything; he girds up his loins, and without throwing a glance behind
him, it is Hey, Presto! begone! and he is off. Where?

It is autumn, blessed autumn, the season of harvest and sunny days; the
English are everywhere--they fly from their own dear island like clouds
of chilly swallows, light upon Europe as thick as thrushes in an
orchard, and are soon mingled with every nation of the earth, like the
blue corn flowers in the ripe barley fields. Yes, from north to south,
from east to west, go where you will, you cannot proceed ten miles
without meeting a smiling rosy English girl coquettishly concealed under
her large green veil, and a grave British gentleman, whistling to the
wide world in the sheer enjoyment of having nothing to do but to look at
it.

I have seen green veils climbing the Pyramids; I have seen green veils
diving down into the dark mines of the Oural; I have seen an English
gentleman perched like a chamois on the top of St. Bernard, hat in hand,
roaring "God save the Queen." I have seen some sipping Syracusan wine,
puffing a comfortable cloud from obese cigars, most irreverently seated
in the big nose of St. Carlo Borromeo. One-half of England is gone to
China, the other half to Africa; these will speak to you of Kamschatka,
those of the mountains of the Moon, just as a London cockney or a
Parisian _badaud_ would speak to you of Greenwich or of Bagnolet. Some
have boxed with the bears of the Pyrenees; others have killed lions and
tigers by dozens; one has crossed the Nile on a crocodile, another vows
he waltzed with a dying hippopotamus, and several have bagged
camelopards and elephants by scores. In short, they have trodden with a
bold disdainful step all the high-roads and by-roads of our wondrous
planet, displaying, in every quarter of the compass, the daring and
devil-may-care spirit of their youth and the spleen of their mature age,
as well as the yellow guineas from their long and well-filled purses.

Well, then, ask of all this wandering tribe, who boast of having been
everywhere, and seen everything; ask those travelling birds who have
flown through France and Germany, Spain, Italy, Greece, and Palestine;
who have sledged in Russia and fished in Norway; who have lost
themselves in the prairies of the far West, or in the Pampas, the
gorges of the Andes, or the Alleghanies; who have bronzed their
epidermis in the fierce heat of the tropics, or moistened their fair
_chevelure_ in the diamond spray of Niagara; who have, in fine,
journeyed through calm and hurricane, snow-storms, sirocco, and simoom;
who have rubbed noses--male noses--of the tattooed savage; mounted
donkeys, ostriches, camelopards, lamas, and dromedaries; mules, wild
asses, negroes, and elephants; ask them all if once in their lives--one
single once--they have seen or even heard of LE MORVAN?

Not one of these thousands will answer yes. Le Morvan, where is it? what
is Le Morvan? Is it a mountain, a church, a river, a star, a flower, a
bird? Le Morvan, who knows anything about Le Morvan? Echo answers, "Who
knows?" Paddy Blake's replies, "Nobody." And yet all of you roving
English, who delight in athletic sports and rural scenes--the forest
glade and murmuring streams, a view halloo and the gallant hound; who
love the bleak and healthy moors, the cool retreats, the flowery paths,
and mountain solitudes, how happy would you be in Le Morvan. Where,
then, is Le Morvan?

Le Morvan is a district of France, in which are included portions of the
departments of the Nièvre and the Yonne, having on the west the
vineyards of Burgundy, and on the east the mountains of the Nivernois.
Its ancient and picturesque capital, Vezelay, crowns a hill 2,000 feet
in height, and commands a panoramic view of the country for thirty miles
round. It has all the characteristics of a town of the feudal times,
with high embattled and loopholed walls, numerous towers, and deep and
strong gateways, under which are still to be seen the grooves of the
portcullis, the warder's guard-room, and the hooks that supported the
heavy drawbridge.

The capital of Le Morvan partially owed its rise to a celebrated
nunnery, founded by Gerard de Roussillon, a great hero of romance and
chivalry, who lived, loved, and fought under Pepin, the father of the
grand Charlemagne. This nunnery, which was sacked and burnt to the
ground by the Saracens, those terrible warriors of the East, was
restored in the ninth century, and fortified; and as the sainted inmates
were believed to have amongst their relics a tress of the golden hair of
the beautiful and repentant Magdalen, troops of the faithful--and people
were ready to believe a great deal in those days--flocked to Vezelay,
when it soon became a large and flourishing town.

In the tenth century, when the people, in their endeavour to shake off
a few links of their fetters, refused to bend their bodies in the dust
before their lords and their minds before their priests--when the seeds
of liberty, till then lying in unprofitable ground, though watered for
centuries by the tears of tyranny and oppression, first germinated and
rose above the earth, who gave the signal of resistance in France?--the
inhabitants of Vezelay. Yes; it is to her citizens that the honour
belongs of having first refused to submit to the power, the domineering
power, of political and ecclesiastical rule; it was her brave
inhabitants who, assembling in secret, thought not of the peril, but,
having promised help and protection one to the other, flew to arms. A
short and desperate struggle ensued, but the victory remained in the
hands of the abbot of Vezelay. Hundreds of brave men were put, without
mercy, to the sword, and many, with less mercy, burnt alive or died by
the torture in the dark dungeons of the abbatical palace. Vezelay still
preserves in its archives the names of twelve of these martyrs.

Again in the twelfth century, when the cry to the rescue of the Holy
Sepulchre shook all Europe, and every nation poured forth her tens of
thousands to drive the infidel from that land in which their Redeemer
had lived and died an ignominious and cruel death, it was at Vezelay
that Pope Eugenius III. assembled a great council of the princes of the
church, the great barons, and chivalry of those times. It was in her
immense cathedral, one of the oldest and largest in the kingdom, amidst
the clang of arms, war cries, and religious chaunts, and in the presence
of Louis le Jeune, King of France, that St. Bernard preached, in 1146,
the Second Crusade.

Vezelay is celebrated as having been the birth-place of Beza, the great
Protestant Reformer (1519), who succeeded not only to the place but to
the influence of Calvin, and was, after that eminent man's death,
regarded as the head and leader of the Genevese church.

It was to Vezelay, the only town that dared to offer them the protection
of its walls, that the unfortunate Protestants fled after the horrible
massacre of St. Bartholomew's--the base political cruelty of the brutal
homicide, Charles IX. Tracked and hunted down like wild beasts, and a
price set upon their heads, they found staunch and noble hearts in the
inhabitants of Vezelay; but, ere long, an army of their insatiable foes
arrived and besieged the town, and treachery at a postern one stormy
night made them masters of it, when scenes of horror followed under the
mask of religion that even at this distance of time make one recoil with
terror and disgust at the dogmas of the corrupt faith which dictated
them.

Roasting men alive, and boiling women, dashing out the brains of many a
cherub boy and prattling girl, was the pleasing and satisfactory pastime
with which Pope Gregory, Catherine de Medicis, and her congenial son
gladdened their Christian hearts. The blood of their victims still cries
to us from the ground of their Golgotha; for on the south side of the
town there is a large green field, called _Le Champ des Huguenots_. The
damning fact, from which this spot received its name, has been handed
down to us by the historian. It is as follows:

The Catholics, having instituted a strict search in the woods and
caverns of the environs, made so many prisoners that they were puzzled
what to do with them--nay, in what manner they should take their lives.
Among many ingenious experiments, it was suggested that they should bury
them alive up to their necks in the field to which we have alluded; and
this was accordingly done with nine of them, whose heads were bowled at
with cannon-balls taken from the adjoining rampart, as if they had been
blocks of wood instead of live human heads. The shrieks of the
miserable beings excited no compassion; on the contrary, it afforded
amusement to their executioners: so that games of skittles upon the same
principle were played the whole length of this meadow.

Turning aside from these execrable deeds of man to the works of Nature
and of Nature's God, which have always been and always must be lovely
and worthy of our deepest admiration, let us dwell for a moment upon the
splendid view from the castle-terrace, which forms the principal
promenade of Vezelay. Shaded by large and venerable trees, through the
lofty branches of which many a storm has howled for nearly four hundred
years, the sight from hence is one of the finest panoramic views in
France.

All around, whether on the slope of the hills by the river-side, in the
middle distance, or near the mountains which form the horizon, are seen
hundreds of little villages, and many a white villa scattered among the
green vines as daisies on the turf. To the left and right are St. Père
and Akin, two hamlets, which seem like faithful dogs sleeping at the
foot of the mountain crowned by Vezelay. The province in which this
cloud-capped fortress-town is situated is a retired spot out of the
beaten track of the tourist, the man of business, or the man of
pleasure--lost, as it were, in the very heart of beautiful France, like
a wild strawberry in the depth of the forest--encircled by woods, and
unknown to the foreigner, who, in his rapid journey to Geneva or to
Lyons, almost elbows it without dreaming of its existence.

Le Morvan rears in its sylvan depths a population of hardy and honest
men and lovely women, fresh as roses, and gay as butterflies. There the
soft evening breezes are charged with the songs of ten thousand birds,
the odours of the eglantine, the lily of the valley, and the violet,
which, shaking off its winter slumbers, opens its dark blue eye and
combines its perfume with that of its snowy companion.

Le Morvan is a country that would delight an Englishman, for it is full
of game; here the sportsman may vary his pleasures as fancy dictates.
The forest abounds with deer; the plain with rabbits and the timid hare;
and in the vineyards, during the merry season of the vintage, the fat
red-stockinged and gray-clad partridges are bagged by bushels. Here the
sportsman may watch in the open glades the treacherous wild cat and the
bounding roebuck; and, should these sports appear too tame, he may, if
foot and heart are sound, plunge into the dark recesses of the forest
in pursuit of the savage and grisly boar, or the fierce and prowling
wolf.

When evening comes, bringing with it peace and rest to the industrious
peasant, when the moon shall light her bright lamp in the star-spangled
heavens, and shed her silvery rays across the plain, the hunter may lead
forth the village belle, and foot it merrily on the mossy greensward, to
the sound of the bagpipe and the rustic flute, by fountains which never
cease their monotonous but soothing plaint, and under the long shadows
of the ancient oaks and tall acacias.

Happiness, says Solomon, consists not in the possession of that gold for
which men toil so unremittingly and grave deep wrinkles on the heart and
brow. Happiness lights not her torch at the crystal lustres in the halls
of royalty; she rarely chooses for her home the marble palaces of the
wealthy, nor is she often the companion of the great, robed in costly
apparel; rarely does she braid her hair with pearls, or wear the rosy
lightning of the ruby on her fair bosom.

Happiness is known only to him who, free and contented, lives unknown in
his little corner, deaf to the turmoil and insensible to the excitements
of the selfish crowd, and ignorant of the sorrows and sufferings of
great cities. She is found in the enjoyment of the sunshine and the open
air, in the shady groves and flowery fields, by the side of the
murmuring brooks, and in the society of the gay, frank, and
simple-minded peasant of my own dear country. Oh! my white and pretty
_pavillon_, whose walls are clad with fragrant creepers and the luscious
vine, whose porch is scented with the woodbine and the rose--oh! lovely
valleys, dark forests, deep blue lakes which sleep unruffled in the
bosom of the hills, beautiful vine-clad hills, where in the morning of
my youth I chased those flying flowers, the bright and painted
butterflies--oh! when, when shall I see you all again--like the bird of
passage, which, when the winter is over, returns to his sunny home? When
shall I see thee again? Oh! my sweet Le Morvan! Oh! my native land!
Happy, thrice happy they who cherish in their hearts the love of nature,
who prefer her sublime and incomparable beauties to the false and
artificial works of man, accumulated with so much cost and care within
the walls of her great cities. Happy, too, are those who have not been
carried away by the fatal flood of misfortune from the paternal hearth,
who have always lived in sight of that home which sheltered their merry
childhood, and whose lives, pure and peaceful as the noiseless stream of
the valley, close in calmness and serenity like the twilight of a bright
summer's day.



CHAPTER II.

     Le Morvan--Forests--Climate--Patriarchs and Damosels--Peasants of
     the plain and the mountaineer--Jovial Curés--Their love of
     Burgundy--The Doctor and the Curé.


Le Morvan, anciently Morvennium, or Pagus Morvinus, as Cæsar calls it in
his Commentaries, comprises, as we have before remarked, a portion of
the departments of the Nièvre and the Yonne, lying between vine-clad
Burgundy and the mountains of the Nivernois. Its productions are
various; in the plains are grown wheat, rye, hemp, oats, and flax: on
the mountain side the grape is largely cultivated; and in the valleys
are rich verdant meadows, where countless droves of oxen, knee-deep in
the luxuriant grass, feed and fatten in peace and abundance.

But the real and inexhaustible wealth of Le Morvan is in its forests. In
these several thousand trees are felled annually, sawn into logs,
branded and thrown by cart-loads into the neighbouring torrent, which,
on reaching a more tranquil stream, are lashed into rafts, when they
drift onwards to the Seine, and are eventually borne on the waters of
that river to the capital. The forests of the Nièvre are some of the
most extensive in France; thick and dark, and formed of ancient oaks,
maple, and spreading beech, they cover nearly 200,000 acres of ground.
Those of the Yonne are larger but of a character far less wild.

The climate of this part of France is delightful; with the exception of
occasional showers, very little rain falls; the sky is serene, and
scarcely ever is a vagabond cloud seen in the ethereal blue to throw a
shadow upon the lovely landscape beneath. For six months of the year the
sun is daily refulgent in the heavens, and sets evening after evening in
all his glorious majesty. But in the woods it is not thus; the storms
there are sometimes terrible, and, like those of the tropics, arise and
terminate with wonderful rapidity. These tempests, which purify the
atmosphere, leave behind them a delicious coolness, the trees and
shrubs, as they shake from their trembling leaves their sparkling tears,
appear so bright--the flowers which raise again their drooping heads,
load the air with such delightful odours--the whole forest, in short,
seems so refreshed and full of life, that every one hails their
approach, the toil-worn peasant breathes without complaint the sultry
air, and observes with pleasure the dark and lowering clouds gathering
in the far horizon.

From the mountains, those huge ladders of granite that God has planted
upon the earth, as if to invite ungrateful man to come nearer to him,
descend many a stream and dancing rill of pure and crystal waters. No
part of France can be said to be more salubrious. "Centenarians" are by
no means uncommon, and a patriarch of that age may be found in several
families.

When Sunday comes, always a _jour de fête_ as well as a day of prayer,
it is very pleasing to see one of these venerable men, dressed in his
best clothes, walking to church at the head of his children,
grand-children, and great grand-children. Long and of snowy whiteness is
his hair, and glossy white as threads of purest silver is his beard--his
hat, of quaker broadness in the brim, is generally encircled, in the
early days of Spring, with a wreath of the common primrose, and his dark
cloth mantle, of home-spun fabric, hangs gracefully on his shoulders,
showing underneath it the dark red sash that girds his still healthy and
vigorous frame. Tall and grave, erect and majestic as the oaks of their
native forests, these patriarchs bespeak every one's respect, and when
looking on them you might imagine they were men of another age, a
generation of by-gone years, you might fancy them some ancient Druids
that have escaped from their dusty tombs, from centuries of night, to
tread once more the pathways of this planet.

And the women, heaven and earth! how sweetly pretty, how amiable and
adorable; and such eyes, dark and lustrous!--full of witchcraft, burning
and humid as an April sun after a shower. Some there are, also, of
pensive blue, pregnant with promises, soft and almond-shaped, like the
divine eyes of the Italian Cenci. Supple as the young and slender
branches of willow, are these divinities, fresh as new opened tulips,
and brisk and gay as the golden-speckled trout in the sparkling current.
In their charms is found a terrestrial paradise, a compound of delicious
qualities which intoxicate the senses, hook the heart, and like the bite
of the Sicilian tarantella, steep the loved one in delirium.

Yes, the women of Le Morvan are lovely, ardent, and tender-hearted as
the dove, especially those who dwell within the forest districts; for
nothing contributes so much to bring forth the loving principle of the
affections as the silent melancholy of the umbrageous woods, and the
soft and perfumed breezes that pervade them. Here, in the dusk and
stillness of the summer evenings, these wood-nymphs hear in the lofty
branches of the linden, the endearing love songs of the feathered tribe,
and when night throws its charitable gloom over their blushing cheeks,
they whisper at the trysting place what they have heard and seen to
their rustic admirers.

We have just briefly sketched the two extremes, the old men of Le Morvan
and its sprightly damosels: we must now mention the inhabitants
generally, and these vary like its productions according to locality.
The peasant of the plains is civil, gentle, and industrious, but cunning
and dangerous as an old fox; and if he thinks money may be squeezed from
your pocket, be sure there will be no sleep for him till he has taken
some out of it. Full of fun, he loves above all the dance, the song, the
merry laugh, and good cheer--and the uncorking of a bottle would be for
him a supreme delight, if this excellence itself was not superseded, by
the far greater blessedness of emptying it.

The inhabitant of the mountain, on the other hand, is sober, severe and
roughly barked--clothed with silence and gravity, smiling but once a
year--the day he has cheated a good man of the plain; he does not please
so much at first sight: but if in any danger, if you are surprised by a
hurricane, surrounded with wolves; or you have lost your way, in a night
as dark as the grave itself, you call and ask his help, oh! it is then
that his sterling qualities shine forth in all their splendour. Always
ready, always on the look out, the ear for ever bent to catch the
well-known sounds of the forest, the slightest indication of distress
awakes his vigilance; it is then he comes, it is then he flies, and his
arm, gun, and eyes--his cabin, dog, and lean horse are all at your
command.

Admirable example of courage and of devotedness: money for him is
nothing; happy to be useful, he obliges for the mere pleasure of
obliging. Many, many times have I seen poachers, cottagers,
charcoal-burners, and wood-cutters, poor as Job, hardly breeched, hungry
as a whole Irish borough, leave their work, their sport, their field,
their tree half down,--abandon in the roads, under the guard of the
dogs, their carts and oxen, and go some dozen of miles, through storm
and tempest, through rush, rock, and swamp, to set a sportsman in his
right way again. Without saying a word, with steps attendant on his
weary progress, they trudge on before, making a sign for him to follow;
and when they have placed him once more on his road, a nod, a shake of
the hand, a smile, a kind word falling from his lips, pays them the full
price of all their troubles. Never have I seen one of them accept the
least pecuniary reward for such services--they do nothing but their
duty, they say; and as they are happy in the firm conviction that the
whole forest belongs to them, they think they are only doing the honours
of their green drawing-rooms. Thus it always happens, that when, by
their good care, you have escaped certain danger, it is with great
difficulty, and only after a deluge of rhetoric, that they consent to
accept for their daughters or wives a red wool dress, a gold cross, or a
row of large blue Pundaram beads; or for themselves a few dozen of iron
bullets, a bag of shot, or a flask of powder. This abnegation, this
frankness of the heart, this kind sympathy for every stranger, is
universal among the mountaineers; these benevolent and kindly feelings
are a portion of their holy traditions, and as such are most religiously
grafted by every mother into the soft wax-like hearts of her dear little
ones.

But while delighting to describe the virtues of these denizens of the
forests, these amiable fauns and jolly satyrs, I must not forget those
jovial trencher-men, the _curés_ of Le Morvan. Every sportsman
possesses, or should possess, the digestion of an ostrich; for his
appetite is generally prodigious, and the viands that fall in his way
are not always the most savoury. When, however, the venison pasty, the
truffled turkey, or the _pain de gibier_ is within his reach, no one is
so capable of enjoying and doing justice to these delicacies of the
table, of knocking off so dexterously the neck of the champagne bottle
when the corkscrew is absent, or whose legs are stretched out so
gracefully at the sight of brimming glasses and _recherché_ viands.

In these, his fallen moments, and after a good day's sport, a Morvinian
would tell you he could drink all the Burgundian cellars dry,--aye, and
those of Champagne too; and as to smoking, why, he would smoke a whole
crop of tobacco.

To all keen sportsmen, therefore, who love good eating and wine, and
intend to pay a visit to Le Morvan, I would give this piece of advice,
and I would say to them, place it in the secret drawer of your memory;
nay, carry it written, and, if necessary, painted on your knapsack or
scratched upon your gun--fail not to make the acquaintance of the _curé_
the darling _curés_. Ask who are they that love the best _cuisine_--who
dote upon the most delicious morsels--who will have the oldest, purest,
and most generous wines?--you will be answered, the _curés_. For whom
are destined the largest trout, the fattest capons, and the best parts
of the venison?--for whom the softest and most choice liqueurs, wine of
the best _bouquet_, the largest truffles, the most luscious honey, the
best vegetables, and finest fruits?--for the _curés_. And the most
clever men-cooks, the happiest receipts, and latest culinary
inventions--for whom are they? the answer is always, _for messieurs les
curés_. Forget them not, therefore, for they are really worth
remembering; besides, they have excellent hearts and are capital
fellows, boon companions, full of _bonhommie_ and good-nature: in fact,
such _curés_ it is impossible to find anywhere else.

But the great Architect of the universe has said, nothing is
perfect--everything human has its weak point. Well, it cannot be helped,
and it must be told, the _curés_ of Le Morvan have their weak points;
trifles, to be sure--mere bagatelles--but still they have them. They are
rather _too_ fond of old wine and good cheer. These two charming little
defects excepted,--you have in the Morvinian _curé_ goodness double
distilled, and the essence of generosity, and, be it said, abnegation.
This love of the bottle they imbibe from their dear colleagues of
Burgundy; for it is well known, and has never been disputed, that the
Burgundian _curés_ are the greatest exterminators, uncorkers, and
emptiers of wine-bottles in all Christendom. The first thing these
jovial clergymen think of when they open their eyes in the morning, is
an invocation to Bacchus, somewhat in the following strain: "O Bacchus!
son of Semele, divine wine-presser! O vineyards! full of the purple
grape! O wine-press! inestimable machine!" &c. Their second movement is
to extend the right arm, and clasp within their digits a flask of old
Pouilli, the contents of which they swallow without once stopping to
take breath. "An infallible remedy," say they, "against the devil and
all future indigestions."

Fortified thus with this their first orison, they throw on their
cassock, and descend to the cellar, to count the bottles, or tap and
taste the barrels of some doubtful vintage. The thorough-bred Burgundian
_curé_, particularly one who has lived and got old and fat in the
solitude of a retired presbytery,--whose rubicund nose reveals his
admiration for the vineyards of his native province, and whose three
chins tell you that with pullets, and venison, and clouted cream he has
lined his scrip,--is certainly one of the most jovial and best of men.

Ask him for indulgences, absolution, masses and prayers for the living
and the dead; he will grant them all. Ask him for his niece in marriage;
ask him to marry you, to baptize you, to bury you; he will do it
all--yes, all for nothing! It is not in his nature to refuse anything.
Ask him for his new cassock, his cane, or his hat, his black silk
stockings, or his silver buckles, and they are yours. No one so ready to
forgive an insult or forget an injury as he. But, by the blood of the
Mirabels, give him not a bottle of bad or sour wine, for he will neither
forget nor forgive it; and above all things, never give him a hint that
it would be well if he gave up his favourite fluid, for be assured, you
would forfeit his friendship for ever. Sooner would he consent to lose a
leg or all his teeth, than give up his life-loved Burgundy! Tell him he
will have an attack of apoplexy; tell him that he will be taken off
suddenly by inflammation, and that water therefore should be his
beverage; he will reply with a smack of his lips, and a castanet noise
with his fingers. "Nonsense, my boy--stuff and rubbish! Pass the wine,
my son; pass it again. Pass the ham, gentlemen. Fill a bumper. Hurrah
for old Burgundy! hurrah for her wines! Confound the pale fluid, and a
fig for the gout!" Such are the ebullitions of his heart in his jovial
moments; and the following lines, which would spoil in the translation,
give a lively picture of them:

  "Pour trop bien boire un curé de Bourgogne
  De son pauvre oeil se trouvait déferré,
  Un docteur vint:--Voici de la besogne
  Dit-il, pour plus d'un jour;--Je patienterai!
  Ça vous boirez:--Eh bien! soit, je boirai!
  Quatre grands mois:--Plutôt douze, mon maître.
  Cette tisane!--A moi? hurla le prêtre,
  _Vade retro!_ Guérir par le poison!
  Non, par ma soif! perdons une fénètre,
  Puisqu'il le faut, mais--_Sauvons la Maison_."



CHAPTER III.

     Geology--Fossil shells--Antediluvian salmon--The Druids--Chindonax,
     the High Priest--Roman antiquities--Julius Cæsar's
     hunting-box--Lugubrious village--Carré-les-Tombes--The Inquisitive
     Andalusian.


Le Morvan, independently of its hunting and fishing, its lovely climate
and fine wines, pretty girls and jolly _curés_, possesses a more
important class of beauties and perfections, secrets and enigmas, over
which the _savans_ would pore and ponder through many a day and many a
night: those men who, like Eve, long to grasp the fatal apple--the apple
which destroys while it attracts--the apple whose flavour, alas! is so
bitter,--the apple of science. Let the geologists, who are ever bending
in earnest study over the mysteries of nature, and breaking stones by
the road-side,--who are ever seeking to analyse the _matériel_ of
creation,--who are always contemplating the internal and geognostic
constitution of the globe, the red or the blue clay, the yellow gravel,
the trappe, the limestone, the granite, or the slate, to satisfy
themselves what this poor planet is made of,--let them come and ransack
Le Morvan. Let them bring their hammers and chisels, their compasses and
barometers, and above all, their passport,--precious document! an
hundredfold more useful in France, in these liberty days, than a pair of
shoes or a shirt,--let them come, and I promise them endless
discoveries, a rich and ample harvest.

In the meadow lands, when, for the purpose of sinking wells, the soil is
penetrated to an immense depth, the workmen often come to thick strata
of schist, in which they find imbedded trunks and roots of trees, and
stalks of plants and ferns, which now grow in tropical climates only.

In the highest and steepest parts of the mountain chain may be found
marine petrifactions of every variety--the sea-hedgehog, the oyster, the
mussel, and the star-fish; and in the beds of trachytic rock, deposited
in such order that one might fancy they had been placed there by a
careful and tasty housewife, are layers of the most curious shells,
univalve, bivalve, sublivalve and multivalve, madrepors, and shapeless
remnants of creatures now no longer known, and petrified fish.

Some few years ago, an engineer, who was carrying a road through a rock
in the mountain called the Val d'Arcy, found a salmon in the most
perfect condition, even with head and tail, the unhappy wretch enclosed
in the heart of a large stone. I should certainly have pronounced this
fish to be a cod, had not science decided it was a salmon of a large
species--_genus salmo_, sixty vertebræ. It is now to be seen in the
Natural History department, section _Salmonidæ_, of the Museum in the
Jardin des Plantes, at Paris.

Poor old salmon! said I, and I took off my hat when I had the honour of
being presented to him; Poor old salmon! what wouldst thou have said,
some twelve or fifteen thousand years ago, when, free and glorious thou
didst pierce the briny waves,--when, perhaps, thou wast gambolling
amongst the pointed summits of the Alps, plunging in ecstacy into the
emerald depths of oceans now vanished,--what wouldst thou have said,
could the thought have crossed thy brain, that one day thou shouldst be
_here_? Under a glass! ticketted, numbered, pasted to the wall! forming
an item in a collection of things fabulous, and exhibiting thy venerable
form, thine antediluvian physiognomy, to thousands of _badauds_, who
either pass thee without a glance, or examine thee with unfeeling
curiosity, bestowing not a thought upon thy great age or thy cruel fate,
or with a whit more respect for thee and thine awful history, than a
cockney would show to a whitebait caught but yesterday in the Thames,
and served up to him as a fraction of his fishy feast at Blackwall.

Le Morvan, abounding in forests, was a district most congenial to the
gloomy spirit of the religion of the ancient Druids; and therefore, in
the earliest days of the history of France, they consecrated its groves
of splendid oaks to the performance of their terrible rites. Remains of
many of their massive monuments still exist, in the fields, in the deep
valleys, and on the tops of the hills. Antique and mysterious all of
them--three-pointed stones, three-cornered stones, and massive groups of
stones in mystic circle ranged, round which, the peasant will tell you
with bated breath, _les Gaurics_--the spirits of the giants--come to
weep and bewail on the first night of each new moon. During the last
century, a peasant, who was at work in a deep ditch in a beautiful field
of this district, came, in the course of his excavations, upon a stone
which indicated, that he was not far from one of those monuments with
which he was so familiar; and, upon further investigation, it proved to
be the black granite tomb of the famous Chindonax, the high-priest of
the Druids. It contained many relics--the sickle and the collar of
gold, the holy bracelets, the metal girdle, the sacrificial axe, the
knife of brass; and, in the midst, was a glass urn, containing a pinch
or two of grey powder--human dust! proud dust--sad and last remnant of
the Druid Chindonax.

Tumuli were, a century ago, very numerous in the uncultivated and desert
tract of Les Bruyères; but these little artificial hillocks are
disappearing very fast, for the peasants throw them down when they wish
to clear and level the ground. These tumuli always contain collars in
baked clay, arrow-heads, battle-axes of stone, pieces of crystal, and
other articles of a similar description.

Even Julius Cæsar, the cruel conqueror of Gaul, the pitiless victor of
Vercingetorix--Cæsar, who cut off the hands of the Gauls as the only
means of preventing them from fighting--Cæsar admired Le Morvan. He
loved that savage country, he delighted in it; in the deep gorges of its
mountains he pursued the large wolves and the wild boar, and in it he
established the custom of relays of dogs the whole length of the woods.

In this our day, on the summit of a mountain near the one on which is
built the town of Chinon, may be seen the thick strong walls of ancient
Roman buildings--buildings that have been fortified, bristling with
palisades, and surrounded by moats--where Cæsar had his principal
kennel, his hunting-box; in short, the spot which, in the third book of
his 'Commentaries,' he calls _Castrum Caninum_.

In the darkest and most sombre part of this forest, the lovers of
antiquity will arrest their steps, delighted, at the very curious
village of Carré-les-Tombes, so called from the immense number of tombs
formerly found in its environs. So very numerous were they, that in 1615
the Count de Chatelux, seigneur of the parish, had some of them sawn up
to build and pave the present church and tower of the steeple, and also
to roof the choir. They were seven or eight feet in length, and hollowed
out like troughs. Tradition says they were all found empty, with the
exception of five; in these reposed tall skeletons, blanched by time,
each having a helmet on his head, and a Roman sword by his side. The
stones of three only of these five tombs bore any inscription, name,
mark, or sign. On one was a double cross, very coarsely engraved; on the
second, a very large escutcheon, which the antiquaries, in spite of
their magnifying glasses, their science, and their patience, could never
decipher; and on the other, the most curious of the three, a Latin
inscription, in a legible, but very ancient character.

Having one day had the simplicity to translate this inscription to a
young and beautiful Andalusian widow, smart was the rap of the fan that
I had for my pains. I had parried her curiosity as long as I could, for
her dark and dangerous eyes and clear olive complexion, which betrayed
every pulse of her southern blood, combined to put me on my guard.
Reader, will you wonder?--here is the inscription:

     "Qui Dæmone pejus? Mulier rixosa: fug ..."

"But what does it mean?" said my curious brunette.

"Señora, that you are lovely."

"Stuff, sir! not at all;" and she tossed her graceful head pettishly; "I
really wish you to translate it."

"Well--here, then: '_Qui Dæmone pejus_'--dark women; '_mulier
rixosa_'--are the loveliest."

"No, no! I say; I am sure that is not it. Say it, word for word, or I
shall be angry--I vow I shall."

"Word for word!" What was I to do?

"Word for word," reiterated Dona Inez.

"Indeed, Señora, I don't know ... you would not forgive me."

"It is, then, something dreadful?"

"No, not exactly dreadful, but----"

"Dios! Dios! worlds of patience!" and she stamped her tiny foot; "will
you go on? You kill me with vexation. Translate it, I say, word for
word." And here the Dona, with discreet carelessness opening her fan,
prepared to blush.

"'_Qui Dæmone pejus_'--who is there worse than the devil? Hum!"--now for
the pinch, thought I.

"Go on! go on!--the next words."

"'_Mulier rixosa_'--is--a----"

"Well, go on, will you?"

"Yes--a quarrelsome woman!"

Like lightning the fan closed, fell upon the unlucky index of my left
hand, which was thoughtlessly reposing upon the arm of the _causeuse_,
and nearly knocked off the first joint, by way of reward for my
reluctant compliance with her feminine wishes.

"Excuse me, Señora," I said, after I had recovered my breath, "but you
are very unjust. I had nothing to do with writing this ungallant phrase;
it was a brutal Roman, no doubt."

"You are making game of me,--I know you are."

"No, indeed; you insisted upon my translating it word for word, and I
have done your bidding."

"Then the man was a wretch who wrote them."

"I think so too, Señora."

"A brute--an animal!"

"Certainly, Señora."

"A fool--an old horror!"

"Most probably."

"An ignorant slanderer!"

"Oh! surely."

"A monster!"

"I wager anything you like of it." But it was of no use; unconditional
assent failed to pacify her. So she went on for hours; and it cost me
untold pains to earn the brunette's permission to offer her an ice, or
to win one single smile.



CHAPTER IV.

     Le Morvan during the Middle Ages--Legendary horrors--Forest of La
     Goulotte--La Croix Chavannes--La Croix Mordienne--Hôtel de
     Chanty--Château de Lomervo--A French Bluebeard--Citadel of Lingou.


But I must return from my Andalusian belle to the rugged Le Morvan,--a
patriotic, but, in spite of the broken finger, by no means so
captivating a subject.

In feudal times--indeed, even so late as the last century--the district
was a perfect nest of cut-throats, where no one could venture in safety
for any honest purpose; without roads, and without police; full of dark
caverns and half-demolished castles, affording all kinds of facilities
for retreat and concealment; and thus it became the favourite rendezvous
of the worst and most ferocious characters of those lawless times. It is
widely different now. The hunter or the traveller--a woman or a
child--may ramble through the length and breadth of its forests, equally
in vain hoping for the excitement or fearing the danger of any
adventure, beyond the common one of seeing a wolf or wild boar threading
his way amongst the trees--a matter of no consequence at all. If,
however, you love to collect wild and mournful tales--tales, even, of
horror, with which to rivet the attention of the family group over the
fire in the winter evenings,--stop at every ruined wall over which the
lizard is harmlessly creeping; stop at every massive tower in which the
owl is screeching--at every large isolated stone under which the serpent
is hissing; linger along each tortuous path, and your peasant guide will
tell you a tradition for each--for all.

Thus, for instance: you are perhaps a few paces in front of him, in the
forest of La Goulotte; and as the mid-day sun glances through the boughs
above you, you see its rays rest upon a cross at a little distance; it
was, you think, placed there for the rude worshippers of the province,
and you contemplate it with complacent reverence, till Pierre comes up
with you. "'Tis La Croix Chavannes, Monsieur, _la croix sinistre_. See!
in the narrow pass between the two mountains, its black and moss-covered
arms extended; at the end of each is a large knob, resembling a
threatening hand." You walk on, and find the cross riddled with ball,
chipped and notched, and carved with odd names. By the time you have
reached it, Pierre has told you it was set on the spot where, many a
long year ago, the Marquis de Chavannes was found, deluged in blood and
quite dead; he had been pierced through the heart by a treacherous
rival, who had joined his hunting party, and who basely took advantage
of a moment when, in ardent pursuit of the grisly boar, De Chavannes was
utterly unsuspicious of his evil intentions.

A little further on is another cross, at the entrance of a deep, dark
gorge: What does that cross mean? "That one is called La Croix
Mordienne, Monsieur; at its foot our forefathers knelt to recommend
their souls to God, before they ventured their lives in the dangers of
Les Grand Ravins, where too many had been greeted by the bullet or the
dagger." The granite steps of this cross--this cross which was erected
for worship--are worn deep by the knees of suppliants for protection
against the cruelty of their fellow-men; and it is even a more
melancholy monument of the ferocity of those times, than the one which
records the assassination of the unsuspecting Marquis de Chavannes.

Pursue your way, and, crossing a wild and marshy heath, you notice a
lonely house surrounded by thorny broom, the aspect of which is
forbidding, though it is gaily painted. Surely, you think, it can only
be the gloomy tales with which my guide has beguiled this morning's
walk, that make one suspect there is a history connected with that
house; and you ask him its name. "That is Chanty, Monsieur; that was
once an inn. The landlord was a frightful character, even for his own
times. When the doomed traveller halted at his door to seek shelter from
the storm, or to refresh himself and steed the better to encounter the
scorching heat, the villain drugged his wine, and, at nightfall,
following him into the forest, despatched and robbed his then helpless
victim. Or perhaps he would detain him with stirring tales of forest
life, till he found himself too late prudently to go further that night;
and, on his guard against every person but the right, ordering a bed of
his treacherous host, would fall into that slumber from which the
miscreant took safe means to prevent his ever awaking. When, after many
years of impunity in the commission of these fearful crimes, the
officers of justice were at last set upon him, and his house was
searched, in the cellar were found fifteen headless skeletons!"

Such a mass of silent, awful testimony perhaps never was produced to
substantiate the allegation of similar villany against any man; and
atrocities like these, of the early and middle ages, have given their
character to the legends of Le Morvan, which, still carefully related
from one generation to another, are so impressed on the minds of the
people, that the honest peasant of the present day would rather make a
circuit of a dozen or twenty miles, than pass in the deepening twilight
near the scenes to which they relate. Not all the gold of Peru--no, nor
even of California--would tempt _Les Pastoures_ to graze their flocks or
herds near the scene of these horrid events, or pass them when the stars
are spangling the dark arch of heaven.

Here also may be seen the solid walls, the array of towers, the high
belfry, the iron gates, and the ponderous drawbridges of the Château de
Lomervo; and many are the dependent buildings, courts, and gardens,
surrounded by the thick copse wood that covers its domain, which extends
over three neighbouring hills. Under the principal façade is a large
lake, whose blue waves bathe the walls; an immense mirror, ever
reflecting the numberless turrets, and the grotesque birds and beasts
which decorate the extremity of every waterspout; wherein, too, the
tranquil marble giants, who support the broad balcony on their heads,
seem to contemplate and admire their own imperturbable
countenances--countenances that betrayed no shade of feeling at all
that must have passed before their eyes. The gathering of armed knights
for war or revelry; the rejoicings for the birth of an heir, or the
lamentations for the death of the stern gray-headed lord; the bridal of
one lovely daughter of the house of Lomervo, or the solitary departure
of the mail-clad lover of another for the Crusades. But, it is said,
they saw much more than all this: according to popular rumour, these
calm deep waters are the cold and mute depositories of frightfully
tragic secrets. One bright spring morning in the very olden time, says
the tradition, a Lord of this domain left his castle. It was when the
sweet violet first cast its odours on the breeze, when the bright and
abundant bloom of the lilac and laburnum gracefully decorated the
gardens, and the country was reclad in all the charming freshness of the
season. After a short absence, he returned, accompanied by a lovely
bride;--but ere long she died. He went again, returning with another,
and was again received by his vassals with acclamations of joy; but
gloomy suspicions at last arose, for in this way, in succeeding years,
were brought to the Castle eleven young and beautiful damsels. One by
one, they all disappeared. What became of them? No one knew, or, if they
did, dared to tell. When, however, the long-dreaded lord was dead, some
old women declared, that as he became tired of each wife, he stabbed her
at midnight in one of his dungeons, took a sack from a heap which he
kept in the corner, and, sewing her up with his own hands, carried her
noiselessly to the water-gate, and laid her in the bottom of his boat.
Silently and rapidly he rowed to the centre of the lake, and coolly
dropped in his hapless victim amongst the sheltering reeds.

"Ah! Monsieur," the village gossips will still tell you, as they make
the sign of the cross, and tremble till you see their very stuff gowns
shake again; "'tis all true, Monsieur; twenty times have we seen them in
the moonlight--twenty times have we seen the poor souls, in their long
white robes, with their pale faces, and the spot of blood on the left
side, wandering over the lake." Poor Bluebeard, for whom in childhood we
used to feel such awe, was a fool to this baron bold.

There, a little in front of you, is the fortified village of Chamou,
which in former years defended the eastern opening of Les Grand Ravins;
also Lingou, an old citadel, three stories high, whose walls, now
cracked and ivy bound, guarded them on the south. This piece of feudal
architecture, full of trap-doors and dungeons, subterranean passages,
and secret stairs, is another of the places dreaded and abhorred by the
peasantry of Le Morvan; for near the walls, they say, at certain
periods, sounds can be distinctly heard under ground, funeral chaunts,
and the tolling of bells; and if you have the daring to apply your ear
to the sod, you will be able to distinguish sighs and sobs, and the dull
rattle of the earth thrown upon the victim's coffin.



CHAPTER V.

     Castle of Bazoche--Maréchal de Vauban--Relics of the old
     Marshal--Memorials of Philipsburg--Hôtel de Bazarne--Madame de
     Pompadour's maître d'hôtel--Proof of the _curés'_ grief--Farm of
     St. Hibaut--Youthful recollections--Monsieur de Cheribalde--Navarre
     the Four-Pounder--His culverin.


Each of the Radcliffian horrors narrated in the last chapter, though
vastly marvellous, most probably originated in some dreadful deed of
blood, on which the vulgar and superstitious admiration of excitement of
those days delighted to enlarge. We shall now turn to the castle of
Bazoche, where, in former days, dukes, counts and barons assembled every
September with their hunting-train, to enjoy the pleasures of _la grande
chasse_ and all its attendant revelry. The château in later years
belonged to the renowned engineer, Sebastian-le-Prêtre, Maréchal de
Vauban, who was a native of Le Morvan, and born in 1633 in the village
of St. Leger de Foucheret. The humble roof under which this celebrated
man first saw the light is now inhabited by a _sabot_-maker.

Brought up, like Henry IV., amongst the peasants of his native
province, like him he loved the remembrance of all connected with it and
them; and when he died in Paris (1707), he desired that he might be
buried at his beloved Château de Bazoche, where he had so often,
sauntering under the noble _platanes_, sought and found relaxation from
the turmoil and fatigue of a soldier's life, and forgotten the
jealousies and injustice of the court. In the southern part of the
building is the gallant old veteran's sleeping apartment--there still
stands his bed: and his armour, with several swords and other articles
which belonged to him, are still preserved. On the rampart, now probably
silent for ever, are four pieces of cannon of large calibre, which
thundered at the siege of Philipsburg, and were subsequently presented
to the Marshal by Monseigneur, the brother of Louis XIV.

Great were the works accomplished by the genius and perseverance of this
famous general--famous, not only in his own profession, but as one of
the honest characters of an age when honesty was rare indeed. He
improved and perfected the defences of three hundred towns, and entirely
constructed the fortifications of thirty-three others; was present at
one hundred and forty battles, and conducted fifty-three sieges. The
body of this eminent man was, in literal compliance with his orders,
interred in a black marble tomb, under the damp flagstones of the castle
chapel; but his heart, in melancholy violation of the spirit which
dictated them, is enclosed in a monument, surmounted by his bust, in the
church of the Hôtel des Invalides. Opposite to it is the tomb of
Turenne, and under the same roof at last repose the mortal remains of
Napoleon. Could their spirits perambulate this church at the hour when
the dead only are said to be awake, and we could muster the courage to
listen to their whispered communings, what should we hear? How severely
would this tremendous triumvirate judge some of the so-called great men
of our own time!

But there are more modern edifices in Le Morvan, with far more agreeable
episodes attached to them: take, for example, the Hôtel de Bazarne, a
celebrated hostel, built among the green lanes on the borders of a wood
of acacias--a beautiful flowery wood, which, when the merry month of May
has heralded the perfumed pleasures of spring, dispenses them on every
breeze over the adjacent country.

Bazarne, in its healthy situation and splendid environs, boasts the best
of cookery. The last owner of Bazarne was--Reader, the utmost exercise
of your lively imagination will never supply you with the right
name--was an _ancien maître d'hôtel_ of Madame la Marquise de
Pompadour--Madame de Pompadour's steward! What could he have to do in
the wilds of Le Morvan? Grand Jean was a curious little man, lively and
brisk as a bird or a squirrel, powdered, curled, and smelling of rose
and benjamin as if he were still at Versailles or Choisi. Grand Jean
decorated the back of his head with a little pigtail, which much
resembled a head of asparagus, and was always jumping and frisking from
one shoulder to the other. His snuff-box was of rare enamel, his ruffles
of point-lace, and his artistic performances in the culinary art were
all carried on in vessels of solid silver. He was, from the point of his
toe to the tips of his hair, the aristocrat of the saucepan and the
stove.

Grand Jean acquired, in our provincial district, a reputation perfectly
monumental for the richness of his venison pasties, the refined flavour,
the smoothness and the exquisite finish of his _omelettes aux truffes_
and _au sang de chevreuil_. All the world of Le Morvan used to visit
him. And the good _curés_? The good _curés_?--ah! they all went to visit
him by caravans, as the faithful wend their way across the deserts to
Mecca to pray at the tomb of the Prophet. And, when he died, they
mourned indeed; the worthy divines, incredible as it may be, drank water
for three days, in proof of the sincerity of their woe. Who would have
doubted it?

To the north of Bazarne, and on the road to the best district for sport,
is seen at the foot of the gray mountains peeping cheerily, and like a
white flower amidst the sombre foliage of the chestnut-trees, St.
Hibaut, an immense farm, situated in an isolated spot, and built of the
lava from an extinct volcano. Saint Hibaut, ah! the moment the pen
traces that dear name my aching heart beats and throbs within my
breast--before my eyes pass to and fro the memories of a vanished
world--I seem to feel the fresh and odorous breezes from thy flowers,
thy mossy banks and scented shrubs, and hear thy murmuring rills and the
dash of thy wild torrents. St. Hibaut! lovely spot where flew so swiftly
and so sweetly the brightest and gayest hours of my early years--St.
Hibaut, the memory of thee burns within my heart: but those within thy
walls, do they still think of me?

Alas! in this world of tears and deception, of moral tortures and often
of physical suffering--what is there more delightful, more consolatory
than to sip, nay plunge the lips, and drink, yes, drink deep from that
fresh and blessed spring, the memory of by-gone days. How great the
burden of the man who has been the sport of fortune, whose life has been
one continued sorrow, who, never satisfied with the present moment, is
always hoping for better and happier days, and always regretting those
which have been and are now no more. O! Reader--if many griefs have been
your portion, if it has been your sad fate to tread with naked feet the
thorny paths of life, if the foul passions of envy, rage, and hatred
have found a place in your heart, close your eyes, forget your
miseries--open, open for a moment that golden casket called the memory,
in which are preserved, embalmed and imperishable, all those happy
incidents which were the delight of your youth. Yes! open wide that
casket, ponder well, and with renewed fondness o'er these treasures of
the mind, and believe me after such holy reflections you will feel
yourself more able to meet the contumely of the world, and find yourself
a happier and a better man.

Saint Hibaut, situated in a wild country, surrounded by lonely heaths
and deep ravines, and water-courses whose sides are covered by almost
impenetrable thickets, was at the time I speak of, that is to say, when
I was eighteen years of age, the property of Monsieur de Cheribalde,
the most intrepid, determined and ardent sportsman, who ever winded a
horn, wore a huntsman's knife, or whistled a dog.

Distant very nearly twenty miles from any human habitation, it was at
times, the favourite rendezvous, the head-quarters of a great number of
chevreuil, boar and other denizens of the forest. In winter, when the
snow covered the earth for several weeks, the famished and furious
wolves assembled in the neighbourhood in packs, carrying off in the
broad daylight everything they could lay their teeth on; sheep and
shepherd, dogs and huntsman, horse and horseman, bones, hair, and skins
half-tanned, old hats and shoes--even the corrupt bodies of the dead
were torn from their resting-places, and eaten by these horrid animals.

On moonlight nights, these brutes would come fearlessly up to the very
walls of the farm, dancing their sarabandes in the snow, howling like so
many devils, shrieking and showing their long white teeth, and demanding
in unmistakable terms something or somebody to devour; their yells,
their cries of rage, of victory, and of love, intermingled with the
funereal song of the screech-owl, and the lugubrious melodies which the
current from the blast without caused in the large open chimneys,--was
the concert, which from December to April lulled the inmates of St.
Hibaut to sleep; music that would I doubt not have reduced even the
formidable proportions of the inimitable Lablache, and made Mario sing
out of tune.

But these were the good old times, the good old times! Well do I
remember, when the shadows of those winter evenings lengthened, when
nightfall came, and when at last the moon arose, bringing out in light
and shade every object within the court-yard, and at some distance from
the house, then it was that Monsieur de Cheribalde went his rounds. I
see him in my mind's eye now, with his gun on his shoulder, followed by
his five enormous bloodhounds strong and fierce as lions, and Navarre,
surnamed the Four-Pounder, who walked a few paces to the right and left,
opening his large saucer eyes, poking and squinting into every bush and
corner.

Navarre, for forty years the head gamekeeper of the domain, was his
master's right hand, his _alter ego_. He had never in his whole life
been beyond his woods,--had never seen the church-steeple of a great
town. To him, the dark belt of firs that skirted the horizon, was the
limit of the world; and when told that the sun never set, and that when
it sank behind the mountains, it was only continuing its course, to beam
bright in other skies and on other lands, and to ripen other
harvests,--Navarre smiled, and did not believe a word. Happy Navarre!
what did it signify to him what was done, or what happened behind those
hills? He was thin and dry as a match, and tall as a Norwegian spruce,
with a face covered with hair; he smoked, and tossed off glass after
glass of brandy, like a Dutchman. In addition to these peculiarities,
Navarre was lame of the right leg, a boar having one day kindly applied
his tusky lancet to his thigh, and gored him seriously, before, hand to
hand, he managed to finish him with his hunting-knife.

At the first glance, Navarre's aspect appeared strange and forbidding,
and savage as the locality in which he lived. The fact was, that, like
Robinson Crusoe, he was frequently arrayed in a suit of skins of which
he had been the architect, on a fantastic pattern, that his own queer
imagination had created.

On great occasions the veteran keeper donned a helmet, or a gray
three-cornered hat, of so ridiculous a shape--so royally absurd--that
for my life, when he was thus attired, I could not, even in the presence
of his master, refrain from laughter; then he would tell you, with a
gravity it was impossible to disturb, that it had taken him fifteen
days, eight skins of wild cats, and twelve squirrel's tails, to achieve
this happy _chef-d'oeuvre_ of the tailoring art. But I once said to
him, "My good Navarre, in the name of heaven tell me, from what Japanese
manuscript did you fish out that odious hat? Why, with such a shed, you
might very well be mistaken for Chin-ko-fi-ku-o, high-priest of the
temple of Twi. Do give me the address of your hatter, my dear friend."
Navarre, furious, gave no reply.

But the time really to admire him--to see the head gamekeeper in all his
splendour--was in winter, in a hard frost, when, covered with skins and
motionless, he lay in ambush in a black ravine, waiting for a boar. Oh!
then, for certain, the sight of him was anything but encouraging; for he
looked like some unknown animal, some variety of the species _Bonassus_,
a crocodile on end, a crumpled-up elephant, or a great bear on the
watch. And when he loaded his rifle--a sort of culverin or wall-piece,
which no one but himself knew how to manage--gracious powers! he was
something to see. His first movement was to seize the gigantic weapon in
the middle, as a policeman would fasten upon a favourite thief; and then
he set himself to blow into the barrel with such fury, that had there
been an ounce of wadding left, the blast would have blown it all through
the enormous touch-hole. Being well assured after this that neither an
adder nor a slow-worm had taken up his domicile within the barrel, he
began to load. One charge--two charges--then a third, "as a compliment,"
and after this, a fourth, "for good luck." On this infernal
charge--imperial, as he called it--this Vesuvius, this volcano of
saltpetre, he threw half-a-dozen balls, or, if he was out of them, a
handful of nails; and then he rammed--rammed--rammed away, like a
pavior.

My hair stood on end, and every limb trembled when he fired it off--holy
St. Francis!--the very forest bent, and coughed, and sighed; and it made
as much flame, smoke, noise, and carnage, as a battery of horse
artillery. One might have heard it all over Burgundy, or Provence for
what I know; and hence, no doubt, his _sobriquet_ of "the Four-Pounder."
I always thought his shoulder must be made of heart of oak. On one
occasion he did me the incomparable favour of loading my gun in this
fashion, but luckily for me, informed me of this piece of civility
before we started; and greatly was he chagrined when I declined to fire
it. In the common occurrences of life, Navarre was a right good fellow;
he had great good sense, could take a joke, was simple and modest in
his manners, and very kind-hearted and retiring. But once in the forest,
the dogs uncoupled, and the business of the chase commenced, he bounded
to the front; his eyes flashed, his nostrils dilated, he took a deep
breath, listened, and snuffed the air; he limped no longer; and as his
courage was unequalled, and his knowledge of wood-craft profound, the
proudest of every rank were content to follow where he led.



CHAPTER VI.

     Bird's-eye view of the forests--The student's visit to his uncle in
     the country--Sallies forth in the early morning--Meets a
     cuckoo--Follows him--The cuckoo too much for him--Gives up the
     pursuit--Finds he has lost his way--Agreeable vespers--Night in the
     forest--Wolves--Up a beech tree--A friend in need--The student bids
     adieu to Le Morvan.


We have alluded in the opening chapters to the inexhaustible wealth
drawn by the inhabitants from the woods of Le Morvan, though we have as
yet touched but slightly on their beauties. To see them at one _coup
d'oeil_, in all the splendour of their extent, one ought to call for
the veteran, Mr. Green, and, safely (?) lodged in his car, with plenty
of sandwiches and champagne, fly and soar above these forests of La
Belle France. By St. Hubert, gentle reader, your eyes would be feasted
with a glorious sight. Beneath your feet you would, in autumn, behold a
verdant expanse in every variety of light and shade--a sea of leaves,
which, though sometimes in repose, more often moan and murmur, while the
giant arms they clothe rock to and fro in the gale, like the restless
waves of the troubled deep.

Here Nature displays all her sylvan grandeur; here she has scattered,
with a liberal hand, every charm that foliage can give to earth, and
many a lovely flower to scent the evening breeze. Descend, and in this
immense labyrinth you will find a tangled skein of forest paths, in
which it is never prudent to ramble alone; as will be seen by the
following adventure, which befell a young student who once went to Le
Morvan, anticipating infinite pleasure in spending a few weeks at the
house of an old uncle, a rich proprietor and owner of a large farm in
the forest of Erveau.

Residing from his infancy in the department of the Seine, he was quite
ignorant of a forest life; and the morning was yet early when he arose
from his bed and sallied forth to enjoy the fresh and fragrant air, of
which he had a foretaste at his open window, and take a ramble till the
hour of breakfast summoned him to his uncle's hospitable fare. All
without was life and sweetness; every bush had its little chorister; the
sun brilliant, but not as yet high in the heavens, threw his bright rays
in chequered light and shade between the trees, and made the pearly
tears of night, which hung quivering on each bending blade of grass,
sparkle like diamonds of the purest water. The student was in raptures,
and after a brief survey of the garden, he cast a longing eye upon the
woods which he so much wished to penetrate. On he walked, stopping
occasionally to muse on the enchanting scene around him, when all at
once he espied, on the lofty branches of an ash, a cuckoo! At the sight
of this splendid bird, our Parisian sportsman felt his heart pit-a-pat
and jump like a girl's in love; and without stopping any longer to
admire the marvels of Nature, he turned hastily back to his uncle's
abode, in search of a gun, with which to annihilate the luckless
harbinger of spring. He soon found one, ready loaded, in the hall; and,
with his heart full of hope and his legs full of precaution, he glided
mysteriously from one tree to another, endeavouring, by all possible
means, to conceal his approach from the wily cuckoo, which, perched on
high, was throwing into space his two dull notes, regular and monotonous
as the tick-tick of an old-fashioned clock.

Warily and stealthily did the student approach; bent nearly double, he
scarcely drew his breath, as his distance from the tree grew less; but,
says the song of the poacher,--

  "If women smell tricks, cuckoos smell powder."

And again,--

  "'Tis a difficult thing to catch woman at fault,
  More difficult still, an old cuckoo with salt."

Without appearing to do so, from the height of his leafy turret, the
prudent cuckoo kept a wary eye upon the tortuous movements of his enemy;
but as he saw at a glance what sort of a customer he had to deal with,
he evidently did not feel any particular hurry to shift his quarters:
only every time he saw the double barrel moving up to the Parisian's
shoulder, and that hostilities on his part were about to be opened, he,
as if just for fun, dropped his own dear brown self on the branch below
him, flapped his wings, and soon perching himself on a tree a little
further off, gravely re-opened his beak and resumed his monotonous
chant.

The young student, piqued and mortified at this discreet behaviour of
the cuckoo, which, like happiness, was always on the wing, perseveringly
followed the provoking bird--one walked, the other flew, the distance
increased at every flight, and thus they got over a great deal of
ground; the young man still believing his uncle's farm was close behind
him--the cuckoo perfectly easy, knowing full well he could find his
leafy home whenever he might please to return to it. So, for the
fiftieth time, perhaps, the cuckoo was vanishing in the foliage, when a
sudden thought cramped the legs and cut short the obstinate pursuit of
the young lawyer; he then, for the first time, remembered the wholesome
advice his uncle had given him on his arrival.--"Beware, my fine fellow,
beware of going alone in the forest, for to those who know not how to
read their way, that is, on the bark of the trees, the mossy stones, and
dry or broken twigs, the forest is full of snares and danger, of
deceitful echos and strange noises that attract and mislead the
inexperienced sportsman."

"By Juno," thought our hero, "as it is most certain that in Paris they
are not yet clever enough to teach us geography on the bark of trees, I
am an uncommonly lucky fellow to have just remembered the dear old
gentleman's warning. Hang the infernal cuckoo! Go to the devil, you
hideous cuckoo! Good morning, sir, my compliments at home." And then,
with his terrible carbine under his arm, he retraced his steps,
expecting every moment to see peeping through the trees in front of him,
his uncle's large white house and lofty dove-cote.

But, alas! no such thing met his hungry eyes; still on he walked, trees
after trees were passed, glade after glade, and many a long avenue, but
neither white farm-house nor gay green shutters greeted his anxious
sight. "How odd," thought he, "how very odd; this, I feel confident, is
the identical spot near which I first noticed that odious cuckoo; here
is the self-same little regiment of white daisies that my feet pressed
not half an hour ago; see now, this chestnut, this immense chestnut,
whose monstrous roots lie twisting about the ground like a black brood
of ugly snakes--certainly this was the way I came, surely I saw these
roots, and yet no house appears." And thus, from time to time, he
reasoned with himself, looking on either side for some object that he
could recognize with certainty; at last, grown thoroughly hungry and
impatient, he hallooed and shouted, but no voice replied, not the
slightest sound was floating in the air. It was then he felt he had lost
his way,--that he was alone, yes, alone in the forest of Erveau, in a
leafy wilderness stretching many miles.

Many a vow he made and many a blackberry he picked as he walked hither
and thither, in every direction. The day wore on, the sun had long
passed the meridian, and with the coming evening rose a gentle breeze,
which moaned in the dry ferns; and this and the rustling of the giant
creepers that reached from tree to tree, and swung between the branches,
fell mournfully on the student's ear. A vague fear, a fatal
presentiment of evil began to creep over him; again he shouted, the echo
from a dark wild ravine alone replied; he fired his gun again and again,
the echo alone answered his signal of distress, and nothing could he
hear, except at intervals, far, far away in the green depths of the
forest, the notes cuckoo--cuckoo.

Faint and weary, from hunger and fatigue, the young man, no longer able
to proceed, fell down at the foot of a spreading beech, and gave way to
an agony of grief; drops of cold sweat stood upon his brow; the clammy
feeling of fear took possession of his heart, and though, perhaps, he
would have had no objection to try the fortune of the pistol or the
sword, in any college broil or senseless riot of the populace, the
circumstances under which he then stood were so new to him, that he was
quite unmanned and incapable of further exertion.

In blood-red streaks sank the setting sun, his large yellow orb glancing
through the trees like the dimmed eye of some giant ogre; twilight came,
and soon after every valley lay in shadow; the breeze, as if waking from
its gentle slumbers, whistled in the highest branches, and, increasing
in force, rocked the lower limbs, which moaned mournfully as the night
closed in.

Hungry and alarmed, and now quite worn out with his lengthened walk, the
young Parisian lay stretched on the moss, listening with painful anxiety
to this melancholy conversation of the woods, when, suddenly, and as
night fell, spreading over the earth her sable wings and shaking from
the folds of her robe the luminous legions of stars, he heard a
prolonged and sonorous howl in the distance--a strolling wolf--

  "Cruel as Death! and hungry as the grave!
  Burning for blood! bony and gaunt and grim,"

had scented the Parisian and was inviting his good friends with the long
teeth, to come and sup on the dainty morsel. Touched as if by a hot
iron, up got the terrified youth, and striking his ten nails into the
friendly tree near him like an Indian monkey, he was in an instant many
feet above its base. Here, astride upon a branch, shivering and shaking,
each hair on end, and murmuring many a Pater and Ave Maria, unsaid for
years, he passed the most horrific night that any citizen of the
department of the Seine had ever been known to spend in the middle of
the forest of Erveau.

The following morning, but not until the sun had already run nearly
half his course, for he never dared to leave his timber observatory
before, _le pauvre diable_ dropped down from his perch like an
acorn--and, marching off with weary steps, and scarcely a hope that ere
another night fell he should gain the shelter of some cottage, he
dragged himself along. On he rolled from side to side, torn with the
thorns and bitten by the gnats that swarmed around him, sometimes
calling upon his mother, sometimes upon the saints--when a wood-cutter
happily met, and seeing his exhausted condition, threw the slim student
over his shoulders like a bundle of straw, and carried him to a
neighbouring village. There, he was put to bed and attended with every
care, when he soon recovered--and received the charming intelligence
that he was about forty miles from his uncle's house--that he had been
wandering for that distance in the most beautiful part of the forest of
Erveau, and that if by any chance he had deviated a little more to the
right in his unpleasant steeple-chase across the woods, he would have
gone, in a straight line, eighty-six miles without meeting house or
cottage or human soul until he found himself at the gates of Dijon,
chief town of the Côte-d'Or, where he might and would, no doubt, have
been able to refresh himself with a bottle of Beaune and inspect the
Gothic tombs of the great Dukes of Burgundy.

Grateful was the unlucky lad to think that he had not taken this road,
and truly glad was he when, under the woodcutter's care, he reached his
uncle's white house. No sooner, however, was he fairly recovered from
his misadventure, than he packed up his superb cambric shirts, his Lyons
silk socks, patent leather boots, and white Jouvin gloves; squeezed the
hand of his aunt, gave a doubtful shake to that of his uncle, and
started in the _malle poste_ for the capital. His father's brother and
Le Morvan never saw him more.

Such adventures, however, as these are rare, and you must have, indeed,
a double dose of bad fortune to be lost in such a woful way, and spend,
without meeting any mortal soul, thirty long hours in the woods: for
though the tract of forest is very extensive, there are strewed, here
and there, several merry villages, large farms, and hunting-boxes,
snugly hidden, it is true, beneath the trees,--but which an experienced
huntsman very soon discovers when he stands in need of assistance or a
night's lodging.



CHAPTER VII.

     Charms of a forest life to the sportsman--The Poachers--Le Père
     Séguin--His knowledge of the woods and of the rivers--The first
     buck--A bad shot.


However dangerous the forests of Le Morvan may be, and certainly are, to
the citizen of Paris, whose knowledge of wood-craft, whatever may have
been his delightful visions of forest life, of fairy revels, and
hair-breadth escapes, is about equal to his proficiency in navigation,
they are no labyrinth to the true sportsman of this province; in his
mind, they are mapped with an accuracy perfectly astonishing to the
uninitiated in the countless indications of nature, of which the eye of
man becomes so keenly observant when thrown constantly into her
fascinating society. Let a man of a vigorous health, active frame, and
contemplative mind once enter, even for a short time, upon the
enjoyments of sporting, wild and varied as are those of Le Morvan, it
would be difficult to withdraw him from its delights, and persuade him
that it is in any way desirable to return to the crowded haunts of men,
and condemn himself to resume the harassing struggle for wealth or a
competence in his own legitimate sphere.

No; there scarcely breathes the human being who could be so insensible
to the charms of scenery like that of Le Morvan as to do so without a
pang. 'Tis a chalice of gold, brimful of real pleasures for those who
love the joys of the open air; 'tis alive with fish and game, and has
its vineyards and its cornfields too.

But we are thinking of the forests only, of the boar--that potentate of
the solitudes--and the wild cat: of the ravines and caves, to which the
hardy and venturous hunter, through bush, brake, or briar, over
streamlet or torrent, will chace the ravenous wolf,--who, bearing the
iron ball in his lacerated side, ever and anon gnaws the wound in his
rage, and slinks on weeping tears of blood. The roebuck and the hare,
the feathered and the finny tribe, are ever presenting an endless
alternation of amusement more or less exciting; and the sportsman has
but to settle with himself, when the rosy morn appears, whether he will
bestride his gallant steed, or throw the rod or rifle over his
shoulder,--his day's pleasure is safe.

It matters not whether the falling leaf announces that the woods are
clearing for him, the deep snow warns him to look to the protection of
his flocks from the dangerous intrusion of the wolves, or the genial air
and the brilliant flies tell him that the silvery tenants of the many
streams and rivers that intersect the forest are ready to provide him
sport.

Arouse thee, sportsman! when the dark clouds of night fly before the
rays of Phoebus as a troop of timid antelopes before the
leopard,--when the lark abandons his mossy bed, and soaring sends forth
his joyous carol,

  "----blythe to greet
  The purpling East,"

then, O sportsman, up, and to horse! Away! bending over the saddle-bow,
follow the wild deer across the heath--inhale the perfume of the
trampled thyme. Draw bridle for a moment, and pity the thousands of thy
fellow-men to whom the pure air and light are denied, and let thy
heartfelt thanksgivings for thy free and happy lot ascend to the azure
battlements of heaven. Beneath your gaze lie valleys whence rise the
morning mists as do the clouds from the richly-perfumed censer, and
float over the bosom of the plain ere they wreathe the mountain side;
all the bushes sing, every leaf is shining to welcome the glorious sun
as he rises majestically over that high dark range, and the bright blue
dome of day is revealed in all its purity.

Plunge onward to the forest--you will perhaps fall in with one of the
_braconniers_--must I call them poachers?--of which there are many; all
alike, in one sense, yet each having the most whimsical characteristics.
The reader knows my friend Navarre, but I must now introduce him to
another of the cronies of my youth, the Père Séguin, the thoughts of
whom revive all the sweet recollections of my home when my family lived
in the ancient and picturesque Vezelay.

Séguin's "form and feature" are as well impressed upon my memory as
those even of Navarre. Could any one forget him? I should think not; for
he was so fantastic and mysterious, such a determined sportsman and
eccentric desperado, that he was known to all Le Morvan.

As well as I remember, he was about fifty-five years of age when I first
knew him; from his earliest boyhood he had fancied and loved a
forester's life, and for more than forty years had realized his dreams
of its wild independence. The woods, the rocks, the streams had no
secrets for him; he understood all their murmurs and their silence--he
knew the habits of every bird and beast of these forests and the
whereabouts of every large trout in his clear cold hole.

But it is of no use to describe Père Séguin; to know him you must hunt
with him, and that pretty often, too--as I have done from my earliest
youth. I am now with him, on one of those joyous mornings of my boyhood,
and having threaded the woods for an hour, he has placed me in ambuscade
at the corner of a copse. Here, after a short delay, he pulls out his
watch, a time-piece weighing about two pounds, and after a mute
consultation with the hands, says in a low decided tone:

"Good! Three o'clock. Stop here, youngster, and in an hour I shall send
you a buck."

"A buck at four o'clock? How are you to tell that?" And I felt that I
opened my eyes as an oyster does his bivalve domicile at high water. "A
buck! you are joking."

"I never joke," said the Père Séguin with a hoarse grunt, walking away,
and his face did not belie his words.

"Well, then, but how can you possibly--Stop, do, for one moment. Hear
me! holla! Père Séguin! I say, you old humbug.--By Socrates, he is off."

But Père Séguin was already striding fast and far through the bending
branches, wilfully, if not really out of hearing, and I had nothing to
do but to watch for the promised game. I had no watch, and it seemed to
me long after the appointed hour, when my reverie was disturbed by a low
voice, from I knew not where,--from heaven, from earth, from a murmuring
brook, from a tree,--which dropped these words in my ear.

"Silence--four o'clock--the buck."

At that moment I saw the ears of the roebuck, and soon after the animal
itself, pausing for a moment in his leisurely course, just where he
ought to be for a good shot. But amazement and trepidation seized me. I
fired in a hurry, and the deer bounded off unscathed. "How clumsy," said
I to the Père Séguin, as he emerged from the thicket, "and how
unfortunate, for I have some friends coming to dine with me this week."

"Never mind, never mind," replied the poacher; "I will fill your larder
to-morrow."

"Well, you are a good fellow, but remember I require also some fish--a
fine dish of trout."

"Very well," growled the Père, "you shall have one;" and without a word
more the _braconnier_ is off; and soon after I meet him with his rod, a
young fir-tree, on his shoulder, a box of worms as large as snakes, and
with the most entire confidence in his piscatory powers, proceeding on
his way to the stream that will suit his purpose. In the evening he
reappears, taking from the fresh grass in which he has carried them,
three or four magnificent fish studded with drops of gold. White wine
and choice aromatic herbs flavour them, and you rejoice in the pleasure
and praises of your friends as they partake of the savoury meal.

And now for a sketch, if possible, of this excellent purveyor. Père
Séguin was tall as an obelisk, strong as a Hercules, _vif_ as gunpowder,
thin and sinewy as any wolf in his beloved forests. His ear large, flat,
and full of hair; his teeth long, white, regular, and sharp as those of
his favourite and extraordinary dog; his eyes yellow, calm, and piercing
as those of a mountain eagle, and his chin had never been desecrated
with a razor. A kind of brushwood covered his face, and through it
peeped, with the tip of his hooked nose, the features I have described.
This immense uncultivated beard, tucked carefully within his waistcoat,
reached nearly to his waist. Did I say it had never been shaved? I might
add, it had never been combed. Lurking in it you might see leaves,
white hairs, red hairs, bits of a butterfly's wing, two or three jay's
feathers, a nutshell, some tobacco, a blade or two of grass, the cup of
an acorn, or a little moss. Indeed, so strangely was it garnished that,
when asleep on the grass under the trees, a robin was once seen to hover
over him undecided as to whether she would build her nest in it, or pick
out materials to make one elsewhere.

Of uncommon intelligence, peculiarly taciturn, brave, frank, loyal, and
incapable of a bad action, his mind was of a gloomy cast; he was always
alone, he had no friends, he wanted none, and, if not hunting, reading
the Bible or muttering to himself, with his eyes fixed on the ground. He
lived like the woodcock, sad and solitary in his hole.

The peasants dreaded him, and never spoke of him but as the _Sorcier_,
the _Vieux Diable_; when naughty little children refused to learn their
letters or to go to bed, it was only necessary to threaten them with
sending for the Père Séguin and his red dog, and the whole of the rosy
troop would scamper off to their nursery in an instant.

I need scarcely say that amongst his other perfections he was a perfect
shot--the best in the department,--and the moment he touched the
trigger death winged his charge at two hundred paces. With a single ball
from his rifle would he bring down the wild cat from the highest
branches, and cut the poor squirrels in two, stop the howl of the wolf,
or shiver the iron frontal bones of the wild boar.

In short, his gun was his joy, his friend, his mistress, his all; he
spoke to it, caressed it, rocked it on his knees as a mother would her
sick child, and took a thousand times more care of it than he would have
bestowed upon the most lovely wife, had he ever done anything so rash as
to marry. It was a singular accident that brought us acquainted; and if
I had had any respect for chronology, I should have related it before.

One day, when rambling over the mountain in search of game, I put up and
fired at a hare; she was evidently hit, and I gave chase, yet though
puss had but three legs effective I could not overtake her,

  "I follow'd fast, but faster did she fly;"

at last, a bank stopped and turned her, and I was on the point of taking
possession when a large red brindled dog dashed past and anticipated my
purpose, carrying off my hare, without bestowing so much as a glance
upon me,--no, not even appearing to see that I was there. Electrified
with astonishment, my left leg seemed pinned to the spot, while the
right, extended on a level with my shoulder, emulated that of Cerito in
"Giselle;" but recovering myself, I followed the thief, who made off
with the speed of a greyhound, in the direction of a neighbouring wood,
and on arriving at a little green knoll almost as soon as he did, I came
suddenly upon a strange and uncouth-looking figure who was reclining
comfortably on the grass beneath the shade of a large walnut-tree.



CHAPTER VIII.

     Le Père Séguin's collation--The young sportsman and the hare--The
     quarrel--The apology--The reconciliation--The cemetery--Bait for
     barbel--Le Père Séguin's deceased friends--The return home.


The extraordinary personage in whose presence I so suddenly found myself
was the celebrated Père Séguin, who, tired with his morning's sport, was
taking his noontide meal; that is, appeasing his appetite, always
enormous, with a loaf of black rye bread, into which he plunged his
ivory teeth with hearty rapidity, now and then taking a mouthful out of
a turnip he had pulled in a field hard by. The abominable quadruped was
there too, planted on his haunches, just in front of his master, looking
as innocent as a lamb, though still holding my hare between his teeth,
probably not daring to lay it down without permission.

Père Séguin ate, drank, twisted his wiry moustache, dipped his turnip in
the coarse salt, and from time to time cast a glance at his vile dog,
without deigning to speak a word, or even to acknowledge my presence.
Furious at this behaviour, I bowed and said to him, "So, you are the
owner of this precious cur?"

The poacher signified his assent by a slight movement of the head.

"Well, if the dog belongs to you, the hare in his mouth belongs to me."

"Does it?" said the Père Séguin, and he looked at his dog, who winked
his eye and shook his paw: "my dog tells me he caught this hare
running."

"I know it, the rascally vagabond! and with no great trouble either,
seeing that the hare was half dead, and had but three legs to go upon."

Père Séguin threw his yellow eye on the cur again, and, as if he had
understood all we said, he once more shook his paw, and gave a sort of
sneeze.

"My dog repeats, he coursed the hare well, and has a right to her."

"What do you mean by saying he has a right to her, when I tell you the
hare belongs to me?"

"And my dog says the reverse."

"Go to Dijon with your dog!" I exclaimed, "I tell you the hare is mine."

"My dog never told a lie," rejoined the _braconnier_, and he dipped the
remnant of his turnip for the twentieth time in the salt. "Never."

"Then _I_ am the liar," said I, beginning to feel hot, "I am the liar,
ah! am I? By Jupiter! your dog, you bearded fool--your cur of a dog? I
do not care a _sous_ for his carcass any more than I do for yours. I'll
have my hare."

"Don't get excited, young man--don't be savage, I beg of you; for, as
sure as I am a sinner, you'll have a crop of pimples on your nose
to-morrow,--and red pimples on the nose are not pretty."

"Keep your jokes to yourself, old man, or on my honour you shall repent
it!"

"Ha! ha! ha!" grinned the Père Séguin, "Ha! ha! ha! capital turnip."

"Houp! houp! houp!" went the dog.

I was bewildered; such a strange adventure had never befallen me before.

"Once, twice--will you give me my hare?"

"Have I any hare of yours?"

"You? No, but your dog."

"Ha! that's another affair. You must settle that with him. Take your
hare, and let me eat my turnip in peace."

Enraged at this, I rushed at the carroty dog, but he was off in an
instant, jumping first behind the tree, and then behind his master,
keeping my hare all the time fast in his mouth till I was fairly out of
breath, and aggravated beyond expression.

I looked towards the poacher. He was quietly plucking the top off a
fresh turnip, but under the air of icy indifference which pervaded his
whole exterior I detected a sarcastic smile, which fully convinced me
that I was the laughing-stock of man and beast. I took my resolution,
and Père Séguin, who had followed my movements with his eye, said drily,
as I was going to put a cap on, "What are you going to do young man?"

"Oh, nothing! just to kill your dog for taking my hare."

"Bah! you're joking."

"Joking! am I? You shall see;" and I proceeded quietly to raise my gun.

"Gently, my lad," roared the Père Séguin, and he seized the weapon in
his iron grasp.

"I may be but a 'lad,' but I'll not give up my rights; the hare is mine,
and I'll have her. Let go my gun!"

"No!"

"By----"

"No!"

"Then look out for yourself," said I, and with a rapid movement I
attempted to draw my _couteau de chasse_; but long before I could get
it out, he had seized me with both hands, and in a twinkling I measured
my length upon the turf, and the knife was in his possession.

"Child of violence!" he said, as he set me again on my legs, and pushed
me from him, "Do you then already love to shed blood? Would you kill a
man for a hare? Have you not the sense to distinguish a joke from an
insult? There," he added, giving me back my knife, which had fallen from
its sheath in the struggle, "young man, do your worst!"

But I was now as angry with myself as I had been with the old man, and
heartily ashamed of my conduct. I turned on my heel, and walked off,
vexed beyond expression at my intemperate folly.

The very next day, as good fortune would have it, I met him again in the
forest, and lost not a moment in asking his forgiveness for my brutal
conduct of the previous day.

"Ah! you acknowledge your fault, do you?" replied the Père Séguin,
"enough, that shows you have a heart. I bear you no ill-will; you are
_vif_ as the mountain breeze, but that comes of being young. Give me
your hand, and when you want a dove or lilies of the valley for your
sister, venison or wild boar for your friends, I, my gun, and my dog,
are at your service; but"--and he whispered in my ear--"no more knives."

"See! see!" and I opened my jacket, "it is gone. I threw it into the
moat this morning."

"'Tis well! very well! You have had a happy escape, young man. _Au
revoir._ Now, Faro, take your leave of Monsieur;" and instantly obeying
a sign from his master, the red dog licked my boots. A moment more, and
they were both lost to view in the forest.

From that time I was frequently with the Père Séguin, for he seemed to
have a fancy--a sort of affection for me, and on my part I had an
incomprehensible pleasure in his society, though in the early part of
our acquaintance I could not divest myself of an undefined dread of him;
and had some difficulty in reconciling myself to the harsh and guttural
tones of his voice, and his peculiarly severe physiognomy. Nevertheless,
many an evening did I slip away from the paternal hearth, much to the
distress of my poor mother, to seat myself on one of his wooden stools,
and eat the chestnuts he was roasting in the embers, while he related,
by the pale light of his small charcoal fire, which but dimly showed the
extent even of his small room, frightful stories of ghosts, suicides,
drownings, and fearful murders, with which he delighted to terrify me;
and, dear reader, he succeeded to perfection, for all the time I sat
listening to them I was cold, and trembled like a leaf in the northern
blast.

Well do I remember--yes, as well as if it had been yesterday--going out
with him to fish for barbel, and joining him over-night to go in search
of bait. I found him crouched by his fire, eating potatoes out of the
same plate with his dog. This frugal meal over, he took up a small
lantern, a large box, and a long spade, and beckoned me to follow him.

The moon was rising as we left the hut, but red as blood, lightning
streaked the sky at short intervals, and the wind howled as if a storm
was approaching. Père Séguin rubbed his hands, and an expression of
satisfaction passed across his extraordinary countenance; for, living as
he did a lonely wandering life, he had become superstitious, and firmly
believed that worms caught at certain hours of the night, and in a
breeze that foretold an approaching tempest, were more likely to attract
the fish than those taken in the daylight. To this article of his creed
I offered no objection, but I own my heart shrunk within me when I
observed that he took the direct road to the burial-ground. "Père
Séguin," said I, "we need go no further; the turf in this lane is
capital; we shall find all we want here without a longer walk." "Since
when," he inquired in a voice that seemed to come from between his
shoulders, "since when have young fawns taught the old roebuck the way
to the forest-glades?" And he strode on without a word more, still in
the direction I so much abhorred.

Arriving at the cemetery, Père Séguin walked leisurely round it, paying
as much attention to me as if I had not been with him, and I followed
like a criminal going to the scaffold. After having made a careful
examination of the wall, he stopped suddenly, gave me the lantern and
the spade, and leaped upon the top, desiring me to do the same. I
hesitated, and fell back, for I felt more inclined to throw them down
and run away, and Père Séguin saw it.

"Ha! ha!" he exclaimed, fixing his yellow eye upon me. "I thought you
were heart of oak, young Sir; are you only a man of straw?"

I gave no answer, but I leaped on to the wall like a rope-dancer.

"Hum!" he muttered; "good legs, but a faint heart." And he begun rapidly
to turn up the rank grass, and pick the large red worms from amongst the
roots, when, looking up in my face, he said, with infinite coolness,
"Why, you are as pale as my mother was on the day of her death! What
ails you?"

"Ails me!" I replied, repressing my fears, "why to tell you the truth,
I'd just as soon be anywhere else as here."

"Pooh! pooh! young man; one must accustom one's self to everything in
this world. We must learn--be always learning. Remember, for instance,
for I'll be bound that you never heard of such a thing before, that
worms taken in a burial-ground are the finest possible bait for barbel,
do you hear?--taken by moonlight from the roots of the hemlock."

"Good heavens! Père Séguin, I would rather never catch a fish for the
rest of my days than touch one of those worms!"

"Nonsense, my lad--nonsense; they are admirable bait--fine fat
fellows--sure to take. We shall have a wonderful day to-morrow. You will
soon see how the giants and gourmands of the streams will snap at these
beauties."

"Hang the barbel, Père Séguin!--let us leave this cold churchyard. I
feel sick, and a clammy cold creeping over me already--do let us be
gone;" but he would not move.

"Don't feel unwell, pray don't; it is a well-known fact, that any person
who feels ill in a churchyard is sure to die within the year."

"Let us leave then, for I do feel very ill;" but the purveyor of worms
was now too much occupied to listen to me.

Hopeless, therefore, of inducing him to leave till he had filled his
box, I sat down on a tombstone, and the noise he made with the spade in
the silence, the darkness, and the peculiar and sickening odour of the
place, filled me with an indescribable sense of fear and horror.

At length the poacher paused, and having disentangled a very long worm
from the twisted roots of a large clod, he said, "This makes one hundred
and thirteen--a holy number. Now I've done, my lad; let us be off."

"Yes--oh, yes!"--for the minutes seemed hours--"let us go instantly;"
and I sprang from the tombstone, while Père Séguin proceeded
deliberately to fill up the holes, and replace the turf, whistling
through his moustache just as if he had been in the middle of his
garden.

"One hundred and thirteen!--I like that number."

"So do I, Père Séguin; but do let us be going. If we remain here, they
will think that we have killed and buried some one. Do, pray, be off;"
and I made for the wall.

"Stop!" he said suddenly, drawing himself up to his full height, six
feet three, "Stop!" and throwing out his long arms, which made his
shadow on the stones resemble an immense black cross, "Hold there! Look!
Do you see that tomb--that large gray stone?"

"I see nothing, Père Séguin, I will see nothing. I close my eyes, and
only desire to be gone."

"As you please," said the poacher; "but you are wrong. I could have told
you a curious history--a most interesting history."

"Thanks for your histories--much obliged to you; but I have had enough
of them." Still Père Séguin would persevere: "A woman, who has appeared
to me three times--yes, three following days--spoken to me, pulled me by
the fingers and by the beard eight days after her death."

"Yes! yes! I know; but which way are we to get out of this infernal
place?"

"Why, what a hurry you are in!--I say stop, and let me say good night to
her!"--and Père Séguin approached the tall gray stone, the moon shining
full upon it, and struck it with the handle of his spade, calling each
time in a solemn voice, "Madeleine! Madeleine! Madeleine!"

Had I been at that frightful moment cut in four quarters, not one drop
of blood would have been found in my veins; my teeth chattered with
terror, and I would have given every acre of my inheritance for strength
enough to run away. "Madeleine! Madeleine!" le Père Séguin continued in
a low and churchyard tone, "Madeleine!" he cried, leaning on the gray
tomb, "'tis me, Séguin--le Père Séguin; good night, good night,
Madeleine!"

I could not speak, I could not move; and certainly had the lady
whispered only one single little word in reply, I should have fainted.

"Well, it is all over; she is dead for certain now!" said the poacher,
shaking his head. "Alas! poor Madeleine! Gone in the flower of her age!
Dead at two-and-twenty, for having offered me a violet! Dead! Let us
begone."

I beg you to understand I did not put him to the necessity of repeating
his words, but found my legs in excellent running order in a moment.

"Hold! not so fast!" said my companion, just as I was springing at the
wall, and thought myself out of danger, "Hold! Down there, my young
gentleman, in that dark corner amongst the brambles. You see that little
heap of earth, which one might fancy a dead man alive had pushed up
with his knees; well, there also is one of my comrades. Ho! halloo,
Jerome!"

"Père Séguin," said I, "this is unworthy of you; you have no right thus
to mock at and disturb the dead; you only want to torment me; and I have
already told you, and I repeat it, I feel exceedingly ill."

"Come, come along then--let us go. I shall return here presently to
sleep. Good night, Madeleine!--good night, Jerome!--good night, all of
you who are sleeping so quietly under the green turf!"--and it seemed to
me, as these adieus were uttered, that icy breezes passed from every
tomb across my face, whispering in my ears, "Good night!" and that the
firs, the yews, the cypress bending across our path seemed to salute us
as we left the horrible precincts.

We soon regained the town, and on the road there I would not have turned
my head for a crown of rubies; Père Séguin, meanwhile, coolly carrying
his box of worms, which I would not have touched for the best place in
Paradise.

The next morning, instead of fishing for barbel, I was unable to rise
from my bed; and for fifteen nights I never closed my eyes without
seeing in my dreams ghosts, and all the horrid details of the churchyard
and the charnel-house.



CHAPTER IX.

     Passage of the woodcock in November--Their laziness--Night
     travelling--Mode of snaring them at night--Numbers taken in this
     way--This sport adapted rather for the poacher--The _braconnier_ of
     Le Morvan--His mode of life--The poacher's dog--The double poacher.


The object of this chapter will be to give the reader some little
insight into the habits of the woodcock, and the mode of snaring them in
the forests of Le Morvan, during the month of November. At the close of
this month, Dame Nature's barometer, their instinct, far better than the
quicksilver, tells them the December rains are close at hand; and that
if they remain in their hiding-places in the low grounds, they will be
driven out by the approaching deluge. They at length make up their minds
to set forth on their travels. With a long-drawn sigh, therefore, the
woodcock bids farewell to the old oaks that have sheltered it all the
summer, and taking leave of its friendly comrades, the squirrels, it
sets out on the first fine night for a more genial climate, to the
delight, no doubt, of the neighbouring worms, who pop their heads out of
window to witness its departure; and the moment their enemy is fairly
out of sight, perform many a pirouette on the tip of their tails, and
dance upon the grass in honour of the joyous event.

If a woodcock was not a woodcock, that is, one of the laziest birds in
the creation, it might easily reach, in a few days' flight, the dry
heaths, the hills, and elevated regions, which it loves; but woodcocks
abhor all violent exercise, always preferring the use of their feet to
that of their wings, which latter they never agitate, except when
necessity requires. Well, they have now set out, and after marching all
night by slow and easy stages, when morning comes our woodcocks make a
halt wherever they happen to be, breakfast as best they may, and then
ensconce themselves in some snug spot, where they doze the livelong day,
till, refreshed by their twelve hours' rest, they set off again with
renewed strength the moment the sun has gone down.

Thus it is that during the middle of November there is no regular
flight, but a kind of circulation, of woodcocks, perambulating from the
lower to the higher regions, and the _gourmet_ and the sportsman fail
not to stop them on their way.

As it is necessary in this kind of _chasse_ to spend the night under the
trees and on the damp moss, those who wish to enjoy it prepare for it
accordingly by dressing themselves like Navarre, in a suit of
sheepskins, and lay in a good store of cold meat and brandy.

During their nocturnal peregrinations, instinct leads the woodcock to
follow ascending roads and open pathways, especially such as are
completely exposed to the mild winds of the south and south-east only;
they avoid walking through the woods, where the road is encumbered with
brambles and other obstacles, which would oblige them to hop or fly far
oftener than they like, occasionally leaving a portion of their feathers
behind them. Moreover, their feet are tender, and they in consequence
prefer the paths that are overgrown with grass, the open glades, or
roads cut through the moss.

It is now that the sportsman who is well versed in the private history
of the woodcock prepares his snares; for at this period of the year it
is by them that they are taken.

Penetrating, therefore, the depths of the forest, the experienced
_chasseur_ soon discovers, in some secluded spot, a path well carpeted
with verdure, lighted by a few stray moonbeams and sheltered from the
wind, where he forthwith begins to lay his snares. Should the path be
broad, he proceeds to contract it, strewing it partially with stones,
brambles, and thorns; he likewise cuts down some twigs and branches, and
sticks them into the ground at intervals, so as to present as many
impediments and _chevaux de frise_ as he can to thwart the progress of
the lazy bird. The middle of the path should be left quite free, and
wide enough to allow a couple of woodcocks to walk abreast. Into this
narrow passage they all walk without suspicion, and their further
progress is prevented by their falling into the trap which is laid to
receive them.

This snare is placed across a hole about the size of a crown piece, and
consists of a strong noose made of horsehair, which is fixed to a peg,
and so arranged that the slightest touch causes it to rebound and catch
them by the leg.

In the hole is laid a fine, fat, red worm, healthy and tempting, and, in
order to prevent the poor prisoner's escaping, the sportsman has devised
a method of keeping him down in spite of himself, by pinning him to the
ground at one end with a long thorn--it is presumed worms do not feel;
his miserable contortions attract the attention of the hungry woodcock,
who immediately seizes this irresistible tit-bit.

Every preparation completed and the snare baited, the hole, the worm,
and the noose are carefully covered over by a withered leaf--a second
snare, similarly concealed, is set on the right, a third in the middle,
and so on at a distance of three or four feet from each other. All is
now in readiness, and twilight finds the sportsman covered up in his
skins at some fifty paces from his traps. Here, after having comforted
his inward man, and sharpened his sight by swallowing two or three
glasses of cognac, addressing between them an invocation to his patron
saint, he listens and waits.

On come the long-bills, looking right and left, pecking the ground,
peering at the moon and the stars, and eating all they can find in their
way. They now approach the dangerous defile, and some of the younger
ones fly over the traps; others, more prudent, turn back; but the main
body hold a council of war, when the staff officers having decided that
these Thermopylæ must be passed, first one woodcock and then another
taking heart proceeds, and the sportsman hugs himself in his success on
perceiving the whole troop making towards the baits he has spread for
them. Before long one of the birds gets its leg entangled, totters,
falls, rises again, but in doing so is made fast by the noose, and in
spite of its efforts is unable to advance a step further. Another,
hearing the sound of a worm struggling at the bottom of a hole, darts
in its beak, with the charitable intention of ending the prisoner's
sufferings, and on raising its head is suddenly seized by the neck. The
sportsman now steals softly from his hiding-place, and, stooping down,
smashes the woodcock's brain with his thumb nail, and so on with the
next, after which he retreats to his post, and keeps up the game till
dawn. Some persons will in this manner catch from twenty to thirty
woodcocks in a single night; but they must be favourably placed, have a
great number of snares, and, moreover, possess a considerable degree of
skill, and tread lightly, (for the most important point, in this sport,
is to make as little noise as possible,) and be very quick at putting
the snares in order the moment they have been used--no easy work, in
good sooth, seeing that it must be performed by an occasional ray of
moonlight.

If late on the ground, and you have not sufficient time to obstruct and
barricade the road as directed above, the earth may be turned up in the
middle of the path and the snares placed across it; the woodcocks, in
the hope of finding something to eat, will immediately walk on to
it--but although this method occasionally succeeds it is far from being
as good as the first, for the soil does not offer the same resistance
as the turf, the holes get filled up, and the birds escape more easily.

The sportsman should mind and bag his game as fast as it is snared, or
master Reynard, who has been watching the whole affair, will pounce upon
his birds and carry them off, with a dozen nooses into the bargain.

Poachers reap an ample harvest of cash by this mode of taking woodcocks,
while other sportsmen generally reap the rheumatism; and, truth to say,
the silence and immobility that must be observed all night long, the
intense cold, and the damp fogs which cover the forest in the early
morning, are not very agreeable, and most gentlemen prefer staying at
home, enjoying the innocent diversion of playing the flute, quarrelling
with their wives, or emptying the bottle.

To succeed well in snaring woodcocks requires both skill and experience,
and a thorough knowledge of the woods, the winds, the colour of the
clouds, the age of the moon, the state of the atmosphere; and, in fact,
short of being a poacher or a conjuror, how is it possible to know that
the woodcocks will pass one spot rather than another in a space of
several score of square miles, and amongst so many and such intricate
paths. The _braconnier_ alone is infallible on these points, and curious
specimens of the human biped are these same poachers!

In the first place it must not be imagined that the poachers of Le
Morvan bear the slightest resemblance to those of England. They are as
much alike as Thames water and Burgundy wine. The English poacher is a
rank vagabond, who invades every one's game-preserves at dead of night,
and kills whatever he finds, whether hares, partridges, dogs, pheasants,
or gamekeepers,--while ours are men following a legitimate occupation.

In Le Morvan, forests are open to all; there are no palings to get over,
and no keepers to fear; the public may hunt, shoot, or snare what they
please.

The poacher commences his hard apprenticeship in early childhood. Nature
directs him to adopt this course of life, and endows him with a bold
heart, a cool head, a sinewy frame, and an iron constitution. The
incipient poachers soon leave the inhabited districts to live in the
forests, with trees for their roof, and moss for their bed. They study
alike the woods and the stars, and know the forest by heart, with its
roads and glades, beaten tracks and untrodden paths. From sunrise to
sunset they are always-a-foot, walking through the thickets, tramping
over heaths, or stooping amongst the brushwood, listening, and looking
everywhere, and by night and by day constantly making their observations
on the direction of the wind, the habits of the animals that pass them,
or the birds that fly over their heads.

In this way they ferret out every nook and every winding in the forest,
and now here and now there build themselves a hut, live upon fruit,
chestnuts, and their game, which they roast upon embers; and never come
into a town except to purchase powder, shot and ball, or perhaps a pair
of shoes, some tobacco, and brandy.

Such is the rough life of the youthful poacher, nor has he any companion
during this wild period of his existence, excepting a dog, the faithful
partner of his joys and dangers, and who becomes a devoted friend and
brother for life. They live together, talk to each other, understand
each other, and guess each other's slightest wish. I have seen a poacher
talking to his dog by the hour together, the man laughing fit to split
at what his canine companion was telling him in his own peculiar way,
while the dog, rolling on the grass, barked with delight at what his
master answered.

When on their shooting expeditions, a sign from his master, a nod, a
wink, an uplifted finger, or the slightest whisper, are either of them
sufficient for his guidance; he stops, or dashes onward, takes a leap,
or crouches down, as the case may be, and never is he known to be at
fault.

On his part the poacher has only to refer to his dog as to the pages of
a book, and he reads at once in his slightest movements what is in the
wind, what bird lies hidden in the grass, or what beast is cowering in
the thicket. By the position of his head, the manner in which he
scratches the ground, pricks his ear, or carries his tail, he
understands as plainly as if he spoke whether he announces the proximity
of a wolf, a partridge, a woodcock, a roebuck, a hare, or a rabbit.

I have known poachers who have told me half an hour beforehand what we
were going to meet. Another would bid his dog bring him a leaf, a
branch, a flower, or a mushroom, and off he went, sought, found, and
brought back the identical article required. "Now, sing," said the
poacher, and the dog began to sing; not, indeed, exactly like Mario, but
he produced a kind of melodious growl, a sort of improvised musical
lament over his solitary life, which had its charm. Most poachers are
exceedingly fond of music, and as they are always singing in their
leisure moments, of course their dog joins them; so that when they are
both in the humour for it, they execute duets in the depths of the
forest that make the very nightingales jealous.

By the time a poacher has acquired a complete knowledge of wood-craft,
and that he knows familiarly every path and every bush in the forest,
every hole and every stone in the mountains, together with the habits,
character, and favourite haunts of every species of game; has made a
reputation, and put by some money; that he is beginning to turn gray,
and is verging on forty, his fondness for this savage kind of life
begins to diminish, his rough exterior becomes somewhat softened, he
purchases a solitary little cottage in some secluded spot, comes oftener
into town, and occasionally partakes of its pleasures.

In poaching, as in everything else, there are varieties of taste, and
degrees of superiority. Some fish, others hunt only the roebuck and the
boar, others shoot squirrels and wild cats, others again excel in
snaring woodcocks, while some are dead hands at scenting and tracking a
wolf. Each poacher has his peculiar line, and each line furnishes a
livelihood.

But when it happens, once in a way, that there is a man who unites a
profound knowledge of the forest to an equally profound knowledge of the
waters--who hunts, tracks, and shoots all sorts of game with equal
success, and is also an expert fisherman, then he is a superior man of
his kind, complete at all points, a sort of Napoleon in his way, and his
countrymen bestow on him the title of the "double poacher,"--for thus
was called my worthy friend Le Père Séguin.



CHAPTER X.

     The woodcock--Its habits in the forests of Le Morvan--Aversion of
     dogs to this bird--Timidity of the woodcock--Its cunning--Shooting
     in November--The Woodcock mates--The Woodcock fly.


In the last and preceding chapters, the imaginative and romantic have
predominated almost to the entire exclusion of any description of the
wild sports of Le Morvan, and I fear that the sporting reader, not
generally of a very sentimental taste, will ere this have become
impatient, and perhaps a little angry at the delay. I trust, however,
that I may be able to soften his indignation, and by the following
sketches gratify the expectations naturally raised in his mind by the
first words of the title-page. Of boar and wolf-hunting we shall speak
further on: my present object will be to give a description, not only of
the woodcock-shooting in Burgundy and Le Morvan, but also of the habits,
etc., of that bird.

In the forests of which we are writing, the woodcock is not a mere bird
of passage, as in other European countries; it does not fly beyond sea,
like the swallow and most of the emigrating feathered tribes, nor does
it disappear like the quail, at a fixed period, and reappear at a given
moment. Here the woodcock seldom if ever deserts the forests which have
been its constant abode, and the sportsman is sure to find it nearly all
the year round. I have said nearly, for though not seeking other climes,
it requires a change of locality to secure a certain temperature.

For instance, in the months of May, June, July, and August, woodcocks
are to be found in elevated spots, such as mountains covered with large
trees, or in warm open places on their slopes. At the first approach of
cold weather they leave the hills, and come down into the plains,
concealing themselves in the underwood, or the fern, or in the high
grass, when the snow begins to fall. The woodcock is a melancholy bird,
and somewhat misanthropic. Its habits are eminently anti-social; it
flies but little, so little indeed that its wings seem scarcely of any
use, and with the laziness already alluded to that forms its
characteristic feature, it seeks out a solitary spot, and having dug a
hole amongst the dry leaves, there it will squat for days together
without stirring. It likewise delights to cower under the gnarled roots
of an old oak, or to hide itself in a holly-bush, and apparently derives
so much satisfaction from its own meditations, and seems to hold all
other birds of the forest in such utter contempt, that it never by any
chance deigns to join their sports, or mingle in their joyous songs. The
woodcock seeks the darkest and most silent thickets, and likes a marly
soil, damp meadows, and the neighbourhood of brooks and stagnant water.

But though motionless and torpid, so long as the sun is above the
horizon, woodcocks are always on the alert, and wake and shake their
feathers the moment night comes; leaving the shady thickets and grassy
spots, they flock to the glades and little paths of the woods, and
thrust their long beaks into the soft, damp soil--for this bird, be it
remembered, never touches either corn or fruit, but lives entirely upon
grubs and earth-worms.

It naturally follows that the woodcock, which finds its food in slimy
marshes, with head bent, and eyes fixed upon the ground, possesses none
of the gaiety and vivacity of other birds, holds but a very low place in
the scale of animal intelligence, and possesses a large share of that
stupidity peculiar to the dull species that were formed to live in the
mire.

The size of the woodcock varies exceedingly; they are much smaller than
the domestic fowl, but heavier and larger than the heath partridge; yet
there are some which are as small as a wood-pigeon, and even less. Their
plumage is dark, and harmonizes admirably with the trunks of the trees
and moss amongst which they dwell. Even in the daylight, and at a
distance of only twenty paces, it is impossible to distinguish a
woodcock, as it lies motionless, with closed wings, and neck extended on
the ground, amongst the withered leaves.

When walking on the grass, there is a certain elegance in its movements,
while the beautiful _chiar' oscuro_ tints of its wings, the gray and
orange hues on its breast, its long black legs streaked with pink, its
large beak, small head, and symmetrical proportions, combine to render
it a bird of no ordinary beauty. Though its eyes are piercing and very
open, the woodcock only sees distinctly at twilight, and its flight is
never so even or so rapid, nor its motions so brisk, or its gait so
regular, as at nightfall or at dawn of day.

The flesh is black, firm, and of a game flavour, and, with the wise, is
a most dainty morsel, a royal tit-bit. But dogs think differently, and
have such an aversion to its smell, that they hunt, seize, and bring it
back much against their will; and, difficult as it may be to account
for this antipathy, it seems to be as inherent in canine nature, as the
antipathy which all ladies show to contradiction is in the human.

Far removed from the strife that occasionally rages amidst the feathered
tribes of the forest, or the more formidable struggles of its
four-footed inhabitants, whose howls occasionally startle the silence of
night, and quite indifferent as to whether a fox or a wolf is seated on
the sylvan throne, the woodcock, like a true philosopher, in the depths
of the thicket, leads a calm and sedentary life, requiring no other
elements of happiness than moonlight, rest, and a few worms. Its tastes
are so humble, its wants so few; it mixes so little with the world, and
is so ignorant of all intrigue, that nothing can exceed its innocence.
Like those honest country-folks who can never manage to shake off their
native simplicity, its instinct never puts it on its guard against a
snare, and consequently it falls into the first that is set for it.

A complete stranger to the fierce emotions that excite the savage nature
of those animals that live constantly at war with one another, the
peaceful woodcock--the bird of twilight--is startled by the least noise,
and stunned by the slightest accident. Many a time, at dawn of day, when
lying in wait for the passage of a fox, a roebuck, or a wolf, have I
seen two, three, four, even five woodcocks slowly issue from their leafy
covert, and advance with measured step towards the open glade,
apparently without imagining that by leaving the shade of the trees they
were exposing themselves to being seen. On they walked, searching by the
way, plunging from time to time their long beaks into the grass, and
shaking their heads right and left to enlarge the hole, they breakfasted
luxuriously on the worms that crept out of it.

Concealed behind an oak-tree, I have sometimes been highly amused by
watching their motions, nor had I the least wish to disturb them, not
caring to rouse the echoes of the forest for such insignificant game. So
the woodcocks went on with their manoeuvres, holding down their heads,
with eyes intent upon the grass, evidently engrossed by their own
occupation. In this manner they unconsciously advanced close to me, when
suddenly rising from the ground I gave a loud shout, at which the
startled birds were so panic-struck that they literally fell down, and
fluttering their wings, without having the power to fly, looked at me
with rolling eye-balls, while their beaks opened as if to call for help,
emitting nothing but inarticulate sounds, that seemed so many prayers
for mercy. Somewhat relieved of their worst fears, on perceiving that I
had no evil intentions, they rushed away head over heels, and sought
refuge under their favourite roots. The recollection of this scene,
which only lasted seven or eight seconds, has often made me laugh.

Yet notwithstanding this general want of presence of mind, the woodcock
displays some cunning in extreme danger,--such as when the shot is
whistling past its feathers, or when the hawk is wheeling about in the
air above its head; its faculties then seem to awaken, its blood
circulates more freely, a spark of intelligence seems to flash across
its usually obtuse brain, and the magnitude of the peril suggests an
excellent means of escaping from its enemies. During the daytime, for
instance, when, snugly ensconced in its hole, and with its ear close to
the ground, the woodcock hears you approach from afar, instead of rising
and taking refuge amongst the trunks of the surrounding trees, it first
reflects solemnly whether it is worth while to disturb itself for so
slight a noise, and quit its leafy bed, where it lies so warm and
comfortable. After all, it may be only a hare running past--or perhaps a
roebuck grazing in the neighbourhood--so the woodcock waits, then
listens, then stands up and begins to move; on hearing your thick shoes
trampling the withered branches, it stands motionless, not daring to
stir, nor can it make up its mind to fly until it feels the breath of
your dog. Then it rises rapidly enough.

It flies straight, but its flight is not even, and at the distance of
about fifty paces, and just as you are going to fire, the woodcock, well
aware that the sportsman's eye is upon it, and shrewdly guessing that
thunder and lightning is about to follow, changes his tactics, and
lowering its flight, so as to avoid the mortal aim, suddenly plunges
down behind a bush. The sportsman, who, not aware of this specious
manoeuvre, fires at this juncture, thinks the bird has fallen dead,
and forthwith runs to pick it up, but no woodcock can he find; for on
raising his eyes, lo! and behold, he sees the provoking bird some five
hundred paces distant, cleaving the air with sails full set; and as his
eyes follow it still further, he perceives it flying with all its might,
ever and anon prudently ducking down to avoid the second barrel.

This is one of the woodcock's best stratagems, and it succeeds ten times
out of twelve, at least with the tyros among sportsmen.

When fairly tired by its flight, the woodcock drops into the underwood,
and is then completely lost to the sportsman; for, once on the ground,
it runs with the greatest celerity, its wings working rapidly like a
couple of paddles, and vanishing beneath the leaves, falls fainting into
some snug corner.

In Brittany and in Lower Normandy this ornament of the table and delight
of the sportsman is found in great numbers at a certain season of the
year. In Picardy, and in the neighbourhood of Boulogne, I have sometimes
knocked over as many as twenty woodcocks in one day, while on the morrow
and the day following I could not flush three. Such is not the case in
Le Morvan, where they are, as we have before remarked, to be found all
the year round; the proper seasons, however, for shooting them are
three. These are, the month of November, before the rains set in; the
month of April, when they mate; and the sultry months of June and July;
the period of drought and of the dog-days. In the interim of these
epochs they are allowed to enjoy themselves, and suffered to fatten
quietly in their dark thickets. I shall, therefore, only notice these
three periods.

In foggy or cloudy nights, when the branches of the trees are dripping
wet, the woodcock, ensconced in its hole, feels no hunger, moves not,
and would not venture abroad for love or money; but should the sky
prove clear, and the moon shine forth, lighting up the forest paths, the
delighted bird steals from its dwelling, shakes its feathers, and
sallies forth on its adventures. For the woodcock, like poets and
lovers, is fond of the moonlight and the sweet perfumes of evening.
Hence it is that sportsmen in France call the full moon of November "the
woodcock's moon," and they hail its appearance with as much rejoicing as
do the foxes, wild cats, and poachers, all of whom make sad havoc
amongst the long-beaked tribe during this fatal period.

The woodcock has been described as an idle, heavy, timid, and stupid
bird, which passes the greater portion of the day in lethargic slumbers,
in gazing at the south, at the growing grass, or the falling leaves;
rejoicing only in silence and solitude; and such is the case during nine
months of the year. In the spring, however, it is quite otherwise; the
woodcock then mates, and, ere April showers have passed away, becomes
animated, sociable, and full of life; and, more extraordinary still, its
voice, till then mute, may actually be heard.

Yes, at this delightful season the woodcock is no longer silent, its
tongue is loosened, it breathes its tale of love, and, with joyful
notes, proclaims its happiness morning and night; and yet there are
those who would make us believe that the tender passion is useless, that
love is tom-foolery, or that it does not exist. To these blind
blasphemers, who thus deny its power, I would respectfully say, Come to
Le Morvan, and observe the woodcock, and then dare to say that love is
an untruth. Why, love is the great magician of the universe, the sun of
our minds, a path of fragrant violets, a perfect copse of _millefleurs_,
before which we all bend our hearts, aye, and, with vastly few
exceptions, our heads too. Yes, we all, at some period of our lives,
taste the delicious draught, and some drink deep of it, either to their
life-long happiness or the reverse. Love effects many a miracle, changes
everything, bows the neck of the proud, opens the eyes of the blind, and
shuts them for those who have very good sight; teaches the dumb to
speak, and those who are very loquacious to be silent. When the rosy and
naked little boy makes his appearance with his quiver, all is joy and
unreflecting happiness; when he is at home with his mamma, alas! the
world is all in shadow. The woodcocks, in like manner, are amiable,
eloquent, and engaging as long as the fumes of love affect their brain;
but when these are dissipated, they are dumb, and ten times more stupid
than they were before; and, dear me, how many human woodcocks, robed in
satin and balzarine, or sheathed in kerseymere trousers, are the same.

But, shades of Buffon and Linnæus! we must not thus rattle on, but
proceed to describe the nuptial couch of the delicious bird under our
consideration. The woodcock, like all those of the feathered tribe that
do not perch, makes its nest on the ground, which is composed of leaves,
fern, and dry grass, intermixed with little bits of stick, and
strengthened by larger pieces placed across it. This nest, made without
much art or care, in form like a large brown ball, is generally placed
under, and sheltered by the root of some old tree. Four or five eggs, a
little larger than those of the common pigeon, of a dirty gray and
yellow colour, and marked with little black spots, are the proofs of its
maternity. The woodcock, as I have before remarked, has only the gift of
talking in the spring season, when soft breezes fan the air, and they
educate their young. Nevertheless, it is in this season that
woodcock-shooting is the most amusing. Then is the time for gentlemen to
shoot; the _braconnier_ despises it. From the middle of April to that of
May is the important epoch at which the generality of animals marry,
and the woodcocks are not behindhand in this respect; they leave their
well-concealed retreats, become humanized, solicit the attentions of
their feathered ladies, and fly with gay inspirations amongst the
neighbouring bushes. But though as much in love as a widow, the woodcock
does not on that account forget its habitual prudence; like the usurer
who lends his money, and takes every precaution, the woodcock is equally
careful, and does not leave its nest till twilight has draped the earth
in the gray mantle of evening. When the humid atmosphere descends slowly
on the trees, when the cool breezes of night ascend the valleys, when
distant objects begin to assume a fantastic shape, when the branches of
the oak near you, like the arms of a giant, wave to and fro, and seem to
ask you to approach; when the withered tree, devoid of leaves, looks
like a brigand on the watch, or your comrade, ensconced against it,
seems to form a portion of it at a hundred yards off; when, in short,
the sportsman can see only a few yards before him, then is the moment
that the circumspect and wily woodcock leaves its abode, and pays a
nocturnal visit to his friends; and man, his enemy, and still more
cunning, is on the alert. The sport which we are about to describe, and
which does not last longer than from thirty to forty minutes, has
something particularly taking in it. At the close of day a universal
silence reigns in the forest, and every sportsman is at his post with
bated breath, and eyes dilated as wide as a woman's listening to a
neighbouring gossip's tale, when, all at once--pray note this well,
reader--a little fly, which plays a prominent part in all sport _à
l'affût_ (in ambush)--a little fly, about the size of a pea, regularly
makes its appearance, and wheeling round your head, fidgets you for five
minutes with its buzzing b-r-r-r-r-r-r-oo. In this way the little insect
informs you the woodcocks have left the underwood, that they are
approaching, and that it hears them coming; and odd or marvellous as it
may seem, this signal of the little fly, which never misleads you--this
signal which falls upon your ear just at the proper and precise moment,
is as certain as that two and two make four. Be not sceptical, and
imagine that this is chance; no such thing. Go when you will to the
_chasse à l'affût_, station yourself in whichever part of the forest you
like, be assured the fly will be there; it was never otherwise. The
question is, who sends the fly? how does it know the sportsman? and by
what mysterious chronometer does it regulate with such exactness its
movements? _Chi lo sa?_ He who doth not let a sparrow fall to the ground
without He willeth it. Equally incomprehensible is the departure of this
little insect, which, the concert over, and when you are thoroughly on
the _qui vive_, ceases its buzz, and is heard no more. At this very
moment, the silence in which you have till then remained is suddenly
broken by shouts of "They come! they come!" quickly followed by bang,
bang, bang along the glade; and here indeed they are, at first by twos
and threes, and then a compact flight, whirling along with appealing
cries of love, fluttering, and flapping their wings, and pursuing one
another from bush to bush. They show now neither fear nor
circumspection, and crazy, blind, and deaf, scarcely seem to notice the
noise, the flashes, or the cries of the sportsmen. At length all is in
complete confusion. They toss and twirl about like great leaves in a
hurricane, and finally fly, with their ranks somewhat diminished, to
their several homes. This sport lasts but a short half-hour; after
which, the woodcocks having said all they had to say, made and accepted
their engagements for the following day, vanish as if by magic, like the
puff of a cigar, a shadow, or a royal promise, and the same silence that
preceded their arrival reigns once more in the forest. No gun is loaded
after their departure; the sportsmen assemble, count the dead, never so
numerous, as one might suppose, and having bagged them, also retire from
the scene. I have known one person kill four couple of woodcocks in this
manner, but it was quite an exceptional case; two or three is nearer the
usual number. Chance, as in war, in marriage, in everything, is
frequently the secret of success; but if you are not cool and collected,
and handy with your gun, you will scarce carry a _salmi_ home to your
expectant friends. To the young sportsman, the novelty, confusion, and
hubbub of these evening shooting-parties are perfectly bewildering;
Parisian cockneys, above all, are quite beside themselves, shutting
first one eye and then the other, firing, of course, without having
taken any aim, and eventually beating a retreat without a feather in
their game-bags. But to the veteran, this fevered half-hour, this brief
_chasse_, is most delightful; everything conspires to make it lively and
exciting. The party, ten or twelve jolly dogs, have generally dined
together, and the onslaught over, they all return by the pale moonlight,
shoulder to shoulder, singing snatches of some old hunting-song, the
stars overhead and the woodcocks on their backs. A young Parisian and
college friend of mine, Adolphe Gustave de----, very rich and very
witty, whom, after many unsuccessful attempts, I induced to leave the
capital, and pass six months with me in the deserts, as he called them,
of Le Morvan, loved this species of sport intensely, though he never
shot anything. His bag, however, was always better filled than that of
any of his comrades, for though a wretched shot, he had the wit to stand
near a good one, and as he was wonderfully quick with his legs, eyes,
and fingers, he was constantly picking up his neighbour's birds, vowing
all the time they were his own shooting.



CHAPTER XI.

     Fine names--Gustavus Adolphus and the cabbages--Gustavus Adolphus!
     no hero!--The Parisian Sportsman--Partridge-shooting
     despicable--Wild boar-hunting--Rousing the grisly monster--His
     approach--The post of honour--Good nerves--The death--The trophy
     and congratulations.


Few persons well acquainted with France can have failed to observe how
fond the lower orders, indeed all classes, are of giving high-sounding
names to their children; and it is sometimes truly amusing to notice the
strange upset of associations which in consequence jar the auricular
nerve, and illustrate the singularly exalted notions of the godfathers
and godmothers. "Gustave Adolphe!" I once heard an old cook vociferate
from the kitchen of a small inn to a boy in the yard. "Gustave Adolphe!"
shrieked the aged heroine of the sauce-pans, pitching her voice in A
alto, "_Coupez donc les choux!_" Cutting cabbages! What an antithesis to
the glorious victor of Lutzen. The remark will apply with equal force to
the Gustave Adolphe of the last chapter, though on a different point,
and the contrast between the great Gustavus and he of Paris, was most
diverting. My accomplished friend, a charming dancer, a _beau parleur_,
a first-rate singer, who made sad havoc among the fresh and fair
gazelles of every ballroom, this tremendous _chasseur-de-salon_, I very
soon perceived, was by no means so tremendous in the stubbles;--a covey
fairly startled him, and if a hare rose between his legs he turned quite
pale.

"My good fellow," I said to him one day, seeing his extraordinary
trepidation, "if you are so staggered by a covey of partridges, what in
the world will you do when I set you face to face with a wolf or a wild
boar?"

"Oh! that is a very different affair. A wolf or a wild boar? Why, I
should kill one and eat the other, of course."

"Not so easy," I should think, "for a novice like you."

"Novice, indeed! me a novice. Oh! you are quite in error. The fact is,
these devils of birds and rabbits lie hidden, do you see, under the
grass like frogs, one never knows where; so that I never see them till
they are all but in my eyes, or cutting capers like Taglioni's under my
feet, and your dogs putting out their tongues, and staring at me."

"Why, of course they do; the intelligent brutes are ready to expire at
your awkwardness."

"Much obliged to you for the compliment. Again, you say, they turn their
tails to the right by way of telling me that I am to go to the left; and
to the left, when I am to walk to the right. Who, I ask you, is to
understand such telegraphs as these? I have not yet learned how to
converse with dogs' tails--intelligence, indeed! I believe it is all
humbug; for, when my whole soul is absorbed in watching the tips of
these very tails, a crowd of partridges jump up just in front of me,
making as much noise as if they were drummers beating the retreat. If I
am hurried and stupefied"....

"And if," I added, "you are much disposed to throw down your gun as to
fire it."

"Well! supposing I am; what is the wonder? 'Tis no fault of mine--I am
not used to partridge-shooting! I am not a wild man of the woods, like
you! I did not cut my teeth gnawing a cartridge, as you did!"

"Come, come! don't be affronted."

"Affronted? No; but you have no consideration. You're a Robin Hood, an
exterminator! if you look at one partridge, you kill four! You sleep
with your rifle, turn your game-bag into a nightcap, and shave with a
_couteau-de-chasse_!"

"May be so! but let us have the fact."

"The fact! Then I hate your long-tailed dogs, and your detestable
flights of noisy birds! Let me have them one by one, like larks in the
plain of St. Denis, and I'll soon clear the province for you."

"Upon my word, Adolphe, we should have something to thank you for!"

"I tell you what, Henri; those partridges, after all, are trumpery
things to kill. 'Tis mere hurry that prevents my hitting them. Don't
imagine I am frightened! If you wish to give me real pleasure, let us go
to India and shoot a lion or a tiger;--give me a chance with an
elephant!"

"Willingly; but allow me to suggest, that if we set out for India, we
shall not get back in time for dinner."

"We will keep in Europe, then; but, at least, show me some game worthy
of me. A serpent--I will cut him in two at a stroke. A bull--I will soon
send a brace of balls into him."

"Well done! just like a Parisian."

"Parisian! Pray what do you mean by that?"

"A boaster, if you prefer the word."

"Ha! ha! a boaster, indeed! Do you mean to say that I'm afraid of a
bull?"

"Of course not. However, as there are no bulls here, I will send the
head _piqueur_ upon the track of a wild boar which was seen near the
chateau last night; he will exactly suit you. I consider him as doomed."

"Thank you, Henri; thank you; the moment I am fairly in front of him, I
shall fire at his eyes, and no doubt lodge both balls in them. Poor
Belisarius! how he will charge me in his agony! but I shall retire,
reload, and then, having drawn my hunting-knife, dispatch him without
further ceremony."

"Never fear, you shall have the post of honour; and if you do not turn
upon your heel, why, my dear friend, you will rise at least a dozen pegs
in my estimation."

"Turn on my heel! you little know me; and then, what a sensation I shall
create in Paris with my boar's skin. I'll have it stuffed, gild his
tusks, and silver-mount his hoofs. I shall be quite the hero of the
_salons_."

That very afternoon orders were given to the head-keeper to send the
_traqueurs_ into the forest on the following day, and on their return,
they announced that not only traces of wild boar had been met with, but
one had actually been seen. Great were the preparations and cleaning of
rifles and _couteaux-de-chasse_ when this intelligence was received;
but, in spite of his assumed composure, Adolphe's ardour seemed
considerably to diminish, and the conversation that evening over the
fire was not calculated to inspire him with fresh courage.

"How very soon they find the boar!" said he to me. "Tell me how the
affair commences."

"Why these _traqueurs_ are not long in discovering him. They know
exactly where to look for one, for they study their habits; the traces
of the grisly rascal are seen by them immediately; they mark his
favourite paths, the thickets he prefers, the marshy ground in which he
delights to wallow, and then as to the times he is likely to be seen,
they can tell almost to a minute when he will pass,--for the wild boar
is very methodical, and an excellent time-piece. The animal, therefore,
having been traced, and his retreat carefully ascertained, a day is
fixed, and each person having been assigned a separate post, remains
watching for his appearance on his way to or from his haunt."

"Oh! of course, they merely watch and wait," replied Adolphe, with a
hollow, unmeaning laugh.

"Yes; but you don't suppose that a boar will allow himself to be killed
as easily as a squirrel. I fear, in spite of all your professions, you
will find it not so agreeable a sport as shooting larks on the plain of
St. Denis. The bristly fellow who comes trotting and grunting towards
you, showing his teeth, stopping occasionally to sharpen them against
the root of some old oak, is not generally in the best of humours; but
you can, at any rate, reckon upon the great advantage,--the want of
which you deprecate in partridge-shooting. For instance, you cannot fail
to see him; you have notice of his coming; you are not taken off your
guard, and they very seldom appear but one at a time. It is a combat
face to face, and his, with two long prominent teeth, so unfortunate in
a woman, and positively hideous in a boar, effectually warns you that it
is well you should be prepared to receive him. But the excitement is
grand; after the volley every one is at him with his knife, and, with
the exception of a few inexperienced dogs, and a Parisian novice like
yourself, who, of course, are occasionally put _hors de combat_, the
affair ends gloriously. Yes, yes, I am beginning to think you are
right, Adolphe; partridge-shooting and knocking over a timid hare is
very cowardly sport."

The _traqueurs_ also, whom Adolphe catechised, in the hope of preserving
his own skin entire at the same time, though they gave him all sorts of
good advice, failed not to add to it, as people of their class generally
do, a budget of most fearful histories and hair-breadth escapes--of
horses and dogs ripped open, and men killed or gored; but that which put
a finishing-stroke to Adolphe's courage, was the entrance of a friend of
mine, who had himself been a sad sufferer in one of these adventures.
Wounded, but not mortally, the boar had charged him before he could
reload, tearing up with his tusk the inside of his thigh; and, as he lay
insensible on the ground, gnawing one of his calves off before any one
could come to his assistance. During the next two months death shook him
by the hand in vain, for he had fortunately an excellent constitution;
"And, though the proportions of his left leg," whispered I, "have been
restored by a slice out of a friendly cork-tree, he is, as you see,
quite recovered."

"True enough!" said the new arrival, who had overheard the concluding
remark, "and if you have any doubts, Sir, I will show you my leg;" but
Adolphe, thoroughly convinced, declined the offer, and retired to his
room for the night.

The dawn was yet gray, when the court-yard of the Château d'Erveau
presented a very animated appearance; horses, dogs, and beaters were
walking up and down, neighing, yelping, and conversing,--the huntsman
every now and then winding his horn, giving notice to the inmates that
all was ready. The morning was superb, and as the party filed out of the
yard, doffing their beavers to the ladies, who, screened behind their
window-curtains, dared not return their salute, Adolphe was a little
reassured. Long, however, before they reached their hunting-ground, his
chivalrous feelings had so far forsaken him, that he had serious
thoughts of returning, on the plea of indisposition.

"Why do you lag so far behind?" said I, riding up to him at this
juncture, "why your nose is quite white. Nay, don't blush; braver men
than you have felt far from comfortable the first time they went
boar-hunting. You are afraid. Come, don't deny it; but, never mind, I
will not quit you for a moment."

"With all my heart; for, though I cannot exactly say I am afraid, yet
that infernal cork-leg is continually dancing before my eyes."

"I have not the least doubt of it; and, by Terpsichore! what a pretty
thing it would be to see the handsome Gustave Adolphe de M---- dancing
polkas and redowas in the drawing-rooms of the Faubourg St. Germain with
a cork-leg or a gutta-percha calf! The very idea gives me the cramp in
every toe."

Conversing much in the same strain, the eight _chasseurs_ arrived at the
rendezvous, where they dismounted. The beaters and _gardes-de-chasse_
were all at their posts, and on the alert to the movements of the boar,
and as we advanced deeper in the forest, the conversation, which had
been so lively on our setting forth, flagged, and at length subsided
into an occasional remark on the obstacles which impeded our progress.
Nothing renders a man more reserved than his approach to an anticipated
danger. I looked askance at Adolphe, and saw that his teeth rattled like
castanets; and when the foremost keepers, in doubt as to the track, blew
a plaintive note, which, ere it died away, was answered by another in
the distance, showing that we were in the right one, Adolphe's
breathing became stentorious behind me. And then as the branches and
hazel twigs, through which we forced our way more rapidly, flew back and
struck him in the face, he supplicated me to stop.

"Not so fast, my dear friend, not so fast! Have mercy on my Parisian
legs! Misericorde! I cannot proceed. Do stop! There, my nose is skinned
by that last branch! Good--there, my breeches are breaking! For pity's
sake, stop!" But to stop was impossible; and I remained silent, having
quite enough to do looking out for myself. At length we arrived at the
appointed spot. Adolphe, in a state bordering on the crazy, his clothes
in shreds, his face and hands bleeding from the thorns, anger in his
blood, and perspiration on his brow, his furious eyes looked at me as if
I had been the author of his misfortunes. And here a scene would most
undoubtedly have ensued, but happily the head _piqueur_ arrived,
informing us that the boar was in a thick patch of underwood, about two
miles from thence, in which he was supposed to be taking his mid-day
_siesta_, and that a number of peasants having headed him on one side,
he could not well escape. Our measures were quickly taken.

"Serpolet," said I to the _piqueur_, "have you seen the animal?"

"At a distance, Monsieur."

"What is he like?"

"Oh! a tremendous fellow--long legs, enormous head, large tusks, and
such a muzzle!--he breaks through everything. A fortunate thing,
Monsieur, the dogs were not with us."

"Well!" said I to my father, "of course this gentleman is to have the
place of honour."

"The place of honour!" cried Adolphe, "which is the place of honour?"

"Why, the most dangerous to be sure," replied my father, "the third or
fourth post from where he breaks cover. The first or second shots seldom
kill him; wounded, he continues his course, and, savage and ferocious,
generally turns upon the third or fourth _chasseur_, at whom, with
lowered head and glaring eye, he charges in full career. Oh! it is then
a splendid sight, worth all the journey from Paris! Forward, my lads,
forward! Hurrah! for the boar!"

"And thus--" groaned Adolphe, with thickened speech, not at all charmed
with this description of his onset.

"And thus," remarked my father, with a bow of the old _régime_, "you
shall be fourth, and you will see the sturdy grunter in all his beauty.
Come, my boys! a glass of the cognac all round; then silence, and each
to his post. Here, Serpolet, forward with them, and remember, gentlemen,
the word of command is 'Prudence and coolness!' Off! and may your stout
hearts protect you!"

Then filing out from the glade where we had halted, each of us proceeded
to his destination, the valiant Adolphe following Serpolet like a dog
going to be drowned.

"Monsieur," said Serpolet, "you don't seem used to this fun; let a
graybeard and an old huntsman advise you. I have seen the
animal--actually seen him--a terrible boar, I promise you, as black as
ink, clean legs, and ears well apart,--all true signs of courage. As
sure as my name is Serpolet, he will make mince-meat of us--sure to
charge. Take my advice, Monsieur; never mind what the gentlemen say
about waiting; don't you let him get nearer to you than five-and-twenty
paces; if not, in three bounds he will be at you; and in another second
you will be opened like an oyster. Take care, Monsieur!"--and, wishing
him success, Serpolet joined the beaters, who were waiting, all ready
to advance.

"What shall we do?" said Adolphe as soon as he was gone.

"Do, why, take a look about us."

We were in a kind of low, open glade, about eighty paces in length, with
an immense oak in the centre--a solitary spot, full of thick rushes,
tufts of grass, brambles, and matted roots; in short, just the place
that a boar would make his head-quarters. Adolphe accompanied me step by
step, examined me from head to foot, and looked in my face as if he
would read my every thought.

"Well, Adolphe," said I, after I had considered the principal points of
our position, "the moment has at length arrived when you must draw your
courage from the scabbard; and I hope it will shine like the light, for
something tells me you will require it ere long."

"I'll tell you what; I beg you will not commence any of your long
orations."

"If I talk to you now, it is because I shall not be able in a few
minutes. Pay attention, therefore, to my instructions. Remain, I advise
you, behind this oak, then you will have nothing to fear, and be sure
not to leave it. I will place myself at the angle down yonder."

"Down there! Why you said you would not leave me for an instant."

"Come, come, don't be absurd; the moments are precious; you see I shall
only be distant an hundred yards."

"An hundred yards! I tell you what--if you go ten yards, I go too."

"What! are you afraid? We are alone; come, be frank."

"No! I am not afraid, but my nerves are shaken; I am thoroughly done up
with the scramble we have had through these woods; and then that rascal
Serpolet, who prophesied that I shall be opened like an oyster--you
shall not go, for I feel sure that when this brute of a boar makes his
appearance, I shall be unable to look him in the face."

"My dear friend, I will do as you desire. We have still half an hour to
wait; but remember, no imprudence--and if you should see my finger
raised, mind, not a word or a sign."

As I uttered this apostrophe, a long and harmonious note from the
head-keeper's horn, vibrating in the distance, came and died away upon
our ears; after which, a confused clamour of voices arose, and as
suddenly ceased.

"Hurrah! hurrah!" said I; "the _traqueurs_ are on the move, the curtain
is raised, the play is about to commence--and, dear friend, be silent as
death, for the actor will soon make his appearance on the stage."

During the next ten minutes, a murmur of voices and confused sounds were
again borne on the wind to the two sportsmen, announcing that the line
of beaters was steadily advancing, and now they could distinctly hear
them at intervals, striking the trunks of the trees with their long
iron-shod poles, thrusting them in the underwood, and shouting in chorus
the song of the boar.

Again the horn is heard; but now its notes are sharp, shrill, jerking
and hurried.

"That, my good Adolphe, denotes that the boar has risen, has been driven
from his lair, is in view, flying before the beaters, and I am very much
mistaken if he does not ere long pay us a visit."

Another blast is heard, but in very different tones to the last, and
silence is again spread over the forest.

"There, Adolphe--there's a joyous and melodious note; it tells me that
the monster is following his usual paths--we are sure to see him soon.
By St. Hubert, what lucky dogs we are!"

But the Parisian answered not, and leaned against his oak, a perfect
picture of despair.

"Adolphe," I reiterated, "he won't be here yet, but speak low, or we may
spoil everything. How do you feel? Do you think you can take good aim,
and pull the trigger?"

"I feel," whispered Adolphe, "that I am not cut out for boar-hunting."

"Bah! Why, the other day you seemed to think it would be delightful, and
now you don't appear to like the sport; keep your heart up, be cool, and
all will be well;--it is only on grand occasions--those when real danger
presents itself, as you told me the other day--that the proofs of
undoubted courage show themselves; and then the ladies of the Faubourg
St. Germain that you were to soften with your tales of forest
life--'Mademoiselles,' you were to commence, 'when I was in Le Morvan,
we had famous wolf and boar-hunting, and on one occasion'"....

"No! no!" groaned the Parisian, "I shall commence thus: On one occasion,
nay, ladies, on all occasions, I much prefer being in your delightful
society to that of the boars of Le Morvan."

"Nonsense, good Adolphe, you are laughing; why, you were to have the
skin stuffed, the tusks gilt, the feet silver-mounted, and the tail was
to be scarlet and curly. What! do you think no more about it?"

"Oh, yes! and of the cork calves also."

"Pooh! have we not two good hunting-knives and four iron bullets in the
rifles, and a magnificent oak, a perfect wooden tower, for a
breastwork."

"Yes! we have all this."

"And is not courage your father, and an excellent aim your mother, and
is not death to the boar in our barrels?"

"Certainly!--death--oh! what a word at such a crisis!"--and on the
instant two shots were heard, which made him jump again.

"Ah! ah!--good; that's the old gentleman who has led off the ball; the
music of his rifle is not to be mistaken. The grisly vagabond has by
this time two bits of iron in his flanks, which will considerably hasten
his march. Silence! and be on the _qui vive_. Listen! Hear you not the
distant crash in the bushes?" Two fresh shots were now fired, but
nearer. "Said I not so? he is running the gauntlet--one more shot. Hush
again! there he is, tearing along. Hark! not a whisper; your eye on the
open, your ear to the wind, and your finger on the trigger!" But it was
not the boar; for at the moment two roebucks and a fox broke near us,
bounding along at full speed, when Adolphe, his face as pale as his
cambric shirt, muttered, as he nearly fell upon his knees--"Oh!
Paris--oh! Chevet--oh! Boulevard des Italiens--I shall never see ye
more!"

"Why, Adolphe! what the deuce is the matter with you? in the name of
France, be a man. If my time is to be taken up with looking after you, I
shall be in a nice situation. No nonsense--no useless fears? Do you, or
do you not feel able to take part in the approaching drama?"

"No, I don't--I only just feel able to get up this tree."

"What! are you in such a funk as all that? Why, what a poor creature you
must be! You are the very incarnation of fear!"

"Fear? I have no fear. Who says that I have? I don't know how it is, but
I certainly do feel something--a sort of qualm, something like
sea-sickness--everything seems going round--no doubt a sudden
indisposition--such a thing might happen to the bravest man--Napoleon,
they say, was bilious at Borodino. We part for a few minutes only, dear
friend; I shall ascend the oak--an English king once did the same."

Another blast of the keeper's horn was now heard on the left.

"What does that mean?" cried Adolphe, one leg in the air.

"That signifies, the boar is making right for us."

"Does it? Then I am up;" and, with the agility of a cat, he was in an
instant safely lodged in the branches. "Ah! my friend! how different it
feels up here--the sickness is quite gone off, hand me the gun."

"In the name of Fortune," said I, "hold your coward tongue--here's the
boar;" for I could now hear his snorting and loud breathing in the copse
hard by.

"Do you hear him?" said Adolphe from his perch, his cheeks as green as
the leaves which covered him.

"Hear him?" I exclaimed, "yes, I partly see him. What a monster! How he
tears the ground!--how he bleeds and gnaws his burning wounds!--every
hair of his back stands up, smoke and perspiration flow from his
nostrils, and his eyes, glaring with agony and concentrated rage, look
as if they would start from their sockets!"

On came the beaters, and in a few minutes the panting beast burst from
his thicket, and rushed across the open; my eye was on every movement,
and, firing both barrels, the contents struck him full in front. It was
his death-blow, but the vital principle was yet unsubdued; and,
summoning up all his dying energies--those which despair alone can
give--he came at me with a force that I could never have withstood.
Fortunately the Parisian's gun was close to me, and the charge stopped
him in full career. This was the _coup de grâce_. He still, however, by
one grand effort, stood nobly on his haunches, opened his monstrous
mouth, all red with blood, gave out one sharp deep groan of agony from
his stifled lungs, and, falling upon his side, after many a wild
convulsion, at length stretched his massive and exhausted frame slowly
out in death.

"Hurrah! Adolphe! you rascally acorn! shout, you _badaud_! give the
death-whoop, and come down!"

"Is he really dead?"

"Dead! Why, don't you see he is? Come down I say--come, descend from
your Belvedere--the farce is played out, and your legs are all right.
You are a rank coward! however, no one is aware of it but me. Don't let
others see it!" and in a minute Adolphe was at my side.

"Listen, you fire-eater! and I will make you a hero, though you could
not manage to make yourself one. There were four shots fired; now, take
your gun, and remember that the two first, those ghastly holes in the
chest, were your handiwork--do you hear?"

"Yes, but what a horrible morning! what a brute! what a savage country!"

"True, it is not like the Boulevard des Italiens;" and a few minutes
after, Adolphe received, with some confusion, attributed to modesty, the
congratulations of all the party. This diffidence, as it may be
imagined, did not last long; his assurance soon returned, and the
hurrahs had scarcely died away, before he had imagined and given a very
graphic description of the last moments of the gallant boar. His toilet
made, the monstrous carcass was placed upon a litter, hastily
constructed with the branches of a tree, and the peasants, hoisting it
on their shoulders, bore the deceased monarch of the woods in triumph
to the chateau.

In the evening, Adolphe's self-satisfaction was completed by an ovation
from the ladies, who bestowed upon him the most flattering epithets.
From the prettiest lips I heard, "What! this Parisian! this pale and
slender young man, with such delicate hands and rose-coloured nails,
fought face to face with this terrible beast? Admirable! And he was not
frightened?"

"Frightened, ladies," said I, "why he was smoking a cigar all the time!"
And the secret was so well kept, and Adolphe so bepraised, that I am
sure had I felt disposed to throw a doubt upon the circumstances, he
would have stoutly contended that he really did kill the animal himself;
and, to say the truth, he was to a certain extent authorized to say so,
for the head, handsomely decorated, was sent to his mother, the
following words having been nicely printed on the tusks:

     "Killed by Gustave Adolphe de M. the 15th of August, 18--."

In the course of time Adolphe's nerves improved so much that he could
manage to knock down a leash of birds, or roll over a hare; but boars
and wolves he declined to have anything further to do with; and when I
met him by accident some years after, in the presence of mutual friends,
he said, "Ah! de Crignelle, what two famous shots those were I put into
that boar! But, gentlemen," he continued, with a sigh which seemed
pumped up from his very heels, "what terrible forests those are of Le
Morvan, and how dangerous the _chasse aux sangliers_!"



CHAPTER XII.

     The _Mares_--Manner in which they are formed in the depths of the
     forest--_Mare_ No. 1.--Description of it--The appearance of the
     spot--Mode of constructing the hunting-lodge--Approach of the
     birds--Animals that frequent the _Mares_ in the evening.


Of all the various sports of Europe, that which produces the greatest
excitement, that which is, more than any other, full of deep interest,
dangerous and difficult, is without doubt hut-shooting at night on the
banks of one of our large _Mares_.[1] Here the sportsman, left to
himself, is deprived of all help; concealed in a corner of a wood, or
squatting at the foot of a tree, he requires all his courage, all his
experience; for he then finds himself engaged in a deadly conflict with
the most subtle and ferocious beasts, possibly a mouthful for the
largest and most powerful jaws, and at the mercy of the quickest ears of
the forest. Motionless in his hut, like a spider in its web, nothing can
put him off his guard--neither the view halloo of the passing huntsman,
the cheerful notes of his horn, nor the music of the dogs, can distract
his attention. All around is calm, solitude and gloom surround him, no
voice interrogates him, no eye sees him; he is alone, quite alone, his
blood circulates tranquilly through his veins, his faculties are all on
the stretch, he waits, he bides his time. The shadows lengthen, twilight
arrives, the forest puts on the garb of evening, the silence and
solitude are more deeply felt, night is at hand, the moment so ardently
desired approaches. Imagination begins to work, phantoms of every
description come across his brain, and glide before his eyes, he hears,
and fancies he sees the sylvan spirits dancing before him; his ears are
full of mysterious and unearthly sounds, plaintive and melancholy,
celestial harmonies, fairy melodies of another world, interrupted
conversations between the winds, the trees, the herbage and the earth,
as if they were offering homage to the great Creator of the universe.

Firm at his post, and uninfluenced by this phantasmagoria of the brain,
without movement and almost without breath, the sportsman waits
hopefully; for the greatest virtue in this kind of sport is patience,
the second courage, first-rate--his heart should be of marble, his flesh
of steel, and his members should possess a power of immobility as great
as that of a sphynx in an Egyptian temple. Yes! the sport _aux mares_ is
the most stirring, the roughest that I am acquainted with, not so much
on account of the real danger attending it, but in consequence of those
fictitious, unknown, and imaginary, produced by the silence and
loneliness of the forest. It is my intention, therefore, in describing
this kind of sport, to enter into the most ample details, in order that
I may make myself thoroughly understood. I shall take, as representing
very nearly all the pieces of water to be met with in the forest, three
kinds of _Mares_ of different dimensions. I shall explain their
position, the relative value they possess in the eyes of the sportsman,
the game, large and small, to be found on their banks, and the most
propitious time for approaching them, and I shall endeavour, if
possible, to impress my readers with the pleasures and adventures which
have on several occasions agitated me.

If the woods and forests of Le Morvan, which, by the clouds they
attract, the thunder-storms that continually fall over them, and the
moisture that generally prevails, feed a great many streams, the
district is not the less deprived, by its elevated position, of large
rivers and extensive sheets of water; for the rains, falling down the
sides of the trees, and penetrating the thick mossy grass at their
roots, do not remain for any length of time on the surface of the earth.
The whole forest may, in fact, be described as a large sponge, through
which the water filters, descending to the inferior strata, where it
finds the secret drains of Nature, and is by them conducted into the
plains. The roots being thus continually watered, the trees are fresh
and vigorous in their growth, and produce a most luxuriant foliage; the
ground itself, however, is generally dry under foot, and in some places
rocky.

It is therefore very rare, quite an exceptional case, to find on the
elevated heaths, or in our forests, any lakes or large pieces of water;
nevertheless they are to be seen here and there, and then the cottage of
the peasant, or the hut of the wood-*cutter is sure to raise its modest
head on their banks; in time these humble edifices are augmented in
number till they sometimes become a considerable village. If the spring,
once a silvery thread, and now a brawling rivulet, changes its character
to a deep and considerable stream, farm-houses, a chateau, or a
hunting-box are soon erected near it. If it is merely a tiny source
rising from the earth, or springing from some isolated rock, and soon
lost in the moss, without even a murmur, calm and silent, as the life of
the lowly peasant, which is slowly consumed in the scarcely varying path
of labour,--then no one takes the least notice of it.

Sometimes, however, the tears which the earth thus sheds, this crystal
thread, scorned by the unobserving passer-by, is arrested in its timid
course by some trifling obstacle--a rising path, a fallen branch or
tree. This little streamlet swells, frets the immediate spot of ground,
imperceptibly increases in size, and becomes after many efforts, the
patient work of months and years, something like the basin of a large
_jet d'eau_, a liquid cup lost in the recesses of the woods, reflecting
only a very small portion of the blue heavens above; unknown to man, but
always frequented by thousands of delighted and happy insects, and
little birds that come there in the great heats of summer to refresh
themselves, to skim across the surface, and sip, with head uplifted
towards heaven, its pellucid waters. These little springs, lost in the
thickness of the mossy turf and the dead leaves, like a gray hair in
the dark tresses of some village beauty, which accident or a lover could
alone discover, when thus interrupted and formed into a bowl of water,
such as I have described, is called a _Mare_.

If, therefore, the sportsman in traversing the depths of the forest
should chance to discover one of these mirrors of the passing butterfly,
of the flower which inclines its slender form towards it, or of the bird
that sings and plays in the branches that overspread its surface, he
must not look contemptuously upon it, for this little liquid pearl, thus
concealed in the shade, which the hot rays of the sun would dry up like
an Arabian well, if they could reach it, may prove to him a mine of
varied reflections--a page of nature's great book, and in it he may
possibly find, if he have an observing eye and an understanding heart, a
type of this lower world, with all its hateful passions, its follies and
virtues, its wars, rivalries, injustice and oppression.

One day, when out shooting, and following by tortuous paths, to me
unknown, the bleeding traces of a roebuck which I had wounded, I had the
good fortune to meet with one of these _Mares_. The piece of water of
which I thus became what I may term the proprietor, was from fifty to
sixty feet in circumference, though at the first glance I fancied it
was only half the size, so completely was it covered near the side by
thorns and briars, and in the centre by lilies, flags, and other aquatic
plants. By certain other signs, also, the gigantic creepers, and the
barkless and headless trees, bending and falling with age; by the deep
thickets that surrounded it, and by the solitary aspect of the pool, I
felt convinced that mine was the first footstep that had trodden its
precincts,--that I was the Christopher Columbus of the place.

Enchanted with my discovery, I determined to mark the spot, for I
thought it a _Mare_ of peculiar beauty. It was almost surrounded by wild
fruit trees, which grow in great numbers in our forests: here were the
sorb, or service tree, and the medlar, bending to the ground under the
weight of their luxuriant fruit; intermingled with these waved the lofty
and slender branches of the wild cherry, the berries of which, now ripe,
and sweet as drops of honey, and black as polished jet, offered a
delicious repast to clouds of little birds, that hopped chirruping from
twig to twig: and lastly, I may mention a fine arbutus, which in its
turn presented a tempting collation to the notice of many a hungry
bullfinch. The soft turf around was strewed with the shining black and
bright red berries, which the last breeze had shaken from the verdant
branches.

To describe the crystal notes, the liquid cadences, the merry songs of
the feathered inhabitants of this hive, that pursued one another
rejoicing amongst the leaves, is impossible. Besides, my unexpected
appearance threw them into perfect consternation; and this greatly
increased when, drawing from my side my hunting-knife, I began to cut
down, in all directions, the bushes which intercepted a nearer approach
to the miniature lake.

The storm of helpless anger, menaces, and complaints from these little
creatures was quite curious. "Oh! the wretch!" a cuckoo seemed to say;
"what does he mean by coming here, showing us his ugly face?"--"Oh! the
horror," cried a coquette of a tomtit, holding up her little
claw.--"_Hélas! hélas!_ our poor trees, our beautiful leaves, and our
lovely greensward--see how he is cutting away--Oh! the wicked man! the
destructive rascal!" they all piped in chorus. But I paid no attention
to them, and went on hacking away, and whistling like one of the
blackbirds. This indeed I continued to do for several days, working like
a woodman, and all alone, for I did not wish to associate myself with
any person, lest he should claim a share in my discovery; but it was
long before I began to enjoy the fruits of my hard labour. The trunks
were sawn, the branches lopped, and after considerable trouble I at last
cleared my piece of water from the bushes and parasitic plants which
blocked it up. The evening breeze now circulated rapidly over it, and
the sun could look in upon it for at least two hours of the day.

My friends who saw me leave the house every morning with a basket of
tools at my back and a hatchet at my side, like Robinson Crusoe, and who
witnessed my return each evening heartily tired, with torn clothes,
scratched hands, and dust and perspiration on my face, without a single
head of game in my bag, could not comprehend why I went out thus alone
into the forest, and remained there the livelong day. Often did they
persecute me with questions, and try in every way to penetrate the
mystery; all in vain, my whereabouts remained hidden like a hedgehog in
his prickly coat, and I managed matters so well that during two
successive years I was the unknown proprietor and Grand Sultan of my
much-loved _Mare_.

But when my task was finished, a task that hundreds of birds, perched in
the oaks, the elms, and the adjoining thickets, viewed with mingled
feelings of approbation, disapprobation, curiosity, or interest,--when
the last stroke of my hatchet was given, I said to myself, while looking
on the result of my unremitting toil, "'Tis well, and what a change has
taken place in this little corner of the forest. In truth, it looks
superb."

The little lake was now a perfect oval, and the water, not very deep,
but limpid as crystal, was full of green and coloured rushes--the
surface being partly covered by the white and rose-tinted flowers of the
water-lilies, which reposing delicately on their large flat green
leaves, looked like velvet camellias placed upon a plate of sea-green
porcelain. In the mossy turf which bordered it, beds of violets, pink
daisies, and lilies of the valley, sent forth a cloud of perfume, and on
the large forest trees hung festoons and garlands of the honeysuckle and
the clematis; so that the _Mare_ and the surrounding foliage, would,
seen from above, have appeared like a large well with leafy walls, or an
immense emerald, which some spirit of the air, returning from a marriage
of the gods, had inadvertently dropped on his way home.

Having given a description of the lake, I must describe my picturesque
and sylvan hut. This, constructed of trunks of trees, branches and
osiers, was placed about twenty paces from the water, completely
concealed by the bushes that encircled it; the inside was fitted up in
rustic taste with seats of wood, the whole carpeted with turf, and the
entrance planted with every kind of odoriferous flower.

This _Mare_, approached by marks known only to myself, became
thenceforward the source of all my pleasures. At that period very young,
and equally careless, I would not have parted with my large liquid
_tazza_, my little lake, my leafy castle, for all the vulgar comfortable
_chateâux_ in the neighbourhood.

If I have lingered too much over this subject, the reader must forgive
me for elaborating this picture--this portrait I may call it of my
_Mare_. He has before him a type of all the others, and this again must
be my excuse, it is so dear to the unfortunate to stir the still warm
embers of by-gone memories,--so dear to rouse from their slumbers the
treasured recollections of early days,--to wake those sweet spirits of
the mind, those phantoms robed in azure blue, and decked with the
pearls, the joys which never can glide again across the dreamer's
path--the joys of youth.

Oh _souvenirs_ of childhood!--of happy hours so quickly gone,--bright
visions that gild, yes, light the darkest clouds of after years,
blessed, blessed are ye! Alone, friendless, far from those I love, with
the heart steeped, drowned in sorrow, a sombre sky before my eyes,
wintry clouds, that distil but melancholy thoughts all around me,--well,
I, the poor sparrow, who has been cast from his nest by the raging
storm,--I hush my griefs to rest in tracing the picture of past
delights. Yes, memory comes to my relief; I build again in the casket of
the mind my sylvan hut, careless and full of youthful fancies. I am
again seated in the depths of my native woods, speaking to the
light-hearted thrush, and whistling to the breeze.

Once more I bathe myself in the golden rays of the mid-day sun; I tread
again the forest paths, and am intoxicated with the delicious perfume of
its wild flowers. Hark! again I hear the cooing of the amorous doves,
and in the distance the notes of the dull cuckoo, bewailing his solitary
life.--But no more....

The _Mares_, very different from one another, and having each of them
very different admirers, are of three kinds; they are either small or
large, near or distant from the village or neighbouring hamlet; and
according as they are circumstanced in one or other of these respects
they are more or less valuable. The largest, the deepest, the least
known, those in short that are situated in the recesses of the forest,
are the best and most frequented by game; to balance this advantage they
are the most fatiguing and the most difficult to approach.

In the violent heats of July and August, when the sun burns up the
herbage, when the wind as it passes parches the skin, and the sultry air
scarcely allows the lungs to play--when the earth is quite dried up--the
hot-blooded animals, whose circulation is rapid, remain completely
overpowered with the heat in their retreats all day, either stretched
panting on the leaves, or lurking in the shade of some rock; but the
moment the sun, in amber clouds, sinks below the horizon, and twilight
brings in his train the dark hours of night, and its humid vapours, the
beasts of the forest are again in movement, again their ravenous
appetite returns, and they lose no time in ranging the woods, seeking
how and where they may gratify it. Then it is these large _Mares_,
silent as a woman that listens at a keyhole--silent as a catacomb, is
all at once endowed with life,--is filled with strange noises, like an
aviary, and becomes, as night falls, a common centre to which the hungry
and thirsty cavalcade direct their steps.

The first arrivals are hundreds of birds, of every size and colour, who
come to gossip, to bathe, to drink, and splash the water with their
wings. Next come troops of hares and rabbits, who come to nibble the
fresh grass that grows there in great luxuriance. As the shades grow
deeper, groups of the graceful roebuck, timid and listening for
anticipated danger, their large open eyes gazing at each tree, giving an
inquiring look at every shadow, are seen approaching with noiseless
footsteps; when reassured by their careful _reconnaissance_, they steal
forward, cropping the dewy rich flowers as they come, and at last slake
their thirst in the refreshing waters.

At this instant you may, if you are fatigued, and so desire it, finish
your day's sport. You may bring down the nearest buck; and then as the
troop, wild with affright, make for the forest, the second barrel will
add a fellow to your first victim.

But, no! pull not the trigger; stop, if only to witness what follows.
See the roebuck prick their ears; they turn to the wind; they appear
uneasy; call one to the other, assemble; danger is near, they feel it,
hear it coming; they would fly, but find it is too late; terrified, they
are chained to the spot. For the last half hour the wolves and
wolverines, which followed gently, and at a distance, their own more
rapid movements, have closed in upon them from behind, have formed the
fatal circle, have noiselessly decreased it as much as possible, and at
length come swiftly down upon the helpless creatures; each seizes his
victim by the throat, the tranquil spot is ere long full of blood and
carnage, and the echoes of the forest are awakened to the hellish yells
of the savage brutes that thus devour their prey.

The cries of agony, of death and victory, sometimes last for a quarter
of an hour; and during the fifteen minutes that you are watching the
scene from your hut, you may fancy the teeth of these brutes are meeting
in your own flesh, and feel a cold paw with claws of steel deep in your
back or head.

The slaughter over, these monsters pass like a flight of demons across
the turf, vanish,--and again all is silent. And when the tenth chime of
the distant village clock is floating on the breeze, though it reaches
not your cabin--when the falling dew, now almost a shower, has bathed
the leaves, with rain chilling their fibres--when the bluebells and the
foxgloves and all the wood-flowers rest upon their stems--when the
songsters of the grove, with heads comfortably tucked under their warm
wings, sleep soundly in their nests, or in the angles of the
branches--when the young fawns, lost in some wild ravine, bleat for
their mothers whom they never will see more; and the gorged wolves,
their muzzles red with blood, are stretched snoring in their dens and
lurking-places--then it is the heavy boars, shaking off their laziness,
leave their sombre retreats--take to the open country, and trotting,
grunting, and with hesitating footsteps, come and plunge their awkward
and heavy bodies in the marshy waters, and wallow in the soft mud.


[1] Query,--fox-hunting and stag-hunting.--TRANSLATOR.



CHAPTER XIII.

     Appearance of the _Mare_ in the morning--Forest etiquette--Mode of
     obtaining possession of the best _Mare_--Every subterfuge fair--The
     jocose sportsman--The quarrel--Reveries in the hut--Comparison
     between meeting a lady and watching for a wolf.


The _Mares_ on the borders of which these scenes of strife and carnage
take place, are found by the morning sun surrounded by a crimson circle,
and all the horrid details of the battle-field--proof that the weak have
been slaughtered and overcome by the strong; a humiliating sight! for
the desolation created by the bad passions of man is far too like it.
Sometimes these _Mares_ are from two to three hundred feet in
circumference, and these may be truly termed the diamonds of the forest.
The _Mare_ No. 1., fed by small but always flowing springs, is full,
when others are dried up, and is frequented by troops of animals, savage
and meek, which thirst and heat drive there from all points of the
compass. These _Mares_, but little known, few in number, much sought
after--become, more especially at the period of the dog-days, very
difficult to find. Considered always as the property of the first comer,
the poacher, who is better acquainted than any other sportsman with the
localities in which they are to be found, generally takes up his
quarters near them late at night, and installs himself; sleeps there,
sups there, and, determined not to leave it under any pretext, laughs in
the face of the unfortunate wight who arrives after him, in the happy
delusion that he has anticipated every one else. For it is a forest law,
and acknowledged by all, that two sportsmen cannot, without disturbing
one another, sit down at the same _Mare_; possession is in this not only
nine but ten points of the law; and, if a mere lad, with a
fowling-piece, happens to place himself first on its banks, no giant
seven feet high would think of using his superior strength to expel him.

Such is the law--such is the custom--to act in defiance of it would
expose the culprit to the chance of receiving a charge of No. 3 in his
jacket; and as each _Mare_ has its wooden hut, in successive summers,
constructed by you, embellished by me, knocked in, cut about, injured by
some one else, and repaired by all--the first man who puts the stock of
his gun on the floor of the cabin becomes immediately and incontestibly
the lucky proprietor of it for that night.

And how shall I explain to you the thousand cunning tricks, the
diabolical, the ingenious finesses, the Philipistic and Machiavellian
diplomacy, which sportsmen employ one towards the other to obtain
possession? Two friends, for instance, meet by accident on the same
road; with what perfect and impudent lies do they entertain each
other!--with what gusto do they try and take one another in!--what
cheating doubts do they not mutually endeavour to raise, in their desire
to induce each other to take the wrong road! With the effrontery of a
_diplomate_, with the assurance of a secretary of legation,--one
affirms, his hand on his heart, and looking towards heaven, that he is
going to the left, when it is his positive intention, well-considered
beforehand, to go to the right. No, France and England, Bresson and
Bulwer, playing their game of chess of the Spanish marriages on the
green cloth of political rascality,--never said anything comparable to
the devices of these lying chevaliers of the forest.

Everything is permitted--every stratagem is fair, so long as either is
endeavouring to triumph over his adversary; and then, when they have
gone so far as to be able to wish one another good afternoon, and each
has convinced himself that he has put the other on the wrong road--that,
thank the stars, his rival is off, that he is far off, that he cannot
see him--what haste! what strides and leaps to get speedily to the spot,
and make himself safe! The running of the celebrated Greek, who, with
his breast laid open by a ghastly wound, ran eighty miles in ten hours
to announce to the impatient Athenians the victory of Marathon, was the
pace of a tortoise compared with the demon-racing of these _chasseurs_.

And, after all this anxiety and rapid locomotion,--after turning and
winding in and out of the wood, and round the wood to avoid the
open--across the brook to avoid the bridge--through the brambles and
thick underwood to avoid the open path--when you think you have cheated,
or, at any rate, distanced your enemy,--when you perceive in front of
you the object of your hopes,--the well-known and much-desired hut which
seems to invite you to repose after your long day's walk--why, at that
interesting moment, even your own, your very own brother would be a
veritable Bedouin in your eyes, a man to be put out of the way any how,
if he attempted to stop you.

At such a crisis, if a real sportsman were to hear that his house was on
fire, that his banker was off to America, taking with him his wife and
his money, he would not, I say, in such a moment turn his head round to
see which way they went;--Imagine, then, when in order to succeed you
have made yourself out a cheat of the first water, and employed every
possible subterfuge,--conceive what would be the extent of your anger
and indignation, what your disgust,--when on arriving at your coveted
_Mare_, at your oasis, at your paradise, at the spot for which you have
toiled and invented such lies, to find the hut--occupied!

Sometimes you may find in the possessor a _chasseur_, who likes to amuse
himself at your expense,--a jocose fellow, who, hearing you at a
distance working your way through the underwood, and seeing you through
the leaves advancing with eager and rapid steps to the spot, conceals
himself behind the entrance, and as you are just on the point of
entering the hut, your foot just on the step, the droll sportsman puts
his ugly head out of the window, as a yellow tortoise would his out of
his shell, asking you, in most polite terms, what o'clock it is; or if
it should chance to be raining a deluge at the time, remark in
compassionate accents, "Why, sir, you seem rather damp!"

Job was never so unfortunate as to arrive at a _Mare_ already occupied;
had he done so, it is not by any means clear to me that he would have
been able to contain his wrath. For my own part, I have frequently been
beside myself with vexation, and on one occasion was very nearly having
a quarrel to the death with my best friend. We had accidentally met in
the forest, as described, and had deceived each other, as two Greeks of
Pera would, when making a bargain. After our _rencontre_, my friend went
to the right, I to the left; he on the sly, turning and twisting by
footpath and wood to conceal himself from observation; I, on the
contrary, went directly to the spot, and striding away as fast as I
could go, arrived at the _Mare_ about three minutes before him, scarlet
and streaming with exertion, and quite out of breath. My friend who was
equally heated, but, in addition, disappointed and in a furious rage,
addressed me in most insulting language, declaring between the hiccup,
which his want of breath and want of coolness had produced, that I was
a Jesuit, a hypocrite; and many other affectionate epithets did he apply
to me with the utmost volubility.

If I had not been the fortunate occupant of the hut, which gratifying
fact was as honey to my lips and oil to my bones, and had a most
soothing influence on my temper, I should naturally have revolted at
such conduct; but this constrained me, and I remained perfectly quiet,
determined to allow my lungs to regain their composure before I replied.
Seeing this, his rage increased tenfold, and he proposed a duel with our
fowling-pieces, hunting-knives, or two large sticks; he offered me,
also, an aquatic duel of a most novel character,--namely, for both of us
to undress and endeavour to drown each other in the _Mare_! In short, he
continued for at least a quarter of an hour to rave and rail without
ceasing.

But of all this abuse I took not the slightest notice, remaining
perfectly calm, sitting in my hut like Solomon on his throne, and
fanning my heated countenance with the brim of my broad hat, as if I had
been in a glass-house. It is true I laughed in my sleeve, looked
vacantly at the blue heavens, and whistled the chorus or snatches of a
hunting song. Finding therefore, it was impossible to move me, my
adversary finished by getting tired of roaring and abusing; and having
rubbed the perspiration from his distorted face with a force which
seemed as if he would rub his nose off, he turned on his heel with the
grace of a wild boar that had received a brace of balls in his
haunches,--looking me fiercely in the face, and pouring forth as a last
broadside, a dozen of oaths in the true _argot_ style, which seemed to
dry up the very plants near him, and silenced the frogs that were
croaking in the _Mare_.

Such, however, is the force of habit and of this rule; and so truly does
every one feel that on the strict observance of it depends the
tranquillity of all, that the law of first possession is never violated;
although it is but simply acknowledged by the justice and good sense of
every sportsman, it is quite as well established in their manners and
customs as if it were written on tables of iron. The consequence is,
that however enraged a person may be, he sees, and generally at the
outset, that his best course is to give way; he may fume and strut, look
big and villify, but he bows his head and is off with as embarrassed a
face as yours, gentle reader, would certainly be, if a friend whom you
knew to be ruined came and asked you to lend him twenty thousand francs.

But also, by St. Hubert, if you remain the lord and master of this
_Mare_, how your heart leaps, how all fatigue is forgotten! and when the
twilight approaches, what a fever there is in your veins!--what anxiety!
I have heard of the delirious and suffocating emotions of a lover
waiting for his mistress at the rendezvous. Fiddlesticks! I say, gruel
and iced-water. The most volcanic Romeo that ever penned a letter or
scaled a wall, is to the sportsman waiting amidst the howling storm on a
dark night for the wolves, what a cup of cream is to a bottle of
vitriol. As for myself, I would give,--yes, ladies, I am wolf enough to
say,--that I would willingly give up the delightful emotions of ninety
rendezvous, with the loveliest women in the world, black or white, for
twelve with a boar or a wolf. In return for this bad taste, I shall
probably be devoured some day or other,--a fate no doubt duly merited.

I will suppose, therefore, that the sportsman is squatting quietly in
his hut, like a serpent in a bush. With what ardour and nervous anxiety
does he not await the propitious and long-expected hour! He throws open
the ivory doors of his castle in the air,--his hopes are multiplied a
thousandfold. What shall I shoot?--what shall I not shoot? Will it be a
she-wolf, or a roebuck? No, I prefer a boar. Will he be a large one? But
if by chance I should kill a sow?--what a capital affair that would be;
the young ones never leave their mother; perhaps I should bag three or
four,--perhaps the whole fare. But then, how shall I carry them off?
Perhaps the wolves will save me the difficulty of contriving that, and
dispute my title to them,--perhaps they will attack me, eat me, the sow,
the pigs, and my sealskin cap.

How, I beseech you, is the following _monologue_ to stand comparison
with the fierce excitement of such anticipations? Will she come this
evening, the darling--will my sweetest be able to come?--shall I be
blessed with one kiss?--shall it be on the left cheek or the right, or
shall I press her lips to mine? Bah! there can be no comparison in the
hunter's mind; and then you barricade yourself in your hut as evening
approaches, strengthen the weak points, study the best positions, look
to your arms; the day seems as if it would never close,--nothing is
left for you to do but to muse in the interval, and think of the poor
maudlin lovers, who at this very hour are squatting under a wall like so
many young apes; or of him who, half concealed, stands on the watch at
the angle of a dirty street, waiting with a fluttering heart the arrival
of some sentimental little chit of a girl, who is nevertheless coquette
enough to keep him waiting for half an hour. And again, with what
disdain and contempt you regard such birds as pigeons, turtle-doves,
buzzards, wild duck, and teal; hares and foxes, too, which make their
appearance from time to time,--to kill these never enters your head.

What, not the fox, with his splendid bushy tail?

Why what do you take me for, good reader?--what can I possibly want with
that?--I, who am about to knock over two roebucks and three wolves?
Peace, peace, my friends; skip and skuttle about, young rabbits; nibble
away, middle-aged hares,--don't put yourselves the least out of the way,
you won't have any of my powder. Besides, to fire would be very
imprudent, and to a great extent compromise the sport; for at this
period the sun is sinking, the shadows are slowly lengthening, the
roebuck are on their way, and the she wolf in the neighbouring thicket
is raising her head and listening for the sounds which indicate that
her prey is not far off. And you listen also to catch the slightest
noise that comes on the wind,--for each and all are a vocabulary to the
huntsman,--a gust of wind, the note of a bird disturbed, a weasel
running across the path, a squirrel gnawing the bark, a breaking branch,
startles you, circulates your blood, and puts you anxiously alive to
what may follow. Everything that surrounds you at this still tour of
twilight courts your attention,--the waving branches speak to you,--the
hazel thicket, bending to the weight of some advancing animal, puts you
on your guard; the heart beats, not for the rustling of a silk gown, nor
for the hurried footfall of woman treading with fairy lightness on the
fallen leaves. The syren voice is not about to whisper softly in your
ear, "Are you there, violet of my heart!" nor are you about to reply,
"Angelic being, moss-rose of my soul, let me press your sweet lips?"
What you are waiting for are the wild beasts of the forest,--you are
listening for their distant and subdued tones, their bounding spring,
their near approach, their bodies as a mark for your rifle, their yells,
and cries, and death agony for your triumph.

Then the inexplicable charms of danger excite the sportsman's feelings;
his physical faculties, like those of the Indian, are doubled; he
grasps his rifle with a firmer clutch, and looks down the blade of his
hunting-knife with anxiety and yet with satisfaction. It grows dark, but
his eyes pierce the gloom--his life is at stake, but he forgets that it
is so; for the love of the chase, the wild pleasures of the huntsman,
have taken possession of his soul. Breathless, his heart thumping
against his chest, as if it would break its bounds, he listens, the
cloudy curtain rises, and with it the moon; the roebucks are heard in
the distance, then the stealthy steps of the wolves, afterwards the rush
of the boar: and now, gentlemen, the tragedy is about to
commence--choose your victims.



CHAPTER XIV.

   _Mare_ No. 2.--Description of it--Not sought after by the sportsman--The
   sick banker--The doctor's prescription--The patient's disgust at it--Is
   at length obliged to yield--Leaves Paris for Le Morvan--Consequences to
   the inmates of the château--The banker convalescent.


If the great _Mares_ No. 1, situated in the dark and silent depths of
the forest, far from every habitation, and where you find you are left
as much to yourself as the poor shipwrecked sailor supporting his
exhausted frame upon a single plank on the angry billows, are so
attractive, and so much coveted, though dangerous and difficult to
secure, the same cannot be said of those which lie in the vicinity of a
village, and which I shall call _Mare_ No. 2.

These last are to be met with easily enough; but being so very readily
discovered, it is therefore rare to find near them the larger
descriptions of game,--though the sportsman may see a few thrushes, some
dozen of water-wagtails, and flocks of little impudent chaffinches,
greenfinches, &c., which come there to imbibe, hopping from stone to
stone, and singing in the willows; beyond these he will see nothing
worth the cap on the nipple of his gun. Nevertheless to him who is
without experience,--to the hunter who cannot read the language of the
forest on the bark of the trees, on the freshly trodden ground, or the
bent grass and broken flowers,--these pieces of water seem quite as
beautiful and well situated, indeed quite as desirable, as the others.

Perhaps such an ignoramus might prefer them; for they are always more
open, more free from weeds, rushes and flags, and less dark; and at the
hour of _la chasse au poste_, the hour of twilight, they are as solitary
as the _Mare_ No. 1. But the savage beasts of the forest are not to be
deceived; their instinct tells them that at a quarter, or perhaps half a
mile from them, there is, though unseen and hidden in the thickness of
the trees, a farm, or two or three houses; and when they are not pressed
onward by the winter snows, or by maddening hunger, they stop,--for the
smell of man is not pleasant to their nostrils, the neighbourhood is not
agreeable to them, and they immediately withdraw from the spot.

It is thus that these _Mares_ are always at any person's disposal; the
passing sportsman rarely makes more than a circuit round them; and if
one is occasionally found on their banks, he may at once be set down as
a beginner, who, having found the _Mares_ No. 1 in the vicinity all
occupied, has here installed himself for the evening in sheer vexation
and despair. Over these pools of troubled water, frequented during the
whole day by the inhabitants of the adjoining cottages, that eternal
stillness and imposing solitude, which are the delight of the wolf and
the boar, never reigns.

The day has scarcely dawned ere the wood-cutters' wives, in their red
petticoats, with brown jugs on their heads, come to fill them there, or
to wash their vegetables; the cows to drink, the children to play at
ducks and drakes, or the men to water the horses. But a little before
nightfall all this going and coming, this trampling of heavy _sabots_,
the bellowings, oaths, and cracking of whips subside, and cease, as if
by magic, when the sun is down. The poultry and the peasants are equally
silent, their huts are closed, their beds are gained, and their dogs,
stretched motionless behind the door, snore and sleep soundly with open
ear, and every leaf without is still.

The _chasseur à l'affût_, if inexperienced or not acquainted with the
country, while reconnoitring the spot during the last few minutes of the
twilight that remain, would never imagine that he was near an inhabited
spot; not a bark, not a sound, not one twinkling light in a cottage
window, not one wreath of ascending smoke is to be heard or seen.
Thinking therefore that he has made a grand discovery, he rubs his hands
with no little satisfaction, squats down at the foot of some tree, or in
the temporary shed on the bank, and believes he is going to kill a dozen
wolves at least.

But, alas! it is in vain for him to open his eyes and his ears; nothing
is to be seen but one or two hideous bats, which flap their wings in his
face, and frighten him in the midst of a reverie. Nothing is on the
move; no newt or tadpole is playing in the water, and nothing can be
descried there but the rays of the moon, as she moves slowly o'er its
surface; nor is anything to be heard except the wind whistling through
the trees, or an occasional shot from the rifle of a brother sportsman,
who, more happy, more clever, and better placed than himself, may be
heard in the distance. I should not have thought of mentioning the
_Mares_ No. 2, so little do they deserve attention, if one of them had
not been the scene of a very strange adventure of which I was witness;
and as the description of it will give me an opportunity of speaking of
the _Mares_ No. 3, and of the third mode of taking woodcocks, I shall
profit by the circumstance to relate it.

One day a _millionnaire_, a Lucullus, a rich banker of Paris, found
himself dreadfully ill: his body grew larger every twenty-four hours;
his neck sunk into his shoulders, his breathing became difficult, and
three or four times in the course of a week he was within a little of
being suffocated; as many times in the course of a month the gout, which
in the morning had been tearing his toes and his heels as if with hot
pincers, in the evening twisted his calves and his knees as if they were
being made into ropes. What was to be done under these circumstances?
The best physicians consulted together, and recommended him to order a
pair of hob-nailed shoes from a country shoemaker, and instantly leave
the capital.

"Hob-nailed shoes, with donkey heels!" cried the banker, all amazed;
"and for what, in the name of goodness?"

"Why, to run with in search of health over the wild moors and heaths,
and improve your figure by long walks in the mountains," was the reply.

And as the only hope of health was obedience, he prepared his mind to
set off. It is true the doctors permitted him to carry with him his
cane, his flute, and his eye-glass; but he was obliged to leave behind
his carriages, his horses, his luxurious arm-chairs and his cooks; in
short, he was informed that, under the penalty of being quickly placed
under ground, and obliged to shake hands with his respectable ancestors,
and enjoy with them the nice white marble monuments under which they
reposed, he must, for the next year at least, make use of his own legs,
forget there were such things as _Rentes_, eat only when he felt hungry,
and drink when he was thirsty.

What a sentence for a rich Parisian banker! to leave his splendid hotel
and his apartments, redolent with delicious perfumes, and play the
pedestrian up and down the footpaths in the woods, the mossy glades and
highway of the forest, or sit on a large stone at the top of a hill
under the mid-day sun, and inhale from the valleys the soft breezes,
laden with the odours of the new-mown hay, or the clover-fields in full
blossom. His box at the grand opera, lined with velvet, must too be left
behind, and many an adieu be given to the gauze-clad sylphides and
painted nightingales of that gay establishment.

Yes, all these were to be exchanged for morning walks to the summit of
some mountain; to make his bow to Aurora, and listen to the joyous carol
of the larks chanting high in the air their hymns of praise, or
listening to their blithe little brothers of song, awakening in the
bushes, and fluttering, amidst a shower of pearls and rubies--those dewy
gems which hang in the sunny rays upon every branch. "Ah, it is all over
with me!" wheezed the plethoric banker, when the junior doctor of the
consultation of three informed him of their unanimous opinion.

"It is all over with me, gentlemen; in the name of mercy what will
become of me, if I am put on the peasant's daily fare of buck-wheat and
roasted beans? Consider again, gentlemen."

"It is a matter of necessity, sir," replied the trio; "your life is at
stake."

"Dear doctors, withdraw these unwholesome words; open the consultation
afresh; pass once more in review all your scientific acquirements, your
great knowledge of chemistry, your hospital experience. Press, dear
gentlemen, between both your hands the pharmacopean sponge, and in the
name of mercy squeeze out for me some more agreeable remedy."

"There is no other," replied the funereal-looking physicians.

"What, is the house then really in danger?"

"Danger! sir, why it is nearly on fire. Your heart is getting diseased,
your lungs are touched, your blood is actually scented and coloured with
the truffles you have eaten. Why, your very nose (pray excuse the
freedom of our remark), your roseate nose bears testimony to what we
say."

"Alas, alas! this is I fear the truth; but, gentlemen, if I leave Paris,
what on earth will become of the Great Northern and the Orleans
Railways, and the funds,--my dividends, rents, and bad debts?"

"And your feverish pulse, sir, your wrinkled liver, and your digestion,
which scarcely ever allows you to close your eyes?"

"Yes! yes,--but my Spanish fives and Mexican bonds?"

"And your bilious eyes and eyelids full of crows' feet, and the gout and
the rheumatism which excruciate you?--those horrid spiders which are
weaving their threads in the muscles of your calves?"

"But my carrier-pigeons, gentlemen, source of my tenderest care; the
brokerage, the speculation for the account, and my good friend, the
Minister of the Interior, and of the _Travaux Publics_; and the snowball
of my fortune, which must stop unproductive till I recover;--how can I
leave all these to fate?"

"Think of your respiration, which is disorganized, and the vital
principle, the torch of life, which flickers up and down in the socket,
and ere many weeks will be extinguished, unless you at once take our
advice."

"What!" continued the votary of wealth,--"what! cannot gold purchase
health, most sapient doctors?"

"No, sir; doctors are paid, that's all, and people cure themselves."

"You persist, then, in saying that I am not even to take my head cook
with me?"

"On no account whatever."

"Then I am defunct already."

"That you will be so, sir, in two months, if you remain here, there
cannot be a doubt."

"Then, good heavens! where can I go? What am I to do without carriages,
without opera nightingales, and, above all things, without a head cook?"

The night succeeding the consultation, the banker felt as if twenty
cork-screws had been driven into his calves, and he made, ere dawn, a
vow that he would leave the capital. This determination taken, the next
point to be decided was in what direction to go,--for it was not a
journey of pleasure he was about to take, but one of health; and for
once his riches were of no further use to him than to provide the means
of transit. His physicians, fashionable men, strange to say, were
sincere, and did not order him to Nice or Lucca, hot-baths, or mineral
waters, or even to the orange-groves of Hyères, to which, when a rich
man cannot recover, they send him, in order that he may die comfortably
under Nature's warm blanket, the sun, inhaling with his last
inspirations the delicious scent of her flowers. To Spain, where, said
the invalid, they talk so loud and drink water, he would not go; nor to
Germany, the land of meerschaums and sour crout. Which direction
therefore was he to take? to which point of the compass was he to turn
the vessel's prow?

Several times did the unhappy banker pass his geography in review, but
his knowledge of this science was indeed finite, and the Landes,
Picardy, and such like spots, alone presented themselves to his
imagination. In this predicament the light of friendship suddenly threw
a ray over his thinking faculties; he remembered my father, the
companion of his boyhood, with whom he had been brought up,--his great
friend, without doubt, but of whom he had not thought for the last ten
years.

"By all the blue devils that dance in my brain!" said the unhappy
_millionnaire_, starting up on his bed of pain, as if he had a spring in
his back, and throwing at the nose of his astonished apothecary, who was
watching him, the draught presented to him,--"by the wig of my respected
grandfather,--by the beard of Æsculapius, I have found the real friend
who will pour over my head the oil of health."

"My good sir," said his attendant, "pray calm yourself, and take this
pill" ...

"Yes, that dear friend, he will set me all to rights--he will bring to
my heavy eyelids those peaceful slumbers which now, alas! I never
enjoy."

"But, Sir," repeated the apothecary, "pray be so good as to lay down and
swallow this."

"Back, felon of hell! horse-leech, son of a poultice! go, doctor of the
devil, and join your friend in black below."

"But _Monsieur le Banquier_"----

"Off I say, off!--sinister raven, cease your croaking! Silence--take the
abominable drugs yourself--poison yourself, you wretch. Give me my
trousers, and let me dress myself. Hey, Bilboquet!--bring my hot water,
razors, and shaving soap. Hurrah! Phoebus, light the sun and put out
the stars; arise day! Into the saddle, postillions,--here, bring some
cigars. Hurrah! the wind is up; now, my stout boatmen, down to your
oars." "Halloo! halloo!" shouted his attendant, "help! help!" and he got
at both bells and rang away with might and main; but before any one came
the banker was out of bed, struck his attendant a blow in the eye, which
made him see one hundred and forty-six suns, and laid him upon the
floor, after which he commenced waltzing _en chemise_ in his delirium,
all round the room with a chair, dragging after him the unfortunate hero
of the pestle and mortar, and roaring at the top of his voice these
lines of Racine:

  Peut-être on t'a conté la fameuse disgrâce
  De l'altière Vasthi dont j'occupe la place,
  Lorsque le Roi, centre elle enflammé de dépit,--

followed by--

  Quel profâne en ces lieux ose porter ses pas?
  Holà, gardes!--

At this moment a reinforcement most luckily arrived; but as in this
access of fever he defended himself against all comers like a bear, and
boxed away like an Englishman, they had no little difficulty in
securing him; at length, in spite of his violence, he was replaced in
his bed, like a sword into its sheath. There, however, he would not lay
quiet; first he tore the satin curtains, then he hugged his
richly-worked pillow to his breast, calling it his best and dearest
friend, and performed fifty other such antics. He obtained, in short, no
repose, until his secretary, who entered at his bidding half-dressed and
with one eye half shut, had written the following note to my father,
under his dictation,--a letter evidently written in a paroxysm of high
fever:

"Friend of my heart, jessamine of my soul, bright party-coloured tulip
of my _souvenirs_, may the Creator pour upon your gray and venerable
head a stream from his flower-pot of blessings!

"Dear Friend,--Several atrocious doctors, with pale noses, the very
sight of which gives one the cholic, and with black searching eyes, that
make one tremble, say that I am very ill,--that I shall die. They say
too that there is only one mode of cure, and that is to take my valuable
body into your beautiful province. It is the east wind they say, and
blue-bottles, corn-flowers, field-poppies, and the green turf; the song
of the nightingale and the beautiful moonlight nights; the hum of bees
and the bleating of sheep, which will effect this marvellous cure. It is
amongst the rocks and streams of your mountains, in long walks in your
forests, and in your valleys; in the innocent candour of your pretty
peasant girls, the pure water of your fountains, and the cream cheeses
of your dairies that I am told resides the power to retain here below my
soul, just ready to fly away. Alas! yes, I am forced to admit the fact;
I must say I am very ill, and it is my own fault;--yes, my own undoubted
fault. I have drank too deeply of voluptuous ease; I have tasted too
often the luscious grapes of forbidden pleasures. I am no longer
virtuous enough to wish to see the sun rise, and hence it is that I am
suffering intensely in the capacity of a human pincushion, in which, one
after the other, the sharpest and most pointed pins have stuck
themselves, namely, every infirmity and every disease that mortal man is
heir to.

"In this delicate and distressing position, dear friend, I thought of
you: yes, to you, to you only, shall I owe my restoration to health. Do
not therefore be surprised if, in the course of a few days, you should
see my shadow approach your hospitable door; and prepare for it, I beg
you, a small room and a bed of dried leaves, coarse bread, and a jug of
water. It seems that in order to regenerate my blood I shall want all
these; and I shall be fortunate if, in seeking a perfect restoration to
health, I am not obliged to be a swine-herd or keep sheep, to dig, cut,
and saw wood, pick spinach, or weed the flower-beds! Quick, my friend;
light with all convenient haste the altar on which we will burn again
the incense and benjamin of friendship. Blow again the sparks now so
nearly extinguished of our happy boyish days; revive again the holy
flames of our youthful affections; and, above all things, have the
scissors ready which are to cut the Gordian knot of my complicated
diseases. Soon, in shaking you by the hand, my shadow shall say much
more."

  Yours, &c.,


Fifteen days after the receipt of this extraordinary composition, the
banker, escorted by a lean and cadaverous-looking doctor, arrived at our
_château_, half strangled with a churchyard cough, and in a state of
apparently hopeless debility. He was evidently very, very ill; and if it
had not been for the sincere friendship my father had for him, I really
do not know how we could have supported the dark cloud which his
presence seemed to throw upon our house for nearly nine mortal weeks.

No one dared either to move or speak: if you wished to laugh, it could
only be on the terrace; if to blow your nose, it was to be done in the
cellar; and as to sneezing, one was obliged to go to the bottom of the
garden. The horses' feet were wrapped up in hay-bands, so that no sound
should be heard in the court-yard; the servants went about the house in
list shoes, and all the approaches to it were knee-deep in straw. There
was an end to the _fanfares_ of the huntsman's horn, and the rollicking
chorus; guns, shot and powder, were all placed under lock and key; the
kennel was mute, and the muzzled dogs looked piteously at one another,
and hung their heads, as if they had given themselves up to the certain
prospect of being drowned. The very hares knew how matters were, and
passed to and fro before the garden-windows; and a stray wolf, which
came one evening into the court-yard, sat on his hind-quarters and
looked us impudently in the face; as to the birds, they ate up very
nearly every peach and apricot we had. The silence of the grave reigned
everywhere--the house seemed a very sepulchre, in which nothing could be
heard but the monotonous liquid bubblings of the fountains, the ticking
of the clocks, and the sighing breezes that whistled through the
casements.

Fairly worn out with this state of things, I was thinking seriously of
leaving for the gay swamps of Holland, when a crisis occurred in the
banker's disorder, and after a severe struggle, in which every bone of
his body seemed to twist itself round, he was declared by his pallid
doctor out of danger--saved. Surrounding his bed, we drank with no
little joy to his perfect recovery, and during one entire week we
suspended on the walls of his bed-room, according to the custom in Le
Morvan, garlands of lilies and _vervenia_, interwoven with green foliage
and wild thyme. From this time he improved daily, and three months after
no one would have recognized the sick man; his face became quite rosy,
and his eyes looked full of returning health. With a gun on his
shoulder, he followed us nimbly through the vineyards, never flinched
from his bottle, sang barcarolles with the ladies, made declarations of
love to all the young girls, promised to marry each, once at least, and
danced away in the evening under the acacias with the nymphs of the
village, to whom he had always some secret to tell behind the trees, or
in some snug little corner. The woodcock season having arrived during
his stay, which was now nearly over, we determined that he should be
introduced to _la chasse aux Mares_.

Pardon me, kind reader, for all this gossip by the way, but this is the
point at which I wished to arrive.



CHAPTER XV.

     Summer months in the Forest--_Mare_ No. 3--Description of it--The
     Woodcock fly--The Banker has a day's sport--Arrives at the
     _Mare_--Difficult to please in his choice of a hut--Proceeds to a
     larger _Mare_--His friends retire--The Banker on the alert for a
     Wolf or a Boar--Fires at some animal--The unfortunate
     discovery--Rage of the Parisian--Pays for his blunder, and recovers
     his temper.


During the months of June, July, and August, the great heats in our
forests are suffocating, and the woodcock, which during the livelong day
has been squatting under some mossy root, is impressed with the idea
that a bathe in a clear pool of cold fresh water would be very conducive
to its health. Thus directly the sun, red as a shot which leaves the
furnace, falls below the horizon, and that the clouds surrounding the
spot where it disappears, at first lurid and bright like fire, then
yellow like a sea of gold, become cool, pale, and at length sink into
more sober hues, the woodcock,--which waits only for this moment to open
its wings and promenade the neighbourhood,--comes forth and commences a
study of the winds. Guided by instinct, and by the fresh currents of
air that float unseen in the atmosphere, she follows the sweet upland
breezes, and soon arrives at the spring or piece of water of which she
is in search.

The _Mares_ No. 3, in which the woodcock more especially loves to take a
bath, are almost as difficult to find as the one that I discovered, for
they are hidden in the depths of the forest; like it, also, they are for
the most part small, encircled by the thick foliage of the surrounding
trees, and consequently very dark; and the more this is the case, the
more solitary they are, and therefore the more sought after by this
bird. A woodcock never bathes in the _Mare_ No. 1; for to them resort
one after another all the large game, or those No. 2, as these are too
open. The woodcocks are discreet and bashful, and, like the wives of the
Sultan, love a retired bath-room, where they may disport themselves on
banks ever fresh and green, perfumed with wild flowers, and immerse
their fair persons in pellucid waters that have never been tainted with
a drop of blood, or covered with feathers torn from the victim of the
sportsman's gun. Thus it is therefore that the _Mares_ frequented by the
woodcock are so entirely hidden by the thick and falling branches, so
enveloped in deep shade, that you must have eyes made on purpose to be
able to discover their large brown bodies plunging in the crystal water
and wading amongst the flags. In aid of the sportsman, now as in the
spring, a little fly comes buzzing and wheeling about in the air to warn
the sportsman of the arrival of the birds, which, directly the moon's
white horn is seen glancing between the trees, arrive flapping their
wings in small parties of two and three at a time. One afternoon, when
the wind blew soft, and the sun was refulgent in the azure above, we
proposed an excursion in the forest to our friend the banker, who was
now quite convalescent.

"What! do you wish to give me up to the beasts?" cried he, jumping up
from his seat.

"Not at all, dear sir, pray don't be alarmed; we are merely desirous of
making you acquainted with the most innocent, the least dangerous sport
of the _chasse à l'affût_," and having convinced him, we started.
Everything went well as far as the entrance to the forest; but there the
_millionnaire_, little accustomed to walk over the stumps of underwood
and amongst the thorns, he began to drop into the rear, stopping every
now and then to rest against some tree, or disentangle his legs from
some yards of bramble, puffing and blowing, and ejaculating Oh's! and
Ha's! by dozens.

"Courage! sir," we said, "courage! we shall arrive too late; one brisk
half-hour's walk, and we are at our posts."

"Upon my word, gentlemen, you are really considerate; I walk, I suspect,
quite as fast as you. But"--and how was he delighted to find an excuse
for a halt--"you spoke of a _chasse a l'affût_, hiding for what I should
like to know--for bears, panthers, or crocodiles? is it this kind of
game we are to watch for?"

"Oh! no--for woodcocks."

"Woodcocks!--what, have you made me walk since the morning through
perfect beds of briars and over miles of large stones, escalade the
mountains, descend precipices, and brought me through water-courses and
dark ravines, to kill a few woodcocks?"

"Would you prefer confronting a wild boar?"

"Certainly," said the puffing convalescent; "if there was no chance of
danger, I should infinitely prefer killing a boar."

"For to-day this is impossible."

"Why so?"

"Why, in the first place, there are no boars in this wood, and it is too
late to take you to those which they frequent."

"Then we shall find only woodcocks in the place we are going to?"

"Nothing else; at least during the half-hour we shall remain."

"And if we were to remain more than half an hour?"

"Oh! then we might perhaps by accident see a roebuck--perhaps a hungry
wolf."

"A hungry wolf!--the deuce! And if there should come by chance a wolf to
the _Mare_ when I shall be all alone, what must I do?"

"Why kill it, to be sure."

"To be sure, why of course I should kill the ferocious animal,"--and the
banker, though smacking his fingers and whistling as if quite
unconcerned, looked very grave. Continuing our walk, we arrived at the
_Mares_.

"Goodness," said my companion, "how dark it is here,"--looking into each
hut that was shown him. "Misericorde! if I were to ensconce myself in
this leafy cabin, this gloomy sombre hole, I should fancy myself seated
at the bottom of a blacking-bottle--I respectfully decline the honour of
occupying the hut."

"Very well, let us proceed to another," we exclaimed. But the second
was pronounced more lugubrious and melancholy-looking than the first,
and the third not more agreeable than the preceding one.

"It is no longer a matter of doubt," said the Parisian; "you are a
family of owls. What! place myself in these holes, these mouse-traps, in
these tumuli of leaves, where the archfiend himself, habituated to every
kind of darkness, could not distinguish anything?--thank you, gentlemen.
As to you, you can see clear; but by the great telescope of the
observatory, if I were to get into one of these rustic ovens, I should
not in five minutes be able to distinguish the end of my nose--I should
not be able to find my way to my breeches-pocket."

"But, my dear sir," said I to him, when alone, for my two friends were
now snugly seated in the rejected huts, "you are very difficult to
please, and it becomes embarrassing, for these cabins are all alike;
when you have seen one you have seen a dozen. Now this, believe me, is a
capital one; come, seat yourself here."

"I am much obliged to you, not that one; for this pool of water in
particular has something very sinister about it; the spot feels raw, and
has an unpleasant wolfish air."

What was to be done? While debating thus, I remembered that at some
little distance from the place where we then were, stood two large
farms, Les Fermes des Amandiers, and that, at a distance of half a mile
beyond them, there was a magnificent _Mare_, in the style, it is true,
of _Mare_ No. 2, large and open, and yet it would be as useless to wait
for woodcocks there as it would be to hope to catch a trout in the
basins of Trafalgar-square. Such a spot seemed to me admirably
calculated for the banker; I resolved, therefore, to conduct him to it.

"If this hut does not please you," said I, "follow me, and quickly."

"Where are you going to take me?"

"Oh! do not alarm yourself, I have just thought of a place that will
suit you exactly: a charming spot, delightfully scented by a thicket of
honeysuckles; but you must be on the alert. See, the sun is nearly below
the summit of the tallest oaks--we shall not have more than one hour of
daylight; and I must return here."

When we arrived at the _Mare_ of which I was in search, the immediate
neighbourhood of it was already silent and deserted. "Heavens!" said the
enchanted banker, "what a delightful spot! Quick!--where shall I place
myself? Let us look for the hut--ha! here it is, but half in ruins;" for
it had not, in all probability, been occupied three times in the last
three years; we were obliged therefore to cut some branches, and roughly
repair it; and the banker, having crept into the interior, like a sweep
up a chimney, requested to have his last instructions.

"Well, when night has nearly closed in," said I, laughing under my
moustache, "be on the _qui vive_. The woodcocks will be here, but move
not; be like a statue for a few minutes; let them approach--let them
come, fly and whirl, and look about them; then, when reassured by your
silence, they will fall into the shallow water, paddle in the grass, and
plunging throw their legs into the air. At that moment they are yours.
Take your time and a deliberate aim, and miss them not. The sport over,
remain where you are, and on our return we will join you."

"All you say is very clear and very pretty," replied the banker; "but I
feel already a horrid cramp in my left leg; and if I am to remain
crumpled up in this hut, like a Turk taking his coffee, or like a monkey
gnawing an apple, when you come for me I shall have lost the use of my
limbs."

"Oh! if that is likely to be your fate, walk about--stretch your legs;
you have yet twenty minutes before dark. Adieu, sir, adieu; and good
luck attend you; for myself, I must be off to my post." But I had gone
scarcely thirty yards when he shouted after me, "Oh! Henri--my dear
young friend--come back. Here! see, a pack of wolves! What do I say? no;
a whole family of bears has passed this way! Look! the border of the
_Mare_ is ploughed up by the feet of these savage brutes."

"Bears, sir! those marks are merely the trampling of the shepherds'
dogs."

"Shepherds' dogs! Stoop down--look closer; do you mean to tell me that
the shepherds' dogs have made these prints of cloven feet in the mud?"

"No! those are holes made by the young calves from some neighbouring
farm, that came to drink here," I replied, repressing a laugh.

"Nonsense! Henri; calves, indeed! they are the marks of buffaloes and
wild boars. You cannot deceive me; for I know something about such
things. Why, this _Mare_ is, I have no doubt, the rendezvous of all the
beasts of the forest for ten miles round. Thank you, I don't intend to
remain here."

"Not remain! why you will, if you are correct, have far better fun than
we shall. Come, get into the hut."

"Remain with me, and divide the honour of the sport."

"Me? no: I thank you,--adieu! and keep your eyes about you."

"Halloo! Henri, come back. By the spectacles of my grandmother, what
will become of me? I am a fool! I have lost my sight--I have forgot my
eye-glass."

"Try to do without it."

"Impossible! it is useless--without an eye-glass I cannot see a yard
before me; I shall most certainly leave this _Mare_. I shall be off with
you."

"My dear sir," said I to him, "you must know and feel that if I thought
there was the most remote chance of danger, I would not leave you alone;
you really have nothing to fear--if you come with me, you will be
dreadfully in the way, and without doing the least possible good. The
huts are so very small, that there is only sufficient room for one: we
shall kill nothing, and be laughed at into the bargain."

"But these terrible quadrupeds; what if they should come and devour me
when you are gone?"

"I tell you you have nothing to fear."

"Very well, then I will believe you; after all, I am not a coward, but
a man: a royal tiger would not frighten me, and in spite of these sombre
looking trees waving to and fro, this silence, and the solitary look of
the place, I remain; yes, by Jupiter, I remain; only barricade me in the
rear, cut some thick branches, palisade me well round--there, now I
think you may leave me, I require nothing more--and yet one word; if I
were in danger, do you think you would hear me if I called?"

"Certainly, a whisper may almost be heard in the forest at night--the
trees conduct the slightest sound."

"Well, then, give me a shake of your hand. Adieu."

"Adieu, sir; be patient, and, above all, wait for our return."

"Let me alone for that; never fear my leaving this hut alone."

"And cover your head well, for nothing is so likely to give one cold as
the night air rushing into the ears."

"And mind, now, don't pray forget me. If you are not here in
three-quarters of an hour, I shall fire signals of distress, and make
the forest ring again with my maledictions."

But without waiting to hear anything further, I was off, and soon
reached my post. The sport, as usual, was pretty good; my friends and
myself killed four couple of woodcocks, and the _affût_ over, we turned
our steps towards the banker's cabin. No report of a gun had yet been
heard in his direction, but suddenly, and when we were scarcely five
hundred paces from the hut, and I was on the point of announcing our
arrival by a shrill whistle--two barrels were discharged one after the
other--then followed a long and heavy groan, and after that a cry of
distress. In a few seconds we bounded to the spot, and found our friend
stretched on the grass outside his hut, without his hat, his eyes
staring wildly about him, and his hair in disorder. He was trembling
with emotion, and pointed to a black animal, half hid in the water and
the rushes, which seemed very large, and was rolling from side to side
in the agonies of approaching death. Fright, downright fright, had tied
the banker's tongue; and while he is collecting his senses, allow me to
tell you, good reader, what had occurred in our absence.

Dumb and motionless, as directed, he had, during half an hour, waited
anxiously for the woodcocks; but the woodcocks had for a very long time
forgotten the road to this _Mare_; not one came--there was no sport for
him. He had already fancied he heard us returning in the distance, and
that his cramped legs would be set at liberty, and his twisted body
again assume the perpendicular, when all at once a cold perspiration
stood upon his brow, terror seized him; for behind, nay, almost close to
him, he heard advancing the heavy tramp and loud breathing of a wild
beast, and before he had time to observe what kind of an animal it was,
the brute passed so close to the hut that he pressed it down, and rushed
on to the _Mare_. More dead than alive, the banker lay half-squeezed in
a corner of his cabin, and panting for breath, dared scarcely move.
After a few minutes, however, he hazarded a careful glance outside, and
not twenty paces from him saw the immense quadruped bathing, and rolling
himself quietly in the water.

"It is a gigantic boar," said he to himself, "as large as a horse, and
as old as Methuselah--no doubt the patriarch of the forest--what tusks
he must have! Let us observe." And with a courage which did him credit,
he, after some time, suppressed his fear, and felt in the pocket of his
game-bag for two balls, which, with trembling hands, he slipped into
his gun. After this he again looked out, and reconnoitred the movements
of the enemy; but so great was the obscurity, that he could discover
nothing--unless, indeed, it was a dark mass which walked and jumped
hither and thither, rolled, frolicked, and rejoiced in his refreshing
bath. The heart of the Parisian was greatly agitated, and beat as if it
would split his flannel waistcoat; nevertheless, he took good and
deliberate aim at the black object in front, and though exceedingly
terrified, he cocked his gun, and in a perfect fever of excitement let
fly both barrels, falling immediately backwards in a corner of his hut,
perfectly bewildered with his own courage. A deep groan followed, and at
the end of a few minutes of agony and suspense, our friend, seeing no
tiger in the act of springing upon him, hazarded another look, when he
still heard the creature moaning, and groaning, and floundering in the
water.

The fact was, he had by a miracle, and without seeing, done that which
he never could have done at mid-day,--his two balls had perforated the
animal's head and neck. Observing the monster raising itself with
difficulty, and endeavouring to withdraw its legs from the sticky mud in
which they were fixed, the courage of despair rushed into his heart--he
left the hut, upsetting everything in his way, and precipitated himself
upon his adversary with a view of despatching him with the butt end of
his gun, or making him retreat further into the _Mare_, when imagine his
consternation and fear,--at the very moment his uplifted arm was
stretched out, like Jupiter's in the act of hurling a thunderbolt, the
animal raised himself on his haunches, looked him full in the face,
opened two enormous jaws, put up two very long ears, and instead of a
roar full of rage and ferocity, sent forth the most agonizing and
dolorous bray that was ever heard from the throat of any ass, French,
English, or Spanish! Yes! it was an ass the banker had mortally wounded;
an unfortunate ass, which, driven by thirst and the heat of the weather,
had left his shed at the neighbouring farm-house, to quench it and
refresh himself with a bath.

Surprise, shame, horror, and confusion began to dance a polka in the
banker's brain, and made him utter the hoarse cry which we had heard.
While we were yet gazing at each other the poor creature, by a last
effort, raised his bleeding head once more above the water, and
collecting all the strength he had left, scrambled from the _Mare_,
gave a half-suffocating and plaintive bray, and casting a look full of
reproach upon the gasping banker, which seemed to say, "I die, but I
forgive you," fell dead at our feet.

A convulsion of laughter from the party, now all assembled, followed;
even the birds, awakened from their slumbers, began to sing and partake
of the general hilarity.

"Halloo! Mr. Three per Cent.," said one, "this is what you call
sporting, is it--killing starved woodcocks? Fie! sir."

"You are three infamous vagabonds," replied the Parisian, catching his
breath, and picking up his hat.

"What! sir."

"Why, you are a trinity of rascals, I repeat."

"Why, what's the matter?"

"Abominable hypocrites, I say; this is a piece of acting, a trick which
you have kindly put upon me--this ass was driven here by you, or by some
one at your suggestion; I see clearly how it is."

"See clearly, do you? it is a pity, then, you did not a few minutes
ago."

"It is an infernal plot, I say; think you that I came into this wretched
country of forests to kill donkeys?"

"Well! but whose fault is it, sir; why did you not bring your
eye-glass?"

"My eye-glass; I don't require one, gentlemen, to enable me to see that
you have made a fool of me."

"My dear sir, reflect for a moment."

"No, gentlemen, I feel indignant at the paltry joke you have played upon
me--you knew that my sight was weak, and on that infirmity you have
practised a very shameful trick; you have said to yourselves, 'Send an
ass to this Parisian, he will no doubt take it for a wild boar.' Be off,
gentlemen, depart; let me have a clear horizon, or I shall proceed to
extremity."

"Monsieur le Banquier, if you do not become a little more reasonable, we
shall leave you to your reflections and to yourself, and pretty pickings
you will be for the wolves."

"So much the better; I wish to remain, I desire it; and after the gross
insult you have offered me, I shall certainly not be beholden to you as
a guide, or return to the town in your company." And he kicked the dead
carcass before him in his rage.

"But, Monsieur le Banquier, the night is getting chilly and damp, and
remember you are only just convalescent; come, let us be off."

"Gentlemen, I have already told you I shall not accompany you."

"Why, this is madness, sir."

"Anything you please; but thus it shall be. I will not leave this wood
until I have killed a wolf; yes, I must have a wolf; it is only in the
blood of a wolf that I can wash out the insult I have received; and I
will remain in the forest eight days, fifteen, three months, if
necessary. I will live on acorns, ants, toad's eggs, and roots, but by
the soul of that stupid brute that lays there," and he gave the deceased
ass a second kick, "I will not budge until I have killed a wolf: enable
me to slaughter a wolf, and I will follow you; nay, what is more,
forgive you."

"Monsieur le Banquier, let us in the first place tie a stone round the
neck of this unfortunate animal, and throw his body into the _Mare_, and
then, as we are the only witnesses of this adventure, we swear that we
will never divulge it to any one, or make the slightest allusion to it;
and, as we are men of honour, you will of course believe us;--the secret
shall be kept inviolable. On the other hand, as we are to a certain
extent responsible for your health, and as your remaining here any
longer in this cold wind will seriously endanger it, do not feel
discomposed if we defer to another day the pleasure of seeing you kill a
wolf, and request you will accompany us back to the _château_."

With various flattering speeches and consoling words, to heal his
mortification, we at length succeeded in bringing him away with us; many
a laugh had we on our road home, and many were the promises given that
we would never reveal the events of the evening. But, alas! the secret
came out on the following day, for before twelve o'clock had struck, a
peasant came knocking at the door, howling, crying, bawling like a blind
beggar, and demanding who had killed his ass. His importunity succeeded;
the murderer was brought to light, the banker cheerfully paid for his
shot, and laughed heartily at the adventure; but in spite of his
apparent philosophy, I remarked that from that moment he never met an
ass that he did not turn away his head; and this is the kind of game
that one finds in _Mare_ No. 2.



CHAPTER XVI.

     The _Curé_ of the Mountain--Toby Gold Button--Hospitality--The
     _Curé's_ pig--His hard fate and reflections--The _Curé_ of the
     plain--His worth and influence--The agent of the Government--Landed
     Proprietors--Their influence--The Orator--Dialogue with a Peasant.


If the Burgundian curates dwelling in the richest parts of the province
are fat, sleek, and jovial members of the Establishment,--if in their
cellars are to be found the best and most generous wines, and on their
tables the most exquisite dishes,--the _curés_ of that portion of Le
Morvan which is immediately adjacent to Burgundy enjoy the same
abundance, and appreciate the advantages of good living equally with
them. But this is not the case with their _confrères_ who reside in the
uplands, amongst the arid and volcanic mountains, without roads, and the
thickly timbered hill-district which joins the Nivernais. There the
village pastors are poor, thin, and badly fed; fairly buried in the
forest, and surrounded by a population more wretched and squalid than
the rats of their own churches;--they seem as it were abandoned by
everybody. That which I am about to relate will prove this, and show
what a deplorable existence theirs is, and the ingenious methods to
which they are obliged to have recourse to keep up a fair outside.

One of them thus exiled to a most deserted part of our forests, and who,
the whole year, except on a few rare occasions, lived only on fruit and
vegetables, hit upon a most admirable expedient for providing an animal
repast to set before the _curés_ of the neighbourhood, when one or the
other, two or three times during the year, ventured into these dreadful
solitudes, with a view of assuring himself with his own eyes that his
unfortunate colleague had not yet died of hunger. The _curé_ in question
possessed a pig, his whole fortune: and you will see, gentle reader, the
manner in which he used it.

Immediately the bell of his presbytery announced a visitor, (the bell
was red with rust, and its iron tongue never spoke unless to announce a
formal visit,) and that his cook had shown his clerical friend into the
parlour, the master of the house, drawing himself up majestically, said
to his housekeeper (_curés_ fortunately always have, cousins, nieces, or
house-keepers), as Louis XIV. might have said to Vatal, "Brigitte, let
there be a good dinner for myself and my friend." Brigitte, although she
knew there were only stale crusts and dried peas in her larder, seemed
in no degree embarrassed by this order; she summoned to her assistance
"Toby, the Carrot," so called because his hair was as red as that of a
native of West Galloway, and leaving the house together, they both went
in search of the pig.

Toby the Carrot, a youth of seventeen, was the presbyter's page, a poor
half-starved devil that the _curé_ had taken into his service, who
lodged him badly, boarded him worse, and gave him no clothes at all; but
who, nevertheless, in his moments of good-humour--they were rare--and no
doubt to recompense him for so many drawbacks, would call him "Toby
Gold-button." At this innocent little pleasantry, this touch of
affability, Toby grinned from ear to ear, made a deep reverence, and put
the compliment carefully into his pocket, regretting however, no doubt,
that he had nothing more substantial and savoury than this to eat with
his coarse dry bread. Toby was a very useful servitor to the _curé_; he
was always on the alert; fat did not check his rapid movements, and from
the time the Angelus rang in the morning to Vespers in the evening, his
long skinny legs were constantly going. He drew the water, peeled and
washed the onions, blacked the shoes--and how _curé's_ shoes do
shine!--rang the chapel-bell, gathered the acorns for the pig, intoned
the Amen when his master said mass, swept and weeded the garden, snared
the thrushes--which he cooked and eat in secret--and, dressed in a white
surplice, carried the cross and the Viaticum, and accompanied the _curé_
at night when on his way to offer the last consolations of religion to
some dying poacher in the forest. These expeditions were sometimes
across the mountains, and along the dry bed of some torrent, in which,
according to Toby's notion, they would have certainly perished had not
the _Bon Dieu_ been with them.

But we must return to our parson's pig, which after a short skirmish was
caught by Brigitte and her carrotty assistant; and notwithstanding his
cries, his grunts, his gestures of despair and supplication, the inhuman
cook, seizing his head, opened a large vein in his throat, and relieved
him of two pounds of blood; this, with the addition of garlic, shallots,
mint, wild thyme and parsley, was converted into a most savoury and
delicious black-pudding for the _curé_, and his friend, and being
served to their reverences smoking hot on the summit of a pyramid of
yellow cabbage, figured admirably as a small Vesuvius and a centre dish.
The surgical operation over, Brigitte, whose qualifications as a
sempstress were superior, darned up the hole in the neck of the
unfortunate animal, and he was then turned loose until a fresh supply of
black-puddings should be required for a similar occasion. This wretched
pig was never happy: how could he be so? Like Damocles of Syracuse, he
lived in a state of perpetual fever; terror seized him directly he heard
the _curé's_ bell, and seeing in imagination the uplifted knife already
about to glide into his bacon, he invariably took to his heels before
Brigitte was half way to the door to answer it.

If, as usual, the peal announced a diner-out, Brigitte and Gold-button
were soon on his track, calling him by the most tender epithets, and
promising that he should have something nice for his supper, skim-milk,
&c.; but the pig, with his painful experience, was not such a fool as to
believe them; hidden behind an old cask, some faggots, or lying in a
deep ditch, he remained silent as the grave, and kept himself close as
long as possible.

Discovered, however, he was sure to be at last, when he would rush into
the garden, and running up and down it like a mad creature, upset
everything in his way; for several minutes it was a regular
steeple-chase--across the beds, now over the turnips, then through the
gooseberry-bushes; in short, he was here, there, and everywhere; but in
spite of all his various stratagems to escape the fatal incision, the
poor pig always finished by being seized, tied, thrown on the ground,
and bled: the vein was then once more cleverly sewn up, and the inhuman
operators quietly retired from the scene to make the _curé's_ far-famed
black-pudding. Half dead upon the spot where he was phlebotomized, the
wretched animal was left to reflect under the shade of a tulip-tree on
the cruelty of man, on their barbarous appetites; cursing with all his
heart the poverty of Morvinian curates, their conceited hospitality, of
which he was the victim, and their brutal affection for pig's blood.

I shall now endeavour to give the reader a description of the curate of
the plain; but he should clearly understand that I do not present this
character to him as the general standard of ecclesiastical
excellence,--quite the contrary; I am sorry to say I think it an
exception. My sketch, therefore, applies only to those _curés_, who
reside in a remote rural district like that of Le Morvan; I advance
nothing that I have not seen myself, and if I should ever have the
pleasure of meeting any of my English friends in Le Morvan, I could
introduce them to ten _curés_ one and all similar in every respect to
the ecclesiastic I am about to pourtray.

In the interior of this district, that is to say in the midst of her
rich plains, and in the hilly but not mountainous parts of it, the
_curés_ are quite of another stamp; less poor than the herbivorous
gentleman we have just described, but not so well to do as those of
Burgundy; living under a state of things altogether peculiar to
themselves, far from the great cities, and yet in direct communication
with them, they are obliged by a common interest to identify themselves
with the events of the day. Every curate of the plain possesses an
immense influence in his parish and neighbourhood, and as at a moment
their support may be of great use in a political point of view, the
government, which is alive to everything, caresses, smiles on, and
cajoles them.

In the moorland districts, also, and in the little villages which border
the great forests, the _curés_ are everything, and do everything. They
perform the part of judge, doctor and apothecary, banker and architect,
carpenter and schoolmaster; they give the designs for the cottages, mark
the boundaries of estates, receive and put out the savings of their
flocks, marry, baptize, and bury, offer consolation to the afflicted,
encourage the unfortunate, purchase the crops, and sell a neighbour's
vineyard. They represent the sun, by the influence of whose rays
everything germinates and lives; it is their hand--the hand of
justice--that arrests and heals all quarrels; the unselfish source from
whence good counsels flow--the moral charter from which the peasant
reads and learns the duties of a citizen.

Ask not the population of our plains and forests, and secluded
agricultural districts, to which political party they belong; if they
are republicans, royalists, socialists or communists, reds or blues,
whites or tricolor,--they know nothing of all this. Their
opinions--their religion--are those of _Monsieur le Curé_. They know his
prudence, his charity, his good sense; they know he loves them like a
father; that he would not leave them for a bishopric--no, not for a
cardinal's scarlet hat;--that as he has lived, so will he die with them:
that is enough for them. Thus they consult him when they wish to form
an opinion for themselves, much in the same way as a sportsman, anxious
to take the field, looks up at the chanticleer on some village-steeple
to know what he ought to think of the cloudy sky above; and when they
see the good man sauntering past their cottages, with head erect and
animated step, smiling, and evidently full of cheerful, charitable
thoughts, and on good deeds intent, kissing the little children, giving
a rosy apple to one, and a playful tap to another; offering a sly word
of hope to the young girls, and a few kind ones to the aged and
infirm,--all the village is elated; and the old maids fail not to
present him with a fat fowl, or some such substantial expression of
their respect. But if, alas! the good _curé_ should appear walking with
a slow and solemn step, his hands behind his back, his eyes fixed upon
the ground, and an anxious and thoughtful look upon his brow, his flock
gaze at one another, and whisper in an under tone that something is
amiss.

At the epoch of political convulsions and revolutions, when systems and
governments, men and ideas, arise and disappear, as if they went by
steam,--when the authorities in the great towns wish to interfere with
the police regulations and customs that govern the agricultural
classes,--when they attempt to force them to gallop at full speed on the
high road of progress as they call it, and that to attain this desirable
end, handsome young men arrive from Paris in black coats and white
neckcloths, furnished with a marvellous flow of eloquent sophisms,
pretending to prove to the simple and honest peasants that in order to
be more free, happy, and rich, they must, without further ado, kill,
burn, and destroy,--the villagers, quite mystified, listen with open
mouth; but as to understanding what the gentleman in black--the dark
shadow of the government of progress--so glibly states, he might as well
be talking Turkish or Japanese. Every one looks at _Monsieur le Curé_,
they scan his face, and ask him what they are to do; and let him only
feel angry or disgusted with the wordy nonsense, and just make one sign,
or raise one finger, and 1200--aye, 2000 men would in a trice surround
him, and send the orator and all his staff to preach their pestilential
doctrines under the turf, and this without more ceremony and remorse
than if they were so many mad dogs. Poor fools! who think it possible to
change a people in a few weeks, and imagine that a fine discourse from
lips unknown and unloved will have a deeper effect upon men's minds
than the admonitions of a pastor, whose life has been without reproach,
and adorned with every practical virtue.

Yes, the influence exercised in our rural districts by the _curés_ is
great, and this influence is well merited, for it is never abused--and
never used unless for the benefit and happiness of the flock confided to
their care. Without any motive of a personal nature, without ambition in
any sense to which that word can apply, they preach the Catholic
religion in all its simplicity, accepting and considering as brothers
all those who really desire to follow the example of their Saviour
Christ--all those who really love to do good; unworldly and unselfish,
they would think themselves dishonoured, their reputation sullied, if
the gown, which gives them in the eyes of the people a sacred character,
served as a cloak, a pretext to cover a dishonourable or disgraceful
action.

It is also remarkable, and speaks volumes in their favour, that the
bishops are almost always at war with these poor and self-denying
_curés_, and would wish to see them take more interest in temporal
affairs, which they do not in the least understand; they would fain put
into their mouths the language of anger and bitter feeling, alike
foreign to their natures and the religion of their Divine master. The
large proprietors also, those who live on their estates and do not press
hard upon their dependants, enjoy great consideration, and share largely
with the _curés_ the hold they have on the affections of the people.
They frequently direct the opinions of the masses, and, with the
exception of their pastors, are the only class our rural population know
and revere. As to the generality of our statesmen, good, bad, or
indifferent, their names, brilliant as they may be, are not half so well
known in our villages as that of the most obscure labourer, the humble
artizan who knows how to file a saw or make a wheel.

"Who is that gentleman, sir?" said a Morvinian of the plain to me one
day, pointing to a tall thin man, with a bald head, and a pair of gold
spectacles on his nose,--a notability of the legislative assembly who
was going to step into the village tribune.

"That gentleman?" I replied; "he is an orator."

"Ah! an orator: and pray what sort of a bird is that? what is he going
to chirrup about?"

"An orator is not a bird, my good fellow; he does not sing, he makes
very fine speeches."

"And what of them?"

"What of them? why they teach men their duty."

"Their duty in what?" continued the peasant, with his pinching logic.
"Is it the duty of a father, of a son, of a soldier, of a baker?"

"Not at all; the duty of a citizen."

"Citizen? I don't understand, sir," said the peasant.

"Well, your political duties, if you like it better."

"I am still none the wiser. And so this fine gentleman, with his yellow
spectacles and bald head, is not going to tell us anything about crops,
vineyards, planting, or sowing?"

"No; but he will teach you your duty as a man, as a Frenchman, a
citizen--a member of the great human family; he will teach you your
rights; what you can and should demand of your government under the
articles 199, 305, 1202, 9999 of the charter--the last charter."

"Sir, I am ashamed to have troubled you; I thank you much for your
explanation; I wish you a very good morning; for mathematics you see,
sir, do send me to sleep, and our _curé_ will tell me all about it on
Sunday. I shall go back to the forest, and finish my job of yesterday."

And are not these simple-minded men much in the right? is not all the
good sense on their side?--they, who living by the axe, the plough, and
the produce of the earth, think only of their trees and their fields,
and ask of God but health and strength to work, rain and sun to nourish
the vines and gild their harvests. They leave to those who possess their
confidence, because they have never deceived them, the care of their
political interests; the care of setting and keeping them in the right
path, and of directing them in that current of life, slow it is true,
but which nevertheless is more effectual towards ameliorating the
condition, and eventually increasing the happiness of the human race,
than all the new-fangled doctrines promulgated by the statesmen and
philosophers of France.



CHAPTER XVII.

     The wolf--His aspect and extreme ferocity--His cunning in hunting
     his prey--His unsocial nature--Antiquity of the race--Where found,
     and their varieties--Annihilated in England by the perseverance of
     the kings and people--Decrees and rewards to encourage their
     destruction by Athelstane, John, and Edward I.--Death of the last
     wolf in England--Death of the last in Ireland.


The wild and furious wolf, both prudent and cowardly, is, from its
strength and voracity, the terror and the most formidable pest of the
inhabitants of those districts of France in which it is found. Provided
by Nature with a craving appetite for blood, possessing great muscular
powers, and an extraordinary scent, whether hunting or laying in ambush;
always ready to pursue and tear its victim limb from limb, the
wolf,--this tyrant,--this buccaneer of the forest lives only upon
rapine, and loves nothing but carnage.

The aspect of the wolf has something sinister and terrible in its
appearance, which his sanguinary and brutal disposition does not belie.
His head is large, his eyes sparkle with a diabolical and cannibal look,
and in the night seem to burn like two yellow flames. His muzzle is
black, his cheeks are hollow, the upper lip and chin white, the jaws and
teeth are of prodigious strength, the ears short and straight, the tail
tufty, the opening of the mouth large, and the neck so short that he is
obliged to move his whole body in order to look on one side. His length
in our forests, from the extreme point of the muzzle to the root of the
tail, is generally about three feet; his height two and a half feet. The
colour of his hair is black and red, mingled with white and gray; a
thick and rude fur, on which the showers and severe cold of winter have
no effect. The limbs of this animal are well set, his step is firm and
quick, the muscles of the neck and fore part of the body are of unusual
strength,--he will easily carry off a fat sheep in his mouth, without
resting it on the ground, and run with it faster than the shepherd who
flies to its rescue. His senses are delicate and sensitive in the
extreme; that of smelling, as I have before remarked, particularly: he
can scent his prey at an immense distance,--blood which is fresh and
flowing will attract him at least a league from the spot. When he
leaves the forest, he never forgets to stop on its verge; there turning
round, he snuffs the breeze, plunges his nostrils deep into the passing
wind, and receives through his wonderful instinct a knowledge of what is
going on amongst the animals, dead or alive, that are in the
neighbourhood.

The declared and uncompromising enemy to almost everything that has
life, the wolf attacks not only cows, oxen, horses, sheep, goats, and
pigs, but also fowls and turkeys, and especially geese, for which he has
a great fancy. In the woods also he destroys large quantities of game,
such as fawns and roebucks; and even the wild boar himself, when young,
is sometimes brought to his larder, for the wolf is one of that
voracious tribe which professes a profound contempt for vegetable diet,
and cannot do without flesh; hence the number of his devices for
supplying his table and varying his bill of fare is astonishing. But
mankind, it must be said in all justice, are not behindhand with him;
they are always on the alert; they meet him with tricks as clever as his
own, heap snare on snare to take him, and the result is that Mr. Lupus,
in spite of his strength, his agility, his practical experience, and
cunning instincts, often stretches out his limbs in death in the dark
ravines of the forest--the victim of his enemy's superior intelligence.

Obliged during the day to hide himself in the most solitary parts of the
woods, he finds there only those animals whose rapid flight enables them
to escape his clutches. Sometimes, however, after the exercise of
prodigious patience on his part, by lying in wait the whole day, at a
spot where he knows they will be certain to pass when the sun goes down,
a defenceless roebuck will occasionally fall into his jaws.

This chance on the sly producing nothing, when night has set in he seeks
the open country, approaches the farms, attacks the sheepfolds,
scratches his way under the doors, and entering wild with rage, puts
everything to death--for, to his infernal spirit, destruction is as
great a pleasure as the satisfaction of his hunger.

When the dogs growl in an under tone, when they are restless and
agitated, and snuff the wind as it drives in eddies through the
shutters, "The wolf is abroad," say the peasants.

If these runs in the open country by the light of the moon afford no
supper, he returns to the depths of his lair, or takes up the scent of
some roebuck, tracks it like a hound, and though his hope is small
indeed of ever catching it, he perseveringly follows the trail, trusting
that some other wolf, famished like himself, will head the timid animal
in its flight, and seize it as it passes, and that, like staunch
friends, they will afterwards divide the spoil between them.

But the reverse more often occurs,--and foiled and disappointed, he then
becomes, though naturally a dastard and full of fear, absolutely
courageous; the fire of hunger consumes his stomach, he fears nothing,
and braves every danger; all prudence is forgotten, and his natural
ferocity is wound up to such a pitch, that he hesitates not to meet
certain destruction, attacks the animals that are actually under the
care of man, man himself,--throws himself suddenly upon the poor
benighted traveller, and gliding slowly and softly, with the stealthy
movements of a serpent, seizes and carries off with him to the depth of
the forest the infant sleeping in its cradle, or the little, helpless,
innocent child which, ignorant of danger, laughs and plays at the
cottage-door.

Unsociable as well as savage, with a heart harder than the ball which
drills the ghastly hole in his side, loving only himself and his dark
solitudes, the wolf never associates with its own kind; and when, by
accident, it happens that a few are seen together, be sure the meeting
is not a Peace Congress, or a party of pleasure. The assembled wolves
represent a society of reds, preparing the arrangements for a combat, in
which many a stream of blood shall flow, amidst the most fearful and
horrible cries. If a wolf intends to attack a large animal,--for
instance, an ox or a horse,--or if he desires to put a watch-dog, whose
strength disquiets him, or whose vigilance incommodes him, out of his
way, he roves about the lonely paths of the forest, raising a sharp
prolonged cry, which immediately attracts other wolves in the
neighbourhood; and when he finds himself surrounded by a numerous troop
of his colleagues, bound together by no other tie than the common object
they all have in view for the moment, he conducts them to the attack,
and should the farmer be not there to out-manoeuvre them, it will be
odd indeed if the animal that they have agreed to destroy does not fall
a victim to their plans. The expedition over, the valiant brotherhood
separate, and each returns in silence to his thicket, whence they emerge
to reunite, when slaughter and blood call them forth again to make
common cause.

Wolves attain their full size in three years, and live from fifteen to
twenty; their hair, like that of man, grows gray with years, and like
him also they lose their teeth, but without the advantage of being able
to replace them; the race of wolves is as old as the flood,--even older,
for their bones have been found in antediluvian remains. They are found
in all countries on the New Continent as well as the Old. "They exist,"
observes Cuvier, "in Asia, Africa, and America, as well as in Europe;
from Egypt to Lapland; everywhere, in fact, excepting in England." How
an animal so detestable and so universally hated should have continued
to perpetuate itself, when every other species of savage beast on the
face of the earth diminishes in an infinitely greater proportion, is a
problem difficult to solve.

Fourrier, in his "_Théorie Harmonique et comparative des espèces_,"
remarks truly, that each species of the human race corresponds with some
species of the brute creation. The wolves in the forest represent the
Jews in the towns; and he asserts, that it being possible only to
compare the voracity of the one with the rapacity of the other, these
two races, which are identical by reason of their several
characteristics, will never perish, never become extinct, except
together. But the Jews decline to acknowledge the relationship thus
assumed and the paradoxical connexion between themselves and this race
of animals; they deny that the idiosyncrasies are in any degree similar,
and persist in placing this luminous idea of Fourrier's on a level with
that of the sea of lemonade, which will, according to the same author,
one day surround our planet.

The bones and teeth of wolves are often discovered, as I have already
said, amongst the _débris_ of the antediluvian world.

In the Holy Scriptures, too, there are several observations respecting
the wolf,--in them it is stated that he lives upon rapine, is violent,
cruel, bloody, crafty, and voracious; he seeks his prey by night, and
his sense of smell is wonderful. False teachers are described as wolves
in sheep's clothing; and the Prophet Habakkuk, speaking of the
Chaldeans, says, "Their horses are more fierce than the evening wolves."
And again, Isaiah, describing the peaceful reign of the Messiah,
writes,--"The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard
shall lie down with the kid: and the calf and the young lion and the
fatling together, and a little child shall lead them."

The wolf varies in shape and colour, according to the country in which
it lives. In Asia, towards Turkey, this animal is reddish; in Italy,
quite red; in India, the one called the beriah is described as being of
a light cinnamon colour; yellow wolves, with a short black mane along
the entire spine, are found in the marshes of all the hot and temperate
regions of America. The fur of the Mexican wolf is one of the richest
and most valuable known. In the regions of the north the wolf is black,
and sometimes black and gray: others are quite white; but the black wolf
is always the fiercest. The black is also found in the south of Europe,
and particularly in the Pyrennees. Colonel Hamilton Smith relates an
anecdote illustrative of its great size and weight. At a _battue_ in the
mountains near Madrid, one of these wolves, which came bounding through
the high grass towards an English gentleman who was present, was so
large that he mistook it for a donkey; and whatever visions of a ride
home might have floated across his brain for the moment, right glad was
he on discovering his error, to see his ball take immediate effect.

In former days, the Spanish wolves congregated in large packs in the
passes of the Pyrennees; and even now the _lobo_ will follow a string of
mules, as soon as it becomes dusk, keeping parallel with them as they
proceed, leaping from bush and rock, waiting his opportunity to select a
victim. Black wolves also are found in the mountains of Friuli and
Cattaro; the Vekvoturian wolf of Siberia, described by Pallas, is one of
the darkest variety. In Persia and in India wolves are trained and made
to play tricks and antics as monkeys and dogs are in Europe. At Teheran,
Bankok, and Arracan, a well-trained wolf that can dance a polka of the
country, sing a national air, and preserve a grave face during five
minutes, with a pair of spectacles on his nose, will fetch as much as
500 dollars.

"In China," remarks Colonel Smith, "wolves abound in the northern
province of Shantung;" and Buffon, quoting from Adanson, asserts, that
"there is a powerful species of the wolf in Bengal, which hunt in packs,
in company with the lion." "One night," says Adanson, "a lion and a wolf
entered the court of the house in which I slept, and unperceived,
carried off my provisions; in the morning my hosts were quite satisfied,
from the well-marked and well-known impressions of their feet in the
sand, that the animals had come together to forage." Colonel Smith
observes, that "the French wolves are generally browner and somewhat
stronger than those of Germany, with an appearance far more wild and
savage: the Russian are larger, and seem more bulky and formidable, from
the great quantity of long coarse hair that cover them on the neck and
cheeks."

"The Swedish and Norwegian are," he says, "similar to the Russian; but
appear deeper and heavier in the shoulder; they are also lighter in
colour, and in winter become completely white. The Alpine wolves are
yellowish, and smaller than the French. This is the type of wolf that is
commonly found in the western countries of Europe; and it was, in all
probability, this species that once infested the wild and extensive
woodland districts of the British Islands; for that wolves were once
exceedingly numerous in England, is as certain as that the bear formerly
prowled in Wales and Scotland, and with the former was the terror of the
inhabitants. How dangerous to them, and how very common they must have
been, is evident from the necessity that existed in the reign of
Athelstane, 925, for erecting on the public highway a refuge against
their attacks. A retreat was built at Flixton, in Yorkshire, to protect
travellers against these ravenous brutes. King John, in a grant quoted
by Pennant, from Bishop Littleton's collection, mentions the wolf as one
of the beasts of the chase that, despite the severe forest laws of the
feudal system, the Devonshire men were permitted to kill. Even in the
reign of the first Edward, they were still so numerous that he applied
himself in earnest to their extirpation, and enlisting criminals into
the service, commuted their punishment for a given number of wolves'
tongues;--he also permitted the Welsh to redeem the tax he imposed upon
them, by an annual tribute of 300 of these horrid animals."

That Edward, however, failed in his attempt to extirpate them, is
evident from a _mandamus_ of that monarch's successor, to all bailiffs
and legal officers of the realm, to give aid and assistance to his
faithful and well-beloved Peter Corbet, whom the King had appointed to
take and destroy wolves (_lupos_) in all forests, parks, and other
places in the counties of Gloucester, Worcester, Hereford, and Salop,
wherever they could be found. In Derbyshire, certain tenants of lands,
at Wormhill, held them on condition that they should hunt the wolves
that harboured in that county. The flocks of Scotland appear to have
suffered a great deal from the ravages of wolves in 1577, and they were
not finally rooted out of that portion of the island till about the year
1686, when the hand of Sir Evan Cameron made the last of them bite the
dust.

Wolves were seen in Ireland as late as the year 1710, about which time
the last presentment for killing them was found in the county of Cork.
The Saxon name for the month of January, "wolf-moneth," in which dreary
season the famished beasts became probably more desperate; and the term
for an outlaw, "wolfshed," implying that he might be killed with as much
impunity as a wolf, indicate how numerous wolves were in those times,
and the terror and hatred they inspired. In every country the
inhabitants have declared this ferocious brute the enemy of man; and in
order, if possible, to annihilate him, have employed every device;--the
result in England has been most satisfactory. The Esquimaux, that
distant and half-frozen people, have their own peculiar way of trapping
wolves; and it is somewhat singular that their ice wolf-trap, as
described by Captain Lyon, resembles exactly, except in the material of
which it is made, that of France, though it is very certain no Morvinian
ever went so far as the Melville peninsula to take a hunting lesson from
an Esquimaux. The very birds of prey, those flying thieves of the air,
are used for wolf-hunting amongst some of the savage nations of the
earth. The Kaissoks take them with the help of a large sort of hawk,
called a _beskat_, which is trained to fly at and fasten on their heads,
and tear their eyes out; and the Grand Khan of Tartary has eagles tamed
and trained to the sport in the same way as we have our packs to hunt
the roebuck and wild boar.

In the sombre forests of the Nivernais and Burgundy, where wolves are
still numerous, and where they occasion the farmers great loss by the
destruction of their cattle, they are destroyed in every way imaginable.
General _battues_ are held, and private hunting parties meet, a
multitude of traps set, pits dug, the sportsman and the peasant lie in
wait for them, and dogs and cats, well stuffed with deadly poison, are
placed near their haunts in the thick underwood. Nevertheless, and in
spite of all these crafty inventions and open war with them, the wolves
scarcely diminish in number; they still present the same formidable
phalanx, and seem determined to defy their destroyers.



CHAPTER XVIII.

     The _battues_ of May and December--The gathering of
     sportsmen--Distribution in the forest--The _charivari_--The fatal
     rush--Excitement of the moment--The volley--The day's triumph, and
     the reward--The peasants returning--Hunting the wolf with
     dogs--Cub-hunting--The drunken wolf.


In the first days of May, that interesting epoch in which in the forest,
the woods, and the plain, the majority of all animals are with young;
and in the commencement of December, the period of storm and tempest and
the heavy rains, which precede the great snows, two general _battues_
take place in Le Morvan. To these all the tribe of sportsmen--the good,
the bad, and the indifferent--are invited; in short, every one in the
neighbourhood who loves excitement attends. Gentlemen, poachers, and
_gens-d'armes_, young conscripts and old soldiers, doctors and
schoolmasters, every one who is the fortunate possessor of a gun, a
carbine, a pistol, a sabre, a bayonet, or any other weapon, presents
himself at the rendezvous. Bands of peasants, also, armed with
bludgeons, spears, broomsticks, cymbals, bells, frying-pans, sauce-pans,
and fire-irons (it is impossible to make too much noise on the
occasion), arrive from every point of the compass, and add their numbers
to those already assembled. On the day agreed upon, therefore, and at
the spot indicated, a small army is on foot, which, full of ardour and
thirsting for the combat, brandish with shouts their various weapons and
kitchen utensils, drink to the success of the enterprise, and wait with
no little impatience the signal to place themselves in march, and attack
the enemy. The commander of these assembled forces,--generally the head
ranger of the forest,--having under his orders a battalion of sub
_gardes-de-chasse_, directs their movements.

This mode of taking the wolf is conducted with very great order and
circumspection; everything is well arranged beforehand; the ravines and
deep underwood, which the wolves are known to resort to, have been
carefully ascertained; the number of guns and rifles necessary to
surround this or that wood are told off, and the whole plan is so well
prepared, the execution of it is so prompt, every one is so well aware
of what he has to do, that in one day a large tract of country is
carefully beaten.

In these _battues_, those who have fire-arms form two sides of a
triangle, and are placed with their backs to the wind, along the roads
which border the wood the _traqueurs_ are about to beat. On no account
ought they to fire to their rear, but always to the front; and in order
to prevent, in this respect, misunderstanding and accident, the _garde_,
whose duty it is to place each sportsman at his post, breaks a branch,
or cuts a notch in the tree before him, in order that in a moment of
hesitation and excitement this broken bough or barked spot may remind
him of his real position. The base of the triangle or the cord of the
arc (for this curved line had more the shape of a great bow slightly
strung than any other geometrical figure) is formed of the peasants,
who, side by side, wait only for the last signal to advance, when they
commence their euphonious concert--a _charivari_ not to be described.

The arrangements and preparations, conducted in profound silence, being
terminated, the signal is given, when the tumult, which at once breaks
forth, produces intense excitement. The forest, hitherto silent, and
apparently without life, is suddenly awakened with confused noises,
metallic and human--the peasants shout, halloo, sing, and bang together
their pots, kettles, and pieces of iron, striking every bush and thicket
with their staves, and scaring every animal before them. Flights of
wood-pigeons, coveys of partridges, birds of every size, species, and
plumage, pass like moving shadows above their heads. The owls, too,
suddenly aroused from sleep, leave their dark holes, and, blinded by the
light, fly against the branches in their alarm with cries of
terror--probably imagining the order of night and day is reversed, and
that the unusual and unearthly noises proclaim that the end of the world
has arrived for the owls. Then come the roebuck and the foxes, bounding
and breaking through the underwood, and the hares and rabbits, which
jump up under the feet of the beaters.

Motionless as a mile-stone at your post, and rifle ready, this flying
legion of animals gives you a twinge of impatience, for you must allow
them a free passage, as in these _battues_ one dare not fire at
anything, save and except the great object of the day, the wolf. Wolves
alone have the honour on these important occasions of receiving the
contents of your double-barrel. But the cowards, divining what is in
preparation for them, are the last to show themselves; as the line
advances, they trot up and down the portion of the wood thus enclosed,
seeking for an outlet, or some break in the line; and they never make up
their minds to advance to the front until the tempest of sounds behind
them is almost ringing in their ears. But now the thunder of voices,
till then distant, approaches, and the cries and hallooing of the
peasants, like a flowing tide, forces them to draw nearer to the
huntsmen.

Whether or no, that fatal line must now be passed, and the few minutes
that precede the last movement of the wolves towards it brings to every
sportsman sensations impossible to describe. He knows the brutes are in
his rear, approaching, and a feeling like an electric current runs at
this exciting moment from one to the other; every man's finger is on his
trigger, his pulse throbs at a feverish pace, his heart beats like the
clapper of a bell in full swing--all, to take a surer aim, kneel, or
place their back against the nearest tree, and each offers up a prayer
for aid to his patron saint. This nervous moment has sometimes such an
effect upon ardent and excitable imaginations, that I have observed many
young sportsmen look very queer, some actually tremble and one shed
tears. But the _traqueurs_ are at hand, and the largest and boldest of
the wolves, placing themselves in front, are preparing for the fatal
rush--one more _charivari_ from the peasants and their sauce-pans
decides them, when the whole troop bound forward, yelling and howling
upon the line, in passing which a storm of balls and buck-shot salute
and assail them in their course.

The death of from thirty to forty wolves is generally the result of the
day's exertions, without counting the wounded, which always escape in
greater or less numbers. The Government give a reward of twenty francs
for every wolf, and twenty-five for every she-wolf, and these sums being
immediately divided amongst the peasants, they return to their homes not
a little pleased, singing their old hunting ballads, stopping
occasionally by the way at some village inn for a glass, where they may
be seen cutting capers, with the true peasant notions of the dance. On a
fine day, with the blue sky above, the forest breathing perfume, and the
sun shedding over it its golden rays, the passing game, the distant
halloo! of the _traqueurs_, the gun-shots which suddenly rattle around
you, the watching for and first view of the wolves, put the head and the
heart in such a state of excitement, as once felt can never be
forgotten. The May and December _battues_ are, therefore, looked forward
to with immense impatience; and nothing short of sudden death, or an
injured limb, prevents the country-people from hastening with alacrity
to the rendezvous.

Wolves are likewise hunted all the year round, with dogs, by gentlemen,
in the neighbourhood of the forest. But this sport is very fatiguing and
weary work, if that animal alone is employed; for nothing is so
difficult as to get up with a cunning old wolf, whose sinewy limbs never
tire, and whose wind never fails--who goes straight ahead, ten or
fifteen miles, without looking behind him; if he meets with a _Mare_, or
stream of water on his road, then your chance is indeed up,--for into it
he plunges, and makes off again, quite as fresh as he was when he left
his lair.

The best and most expeditious mode of taking a wolf is, to set a
bloodhound on him, bred expressly for this particular sport; large
greyhounds being placed in ambush, at proper distances, and slipped,
when the wolf makes his appearance in crossing from one wood to another.
These dogs, by their superior swiftness, are soon at his haunches, and
worry and impede his flight, until their heavy friend the hound comes
up; for the strongest greyhound could never manage a wolf, unless he was
assisted in his meritorious work by dogs of large size and superior
strength. The huntsmen, well mounted, follow and halloo on the hounds;
every one runs, every one shouts, the forest echoes their cries, and
wolf, dogs, and sportsmen pass and disappear like leaves in a whirlwind,
or the demon hounds and huntsmen of the Hartz. And now the panting
beast, with hair on end and foaming at the mouth, bitten in every part,
is brought to bay--his hour is come--no longer able to fly, he sets his
back against some rock or tree, and faces his numerous enemies.

It is then that the oldest huntsman of the party, in order to shorten
his death-agony, and save the dogs from unnecessary wounds, dismounts,
and, drawing a pistol from his hunting-belt, finishes his career before
further mischief is done. When a ball hits a wolf and breaks one of his
bones, he immediately gives a yell; but if he is dispatched with sticks
and bludgeons, he makes no complaint. Stubborn, and apparently either
insensible or resolute, Nature seems to have given him great powers of
endurance in suffering pain. Having lost all hope of escape, he ceases
to cry and complain; he remains on the defensive, bites in silence, and
dies as he has lived. In a sheepfold the noise of his teeth while
indulging his appetite is like the repeated crack of a whip. His bite is
terrible.

The months of September and October, the period for cub-hunting, afford
capital sport. The young wolves are not like the old ones, strong enough
to take a straight course, and they consequently can rarely do more than
run a ring; when tired, which is soon the case, they retire backwards
into some hole or under a large stone, where they show their teeth and
await, with a juvenile courage worthy of a better fate, the onset of
their assailants. The mode of separating the cubs from their mother,
who, with maternal tenderness (for that feeling exists even in a wolf),
always offers to sacrifice her life for her young, is by turning loose
two or three bloodhounds. These first distract her attention, and then
pursue her so closely that at last she thinks it prudent to decamp, and
seek safety in flight; when these dogs have fairly got her away, and
their deep music dies away in the distance, others are laid on the scent
of the cubs, and the sport ceases only with the death of the litter. A
young wolf may be tamed; but it is not wise to place much confidence in
his civilization: with age he resumes his nature, becomes ferocious, and
sooner or later, should the occasion present itself, will return to his
native woods;--for as water always flows towards the river, so the wolf
always returns to his kind.

In the summer, the wolves, like the gypsies, have no fixed residence;
they may then be met with in the standing barley or oats, the vineyards
and fields; they sleep in the open country, and seldom seek the friendly
shelter of the forest, except during the most scorching hours of the
day. Towards the end of August I have often met them in the vineyards,
apparently half drunk, scarcely able to walk, in short, quite unsteady
on their legs, almost ploughing the ground up with their noses, and
staring stupidly about them. Every well-kept vineyard ought to be as
free from stones as possible, and therefore the peasants, when they
weed, dig a trench about the vines, or prune them, always remove at the
same time whatever stones or flints they may meet with; these are piled
at the end of the vineyard in a heap of about twenty feet square and six
feet high, called a _meurger_.

On these _meurgers_ the breezes of summer waft every description of
seed, and they are consequently soon covered with verdure, shrubs,
brambles, and wild roses, which from a distance give them the appearance
of a small copse or thicket. These elevated and shady spots are the
favourite retreats of game in the middle of the day; here they love to
repose and take their _siesta_ in the cool--here the red partridges meet
to have a gossip--hither the young rabbits scuttle to recover their
various alarms, and the trembling hare also squats and conceals herself
the moment a dog or a gun appears in the adjoining vineyard. Of course
these green mounds have a corresponding value in the eyes of the
sportsmen, who always find in them something to put up.

Often, therefore, walking gently on the soft ground, have I stolen to
one of these _meurgers_, and throwing in a stone, generally turned out
some partridges and rabbits that were there quietly ensconced; I have
also, and greatly to my surprise, heard there the growl of a wolf,
which, rising lazily amongst the bushes, stumbled and fell, and was
evidently incapable of getting further. A salute from both barrels, with
small shot, scarcely tickled his skin; but it brought him once more on
his legs, though only to fall again,--when, having reloaded, I advanced
on him and administered a double dose in his ear, which had the desired
effect. The fact was, he was quite drunk, though not disorderly.

These wolves, during the ardent heats of August, suffer dreadfully from
thirst; and finding no water, take to the vineyards, and endeavour to
assuage it by eating large quantities of grapes, very cool, and no doubt
very delightful at the time; but the treacherous juice ferments,
Bacchanalian fumes soon infect their brain, and for several hours these
gentlemen are for a time entirely deprived of their senses. What a field
for Father Mathew; but never, I am certain, has the worthy Apostle of
Temperance ever dreamed of offering the pledge to the wolves of Le
Morvan--the rub would be to hang the medal round the necks of these
Bacchanals of the forest.



CHAPTER XIX.

     Wolf-hunting, an expensive amusement--The _Traquenard_--Mode of
     setting this trap--A night in the forest with Navarre--The young
     lover--Dreadful accident that befell him--His courage and efforts
     to escape--The fatal catastrophe--The poor mad mother.


Wolf-hunting in the forests is an expensive amusement, whether they are
killed by the method I have described,--namely, of employing beaters,
and shooting them when breaking through the line of sportsmen, or
running them down with dogs. The peasants and _traqueurs_ have to be
paid, in the first case; hunters and hounds have to be purchased and
maintained, in the second, without counting the innumerable incidental
expenses which a kennel of hounds always brings in its train. This kind
of establishment is too extravagant for our country-gentlemen, and thus
it is that for one wolf killed in the great meetings, or with the dogs,
thirty are taken in pits and snares, or by some species of stratagem.

Every small farmer or large proprietor, to protect his family and his
cattle,--every shepherd, to protect himself and his flock, invokes to
his aid the genius of strategy; and as the mind of man is a sponge full
of expedients, from which once pressed by the hard fingers of necessity
many an ingenious device is extracted, innumerable are the various
seductive baits that in our plains and forests are placed in the way of
the gluttonous appetite of the wolf; and I shall now describe the
inventions that are more generally adopted.

The favourite trap employed in Le Morvan is the _Traquenard_. This is
the most dangerous, and the strongest that is made, requiring two men to
set it; it has springs of great power, which once touched, the jaws of
the trap close with tremendous force. Each jaw, formed of a circle of
iron, four or five feet in circumference, is furnished along its whole
length with teeth shaped like those of a saw, but less sharp, which shut
one within the other. To these redoubtable engines of destruction is
attached an iron chain, six feet in length, and at the other end of it
is a bar of iron with hooks; these hooks or grapnel, which catch at
everything that comes in their way, impede the escape of the wolf when
once seized, and prevent him from going any great distance from the spot
where he has been caught. The trap should not be tied or fixed in any
way, for then the wolf would probably in his first bound, his first
frantic movement of terror, either break some part of it, or in his
violent endeavours to escape, succeed, only leaving a leg behind him.

In placing the trap and chain, a little earth is taken away, so that
both are on a level with the turf; after which, the jaws being opened,
they are covered with leaves in as natural a manner as possible. Great
care must be taken by the person who sets the trap that he does not
touch it with his naked hand; this should invariably be done with a
glove on, otherwise the wolf--always extremely difficult to catch by
reason of his delicate sense of smell--would be awakened to his danger.
The mode of taking the wolf by means of the _Traquenard_, is as
follows:--A spot having been selected in the depths of the forest, and
in a sombre pathway unfrequented by the beasts of prey, the trap is set
about an hour before the sun goes down, and a dog, young pig, a sheep,
or some other animal which has been dead a few days, is divided into
five parts; one of the portions is suspended to the lower branch of the
tree, under which the trap is set; and the other four, being each
attached to a withe or the band of a faggot,--not rope, for in that the
wolf detects the hand of man, and he hates the smell of the
material,--are drawn by men along the ground in the direction of the
four points of the compass. These men are mounted either on horseback,
or on an ass, or they put on a pair of _sabots_ and walk, each of them
dragging after him, through the wood and along the unfrequented paths,
his portion of the bait, stopping every now and then to let the soil
over which it passes be as much as possible impregnated with the smell
of the flesh on the verge of corruption.

The _traineur_ should always walk as much as possible through those
parts of the forest that are the clearest of underwood, for in these
spots the wolf is least on his guard; and when he has thus traversed
from 2,500 to 3,000 paces--the distance required in order to give the
animal, (who will at first follow his track with caution and even
suspicion,) time to regain his confidence--he stops, throws the bait
over his shoulder, and walks home, leaving the result to chance, and the
hunger of the savage game. When four or five other traps have been set
for the same night, in a radius of three or four miles thus prepared, it
rarely happens that some of these various lines--which intersect each
other on every side and in every direction, taking in a considerable
surface of ground--are not hit upon during the night by the roving
wolves: and be sure that each wolf whose olfactories discern the scented
line, and who at length arrives at the trap, is a wolf taken.

Well do I remember the fever of impatience with which I was seized, the
first time I was present at the preparations for this sport, and the
desire I had to know what would be the result of our machinations; so
much so, indeed, that the arrangement being completed, I positively
refused to return to the _château_;--climbing into a thick tree, distant
about a hundred paces from the trap, I passed the whole night there on
the watch, shivering in my jacket, sitting astride upon one branch, my
feet on another, and Navarre at my side. Poor Navarre! he had in the
beginning of the evening brought all his astronomical knowledge to bear
upon me, with a view of proving that the night would be terribly
unwholesome; that we should have a furious hurricane and be deluged with
rain, blinded by the lightning, and terrified by the thunder; and that,
in the way of eating and a cordial, the only thing he had in his
game-bag was a sorry piece of black bread, hard enough to break the
tooth of a boar. I had a stiff tustle with him before he gave in; but
finding he could not damp the burning curiosity which devoured me, and
that my ears were deaf to the somewhat rough music of his reasoning and
his predictions, the worthy man at length closed the fountain of his
eloquence, and, though growling and mumbling in an under tone at my
juvenile obstinacy, which had deprived him of his bed and his supper,
quietly took his seat in the tree; then drawing from the bottom of his
pocket some tobacco and a short pipe--his consolation in his greatest
misfortunes--he whiffed away, burying his irritated countenance in his
breast by way of showing his vexation.

It seems to me but yesterday these eight hours passed in the forest in
the silence of that starlight night, hid in the branches, and waiting
for the wolves! We caught three, and nine galloped under the very oak in
which we were seated. This midnight scene was exciting beyond
description; and the worthy Navarre, notwithstanding his pipe, his
fox-skin cap, and his goat-skin riding-coat, caught such a melancholy
cold, that he did nothing but sneeze and hoop the whole of the next day,
making more noise than all the dogs and cattle in the farm put together.

Wolf-hunting with traps has its dangers and its inconveniences, and the
_Traquenard_ must be used with great caution. Every morning it should be
visited and shut; otherwise a man, a horse, a dog, or some other animal,
may fall into it, and be taken. In order, therefore, as much as possible
to prevent accidents, our peasants, farmers, and poachers, when using
this kind of trap, always tie stones, or little pieces of dead wood, to
the bushes and branches of the trees near the spot in which it is set;
they likewise place the same kind of signal at the extremity of the
pathway which leads to the trap, as a warning to those who may walk that
way; and the peasants, who know what these signals dancing in the air
with every puff of wind mean, turn aside, and take very good care how
they proceed on their road.

In spite of all these precautions, however, very sad occurrences will
sometimes happen in our forests. Some years ago a trap was placed in a
deserted footway, and the usual precautions were taken of hanging stones
and bits of wood in the approach to the path at either end. The same
day, a young man of the neighbourhood, full of love and imprudence--upon
the eve, in fact, of being entangled in the conjugal "I will"--anxious
to present to his _fiancée_ some turtle-doves and pigeons with rosy
beaks, with whose whereabouts he was acquainted, left his home a little
before sunset to surprise the birds on their nest; but he was late, the
night closed in rapidly, and with the intention of shortening the road,
instead of following the beaten one he took his way across the forest.
Without in the least heeding the brambles and bushes which caught his
legs, or the ditches and streams he was obliged to cross, he pressed on;
and after a continued and sanguinary battle with the thorns, the stumps,
the roots, and the long wild roses, came exactly on the path where the
trap was set. The night was now nearly dark, and, in his agitation and
hurry, thinking only of his doves and the loved one, he failed to
observe that several little pieces of string were swinging to and fro in
the breeze from the branches of a thicket near him. Dreadful indeed was
it for him that he did not; for suddenly he felt a terrible shock,
accompanied by most intense pain, the bones of his leg being apparently
crushed to pieces--he was caught in the wolf-trap!

The first few moments of pain and suffering over, comprehending at once
the danger of his position, he with great presence of mind collected all
the strength he had, and by a determined effort endeavoured to open the
serrated iron jaws which held him fast: but though despair is said to
double the strength of a man, the trap refused to give up its prey; and
as at the least movement the iron teeth buried themselves deeper and
deeper with agonizing pain into his leg, and grated nearly on the bone,
his sufferings became so intense that in a very few minutes he ceased
from making any further attempts to release himself. Feeling this to be
the case, he began to shout for help, but no one replied; and as the
night drew in he was silent, fearing that his cries would attract the
notice of some of the wolves that might be prowling in the
neighbourhood, and resolved to wait patiently and with fortitude what
fate willed--what he could not avert. He had under his coat a little
hatchet, a weapon which the Morvinians constantly carry about with them,
and thus in the event of his being attacked by the dreaded animals, he
trusted to it to defend himself; but he was still not without hope that
the wolves would not make their appearance.

The night lengthened; the moon rose, and shed her pale light over the
forest. Immovable, with eyes and ears on the _qui vive_, his body in the
most dreadful agony, he listened and waited: when, all at once,
far--very far off, a confused murmur of indistinct sounds was heard.
Approaching with rapidity, these murmurs became cries and yells; they
were those of wolves--and not only wolves, but wolves on the track,
which must ere a few minutes could elapse be upon him. A pang of horror,
and a cold perspiration poured from his face;--but fear was not a part
of his nature, and by almost superhuman efforts, and, in such an awful
moment, forgetting all pain, he dragged himself and the trap towards an
oak tree, against which he placed his back.

Here leaning with his left hand upon a stout staff he had with him when
he fell, and having in his right his hatchet ready to strike, the young
man, full of courage, after having offered up a short prayer to his God,
and embraced, as it were, in his mind his poor old mother and his bride,
awaited the horrible result, determined to show himself a true child of
the forest, and meet his fate like a man. A few minutes more, and he was
as if surrounded by a cordon of yellow flames, which, like so many
Will-o'-the-wisps, danced about in all directions. These were the eyes
of the monsters; the animals themselves, which he could not see, sent
forth their horrible yells full in his face, and the smell of their
horrid carcases was borne to him on the wind. Alas! the _denouément_ of
the tragedy approached. The wolves had hit upon the scented line of
earth, and following it; hungry and enraged, were bounding here and
there, and exciting each other. They had arrived at the baited spot....

What passed after this no one can tell--no eye saw but His above: but on
the following morning when the Père Séguin, for he was the unfortunate
person who set the _Traquenard_, came to examine it, he found the trap
at the foot of the oak deluged with blood, the bone of a human leg
upright between the iron teeth, and all around, scattered about the turf
and the path, a quantity of human remains: bits of hair, bones,--red and
moist, as if the flesh had been but recently torn from them,--shreds of
a coat, and other articles of clothing were also discovered near the
spot; with the assistance of some dogs that were put on the scent, three
wolves, their heads and bodies cut open with a hatchet, were found dying
in the adjacent thickets. The bones of their victim were carried to the
nearest church; and on the following day these mournful fragments, which
had only a few hours before been full of life and youth and health, were
committed to the earth.

When the venerated _curé_ of the village, after previously endeavouring
in every possible way by Christian exhortation to prepare his aged
mother to hear the sad tale, informed her that these remnants of
humanity was all that was left of her boy, she laughed--alas! it was the
laugh of madness--reason had fled! Many a time have I met the aged
creature strolling in a glade of the forest, or seated basking in the
sun outside the door of her cottage. Her complexion was of the yellow
paleness of some old parchment, she was always laughing and
singing--always rocking in her arms a log of wood, a hank of hemp, or
bundle of fern--objects which to her poor crazy eyes represented her
child;--her child as it was in its tender years: she called it by his
name, she kissed, embraced and dandled it, rocked it on her knees; and
when she thought it should be tired, sang those lullabies which had
soothed the slumbers of him who was now no more. I have witnessed the
horrors of war, I have heard many a tragic story, but never has my heart
been more touched with feelings of profound grief than the day on which
I first met this poor creature--this widowed mother, then seventy years
of age--singing and walking in the forest, carrying and dandling in her
shrivelled arms a shawl rolled up; kissing and talking to the silent
bundle, smiling on it,--sitting at the foot of a tree, and opening that
bosom in which the springs of life had for years been dried, to nurse
and nourish once more what seemed to her still her baby boy.

The morning after the dreadful catastrophe of which I have just spoken,
the path in which this terrible tragedy took place was closed, and trees
were planted along its length, so that no person could in future pass
that way. But the Père Séguin has often shown me the oak, at the foot of
which during that fearful night the young peasant suffered such agonies,
made such incredible efforts, and drew with such indomitable courage his
last breath. This tree is still called by the peasants, "The Widow's
Oak," or, "The Oak of the Wolves."



CHAPTER XX.

     Shooting wolves in the summer--The most approved baits to attract
     them--Fatal error--Hut-shooting--Silent joviality--The approach of
     the wolves--The first volley--The retreat--The final slaughter--The
     sportsman's reward--The farm-yard near St. Hibaut--The dead
     colt--The onset--Scene in the morning--Horrible accident--The
     gallant farmer--Death of the wolves, the dogs, and the peasant--The
     wolf-skin drum--Anathema of the naturalists.


When the sportsman does not absolutely care about sleeping in his own
bed, and will not be denied the pleasure of shooting a wolf himself, a
drag is run similar to those we have already mentioned, but other parts
of the proceedings are conducted in a manner widely different. In the
first place, there is no trap; then, instead of the piece of flesh, the
great attraction, being put in an obscure and hidden path, it should, on
the contrary, be placed in an open spot, on the border of a wood, in a
glade, or in a field on the verge of the forest, in order that the
sportsman who is laying in wait, in ambush, may be able to see what is
passing; he must, too, conceal himself as much as possible, either in a
thicket under the foliage, in a hut made with the boughs of trees, or
in a hole dug in the ground; but he should always be so placed that he
is against the wind, and if the moon is up he ought to take especial
care that he is in the shade.

But it sometimes happens that the sportsman, at a moment when there is
no time to run a drag,--for instance, after dinner when smoking a cigar,
he suddenly takes it into his head to kill a wolf, and it is too late to
bait the spot; nevertheless the hunter will have nothing less than his
wolf. Before leaving home, therefore, he orders his servant to bring him
a duck; this he puts into his pocket, and shouldering his gun, seeks the
depths of the forest alone. Having found a favourable spot,--a place
where four roads meet is that, if possible, generally chosen,--he hangs
the unfortunate duck by the leg to the branch of a neighbouring tree,
which, as if divining the part that he is intended to play in the piece,
flaps his wings, and begins to cry and quack most vehemently.

Extraordinary as it may appear, it is well known that the cries of the
duck and the goose are those most readily heard by a wolf, and
consequently it is by no means a rare occurrence to see one of these
animals arrive. An unweaned lamb, which is always bleating for its
mother, is also an excellent decoy-bait to attract them.

In the months of May and June, when the sportsman happens to tumble upon
a she-wolf, the cubs of which are suckling, a drag may be run with one
of them; the mother will for certain follow the track, and, if you are
not properly on your guard, and well prepared to receive her, it is
equally certain she will play you a very unpleasant trick, and make you
feel that it is not wise to excite the maternal tenderness of a wild
animal. But it is in winter that the wolves are more especially
dangerous, and it is in this rough season that war to the knife is
declared against them. The peasants, as well the wood-cutters and
charcoal-burners of the forest, having then no employment, assemble in
small bands, furnish themselves with provisions for several days, and
armed with ponderous and clumsy fowling-pieces, go in search of the wild
cat and the wolf, the roebuck and the boar.

On these occasions, as in all those where fire-arms are used, the
chapter of accidents is seldom without a page relating some sad history.
Two young men of the village of Akin, near Vezelay, one of whom was
engaged to the sister of his companion, having made their arrangements,
set out to hunt together in this manner, trusting that a heavy bag might
pay for the expenses of the wedding fête. As luck would have it, they
soon fell upon the traces of a boar, and separating at the entrance of a
dark ravine, to beat for and watch the animal, were lost to view. But a
short time had elapsed when the young man who was about to be married
observing, though not clearly, between the trees and bushes a large
black mass, which moved to and fro, and which he imagined was the boar
listening, brought his gun to his shoulder, and, firing, lodged two iron
slugs in the body of his comrade, who, advancing towards him, his
shoulders being covered with a black sheepskin, had stooped down for a
few seconds to tie the strings of his leggings, or his shoes.

When the trees are devoid of foliage and the snow covers the ground,
when the forest is melancholy and cold, and the wolves famished with
hunger, a rather original mode of taking them by night is adopted. A few
days previously to the one appointed for the purpose, a large glade in
the very thickest part of the forest having been selected, a carpenter
and his assistant, with a well-furnished bag of tools, start for the
spot. There, choosing some suitable trees, or branches of young
pollards, they cut down a sufficient number, place them in the ground so
as to form a hut of twelve yards square, leaving between each tree an
interval of about four inches; strengthening the edifice by beams at the
base, and boards nailed transversely seven feet from the ground.

This open hut thus prepared, and which, at fifty paces distance, ought
not, if well constructed, to be distinguishable from the trees, is left
open to the inspection of the beasts of the forest for several nights in
succession, in order that they, always suspicious of the most trifling
circumstance, may get accustomed to it. Two or three ducks, a goose, and
sometimes a sheep, are fastened during these nights near the hut, with a
view of alluring the wolves and inducing them to visit the mansion.

The day, or rather the appointed evening, having arrived (a star or
moonlight night being selected), the assembled huntsmen, and a long line
of servants, betake themselves to the forest, leading by the head four
calves, and carrying with them a cask of cold meat, a hamper of wine, a
box of cigars, and a horse-load of pale _cogniac_--a few camels and
dromedaries added to this cavalcade, and one would have a complete
picture of a tribe of Bedouins preparing to pass the Great Desert.
Arrived in the forest about nightfall, and well and duly shut up in
their Gibraltar of wood, the sportsmen may eat, drink, and smoke, and
converse in an undertone; but a heavy fine is invariably inflicted on
those who make the least noise. No one is permitted to sneeze, talk
loud, or laugh; as to blowing one's nasal organ vigorously, the thing is
absolutely forbidden; no one is allowed to have a cold, much less an
influenza, for at least eight hours, and every sportsman is careful that
the wine and the viands take each their proper line of road; if either
should unfortunately diverge, the gentleman must choke rather than
cough--as to the servants, they do every thing by gesture and signal;
and woe betide the John that speaks--chance may be, his tongue is thrown
to the wolves.

When night has set in, the four calves are led out from the stockade and
fastened to strong posts which have been fixed in front of each face of
the hut. Silence now reigns supreme, and the wolves,--the spur of famine
in their insides, mad in short with hunger,--begin to sniff the breeze
and run their noses over the rank dewy grass of the underwood. At this
point of my narrative I must bespeak the forbearance of the Society for
the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and beg them to read on to the
end, and weigh well the question and the result, before they bring an
action against me for what follows. The calves in question having been
placed, they each--must I write it?--receive an incision in the neck,
the effect of which is that the blood flows slowly, and they bleat
without ceasing;--such is the custom, as it is said, with butchers to
make veal white and pleasing to the eye of the epicure; a really inhuman
habit--but when the deed is done with a view to the extermination of
wolves, I think there is little doubt but Mr. Martin himself would have
used a fleam in the cause.

This operation over, the sportsmen divide, post themselves, with their
guns ready, on each side of the hut, and wait with beating hearts the
arrival of the expected four-footed visitors. Nine o'clock passes--ten,
half-past--not a sound is heard in the forest; the sportsmen who look
out on the snowy scene around them observe nothing; all without is
dreary silence, broken at intervals by the poor ruminating creatures in
front, the cry of a solitary owl, the fall of some dead branch which age
and the tempest has separated from the giant oak, the sudden spring of
the squirrel awakened by the noise, and, in the interior of the cabin,
by the soft gurgling of the ruby wine escaping joyfully from its glass
prison-house, to cheer the heart of the impatient _chasseur_--and who
knows better than he how to empty a flask of genuine Burgundy?

We will, therefore, imagine some of the party enjoying themselves after
this fashion; when suddenly the calves are heard to rise, to bellow and
groan, strain at the ropes with which they are fastened, and endeavour
to escape; every cigar is at once extinguished, the comic changes to the
serious--the wolves are on the scent. A few minutes more, and black
spots are seen dotted about here and there on the snow; these increase
in number and approach,--they are the wolves that observe and listen;
the frantic terror of the calves is redoubled; the black spots become
larger, they advance still nearer, and at length the animals may clearly
be distinguished. The wolves imagine the calves have come astray. What a
charming thing if they could carry them off to the dark ravines they
inhabit! The great square hut, silent as Harpocrates, and the smell of
man, make them hesitate; but a hunger of many days (and we know that
man, the image of his Maker, will eat man, his fellow, in his
extremity) and the smell of blood prevail and overcome their fears. Four
or five wolves rush forward, and endeavour to remove the calves; the
attempt is vain, the ropes are strong, and so are the posts to which the
animals are fastened: unable, therefore, to succeed, and stretched
across their dying victims, they plunge their ravenous jaws into the
palpitating flesh, forget their alarm in so delicious a supper, and eat
and drink to their heart's content. The rest of the pack thus
encouraged, and afraid of being too late, now advance at a gallop to
share in the repast.

It is then, and amid the yells, the disputes, and the bloody encounters
occasioned by a division of the spoil, that the sportsmen open their
fire. The first volley puts the wolves to flight, and they retire to a
short distance. But again all is silent, they soon return to the
carcases they cannot make up their minds to desert; other wolves also,
that have been in the rear, attracted by the cries and smell of their
wounded companions, and the blood of the calves, arrive and take part in
the strife, so that during several hours the forest echoes with repeated
volleys. At length the calves are fairly eaten up, when the fortunate
survivors of the fray, gorged and satiated, take to flight, and
disappear like a band of black demons into the recesses of the forest.
It is then the sportsmen leave their hut, stretch their limbs, count the
dead, dispatch their wounded enemies, and, clothed in thick fur cloaks,
sit as if at the bivouac round a large fire, passing the remaining hours
of the night in emptying more bottles, excavating more pies, drinking
more punch, and telling better stories than those which I have had the
pleasure of laying before the reader.

The morning has scarcely dawned and the party is on the road home, when
a crowd of peasants arrive with their dogs, who, following the bloody
traces of the wolves in the snow, dispatch those which, though wounded,
have been able to leave the spot--for the sight of a dead wolf is to a
Morvinian as delightful as the possession of one is profitable. Having
killed his ferocious enemy, the peasant cuts off his head and his four
feet, which he fastens crosswise at the end of his staff; then arraying
himself in his best and most showy clothes, his hat ornamented with
flowers and ribbons streaming in the breeze, like those in the cap of an
English recruit, he is off, the left foot foremost, to the mayor of his
parish to receive the reward offered by the government. But his road to
his worship is anything but direct; he performs what he terms the grand
tour, visits every village in his way, makes his bow to the women, calls
at the sheep-farms and the _chateâux_, showing, with no little pride and
exultation, his wolf's head, and receives at each some acknowledgment
for the service he has rendered the community,--money, a dozen of eggs,
a pound of lard, a bit of pork, bread, flour, flax, or salt, &c. He who
kills the wolf, and carries the spoils as a trophy in this manner, is
accompanied by the musician of the neighbourhood, who marches before him
blowing his bagpipe with the force of an ox; behind him is one of the
strongest men of the village, with a large bag on each shoulder, who
carries the presents, and imitates the cry and yells of a wolf when the
piper is tired. It will not therefore be considered astonishing if it is
always with renewed pleasure that a peasant of Le Morvan kills a wolf;
and though one becomes tired, _blazé_ with almost everything in this
mortal world, it is not the case when a gallant fellow is seen entering
a village carrying the head of this hideous monster on his pole. This
trophy, with tongue distended and mouth kept wide open by a piece of
wood to show his long yellow teeth, frightens all the little children
that see it.

There are many other methods of taking the wolf, with a hook, a net,
with tame she-wolves _à la loge_, the poacher's method, in pits, and in
a washing-tub by the side of a pond, &c. But a description of these
several modes would occupy too much space. I cannot, however, before
taking a final leave of this subject, resist the temptation to relate
one last and most fearful incident--a frightful illustration of the
horrors to which a country infested by this animal is liable. It
happened during my sojourn at St. Hibaut, at a farm in that
neighbourhood.

It was in the month of February, the winter was exceedingly severe, and
three feet of snow still covered the mountains; all communication
between the villages had ceased, and bands of hungry wolves besieged the
farms in the heart of the woods.

The forest of La Madeleine, particularly full of ravines and dark
thickets, small hamlets, and solitary houses, was overrun with these
insatiable and remorseless brutes. Travellers had been devoured in the
passes of La Goulotte, and mangled and torn in the ravines of Lingou. No
one dared venture into the country when night approached.

The farm of which I am about to speak stands just on the borders of the
forest of La Madeleine, in the midst of pastures and patches of furze;
it was full of cattle and sheep, and by the time the stars were
brilliantly illuminating the dark arch of heaven, was frequently
surrounded by troops of wolves, scratching under the walls, and loudly
demanding the trifling alms of a horse, an ox, or a man. It so happened
that at this time one of the farmer's colts died, and he determined, if
possible, to use it as a bait, which would provide him the opportunity
of destroying some of his nocturnal visitors.

For this purpose he placed the dead body in the middle of his
court-yard, and having fastened weights to its neck and legs, to prevent
the wolves from dragging it away, he set the principal gate open, but so
arranged with cords and pulleys that it could be closed at any required
moment. Night came on; the house was shut up, the candles extinguished,
the stables barricaded, the dogs brought in-doors and muzzled to prevent
them from barking, and, in the bright starlight, on some clean straw,
the better to attract attention, lay the dead body of the colt--the
gate, as we have said, being open. All was ready, all within on the
watch, when about ten o'clock the wolves were heard in the distance;
they approached, smelt, looked, listened, grumbled, and distrusting the
open gate, paused; not one would enter. Profound was the silence and
excitement in the house. Hunger at last overcame prudence and mistrust.
Their savage cries were renewed; they became more and more impatient and
exasperated,--how was it possible to resist a piece of young horseflesh?
The most forward, probably the captain of the band, could hold out no
longer, and to show his fellows he was worthy to be their leader, he
advanced alone, passed the Rubicon, went up to the colt, tore away a
large piece of his chest, and, proud of his achievement, set off at
speed with his booty between his teeth. The other wolves, seeing him
escape in safety, regained their confidence, and one, two, three, six,
eight wolves were soon gathered round the animal, but, though eating as
fast as they could, they remained with ears erect, and each eye still on
the gate.

Eight wolves! The farmer thought it a respectable number, and whistled,
when the four men at the ropes hauling instantly, the large
folding-gates rolled to, and closed in the stillness with the noise of
thunder,--the wolves were prisoners. Startled and terrified at finding
themselves caught, they at once deserted the small remains of the colt,
creeping about in all directions in search of some outlet by which they
might escape, or some hole to hide in, while the farmer, having secured
them, sent his household to bed, putting off their destruction till
sunrise.

The morning dawned, and with the first rays of light master and men, for
whom the event was a perfect _fête_, set some ladders against the walls
of the court, and from them, as well as the windows, fired volleys on
the entrapped wolves. Unable to resist, the animals for some time
hurried hither and thither, crouching in every nook and corner of the
yard: but the wounds from balls which reached them behind the stones, or
under the carts, soon turned their fear into rage. They began to make
alarming leaps, and the most dreadful yells. The work of destruction
went on but slowly;--the men were but indifferent shots, the wolves
never an instant at rest;--and the rapidity and perseverance with which
they continued to gallop round, or leap from side to side of the yard,
as if in a cage, essentially baffled the endeavours of their enemies.

The affair was in this way becoming tedious, when an unlooked-for
misfortune threw a dreadful gloom over the whole scene.

The ladder used by one of the party being too short, the young man
placed himself on the wall, as if in a saddle, to have a better
opportunity of taking aim; when one of the wolves, the largest,
strongest, and most exasperated, suddenly bounded at the wall, as if to
clear it, but failed; subsequently the animal attempted to climb up by
means of the unhewn stones, like a cat, and though he again failed,
reached high enough almost to seize with his sharp teeth the foot of the
unfortunate lad. Terrified at this he raised his leg to avoid the
brute--lost his balance--and the same moment fell with a heart-rending
scream into the court below. Each and all the wolves turned like
lightning on their helpless, hopeless victim, and a cry of horror was
heard on every side.

The storm of leaden hail ceased: no man dared fire again, and yet
something must be done, for the monsters were devouring their unhappy
fellow-servant. Listening only to the dictates of courage and humanity,
the noble-hearted farmer, gun in hand, leaped at once into the yard, and
his men all followed his heroic example. A general and frightful
conflict ensued. The scene which then took place defies every attempt at
description. No pen could adequately place before the reader the awful
incidents that succeeded. He must, if he can, imagine the howling of the
wolves, the piteous cries of the lacerated and dying youth, the
imprecations of the men, the neighing of the horses and roaring of the
bulls in the stables; and, more than all, the crying and lamentations of
the women and children in the house--a fearful chorus--such as happily
few, very few persons were ever doomed to hear. At last the farmer's
wife, a powerful and resolute woman, with great presence of mind
unmuzzled the dogs, and threw them from a window into the yard. This
most useful reinforcement with their vigorous attacks and loud barking
completed the tumult and the tragedy. In twenty minutes the eight wolves
were dead, and with them half the faithful dogs. The poor unfortunate
lad, his throat torn open, was dead; his courageous, though unsuccessful
defenders, were all more or less wounded, and the gallant farmer's left
hand so injured, that as soon as surgical assistance could be procured
for him, amputation was found to be necessary.

The monsters, stretched side by side in the yard, were also stone dead,
every one of them; but not a voice on the farm raised the heart-stirring
shout of victory. Consternation and gloom reigned over it, and it was
long indeed ere the voice of mourning deserted its walls.

The skin of the wolf is strong and durable; the woodmen, _braconniers_,
and mountaineers, make cloaks and caps of it, the tail being left on the
latter to fall over the ear by way of ornament; they likewise cover with
it the outside of their game-bags. They tan it also, and excellent shoes
are made of the leather, soft and light for summer wear,--it is likewise
made into parchment, not to write the history of their ancestors upon,
but to cover small drums, the rattle of which, on fairdays and _fêtes_
is sure to set the peasants dancing. This fact is alluded to in a song
of our province, written by a shepherd-poet, in the pleasing dialect of
Le Morvan, of which the following is a free translation:

  Hark! 'tis the wolf-skin drum,
                    We come! We come!
      Yes, come with me sweet girl, and fair
      As rosebud wild that scents the air.
  The heavens are bright, the stars are shining,
  Thy lovely form my arms entwining;
      Together let us lead the dance
      Deep in thy sylvan haunts, dear France!
  Hark! I hear those sounds again,
  The wolf-skin drum, the pipers' strain.

Wealthy persons use a wolf-skin for a carriage-rug, and in the rainy
season as a mat at the door of a room. "There is nothing good in the
wolf," says Buffon, "he has a base low look--a savage aspect, a terrible
voice, an insupportable smell, a nature brutal and ferocious, and a body
so foul and unclean that no animal or reptile will touch his flesh. It
is only a wolf that can eat a wolf." "No animal," writes Cuvier, "so
richly merits destruction as the wolf." With these two funeral orations
on these incarnate fiends of Natural History, I shall close this
chapter, remarking that the anathema bestowed on them by Buffon is not
quite correct, for if wolves are dangerous, and enemies to the public
weal, and "there is nothing good" in them during their lives, they, at
least, become useful after their death.



CHAPTER XXI.

     Fishing in Le Morvan--The naturalists--The _Gour_ of Akin--The
     English lady--The mountain streams--Château de
     Chatelux--Sermiselle--New mode of killing pike--Pierre Pertuis--The
     rocks and whirlpool there--The syrens of the grotto--Château des
     Panolas--The Cousin--The ponds of Marot and lakes of Lomervo--Mode
     of taking fish with live trimmers--The Scotch farmer.


Having disposed of the quadrupeds of Le Morvan, I must enlarge a little
upon the finny tribe of my native province, who would, I feel sure, be
not a little annoyed if after having mentioned nearly every other
creature capable of affording amusement to the sportsman I were to pass
them over in silence. Besides, the shade of Izaak Walton would haunt me,
and his disciples no doubt wish me well hooked, if I omitted to give
them a chapter on angling,--but it shall be short, and I will avoid all
scientific discussion. Theories sufficient have been hazarded, and books
written without number from the days of old Aristotle, who arranged them
in three great divisions, the Cetaceous, the Cartilaginous, and the
Spinous; down to Gmelin, who divided them into six orders, the Apodal,
the Jugular, the Thoracic, the Abdominal, the Branchiostagous, and the
Chondropterygious.

How men, learned and scientific men, can be so barbarous as to invent
such grotesque names as these is surprizing, or why Apicius should be
remembered for having been the first to teach mankind how to suffocate
fish in Carthaginian pickle; or Quin, for having discovered a sauce for
John Dories; or Mrs. Glasse, for an eel pie; or M. Soyer, celebrated for
depriving barbel of their sight, in order to make them grow fatter, and
be more acceptable to the epicure. Into this wilderness of discoveries,
I have no intention of introducing you, gentle reader. The wisest plan
is to cook and eat your fish in the ordinary mode--fry, broil, bake,
boil, or grill; and call a perch, a perch, not a thoracic; a pike, a
pike, &c., and pay little attention either to cooks or naturalists.

Le Morvan, intersected by numerous rivers, streams, and runs of water,
in the liquid depths of which the various species of the fresh-water
fishy-family are found from the powerful, swift, and travelled salmon,
to the modest little gudgeon that stays quietly at home, is a country
where the angler may live in a state of perpetual jubilee; the carp, the
eel, and the pike attain an enormous size, particularly near the dams
and flood-gates, where the depth of water is great, and in the _Gours_
or water-courses which, diverging at several points on the stream, are
constructed for supplying the flour and paper-mills with water.

The punters of Richmond, Hampton Court, and Chertsey, with their
magnificent tackle, gentles, ground-bait, and comfortable chair, &c.,
would be astonished to see the quantities of fish that are taken in one
of these _Gours_ by a half-naked peasant, with a line as thick as
packthread, during a sultry tempestuous evening in the month of June;
from thirty to forty pounds' weight of carp and eels is by no means an
unusual take,--Apodal and Abdominal, as the learned Gmelin would say.

These _Gours_ are perfect jewels in the eyes of our fishermen; on very
great occasions, for instance, when the miller marries, or an infant
miller makes his appearance, if the occurrence should happen during the
summer season, the flood-gates of the _Gours_ are opened, when the
waters being let off to within a few inches of the bottom, the quantity
of fish taken with the casting-net is enormous. In the large _Gour_ of
Akin, the longest, the deepest, and containing more fish than any on the
Cure or the Cousin, which I mention as representing the ten or twelve
second-rate rivers of Le Morvan, I have seen as much as four horse-loads
of fish taken, though every fish under two pounds was thrown back. The
average depth of water in these rivers is from three to four feet,
except near the dams and flood-gates, where it is from twelve to
thirteen. With rivers so well supplied, sport is invariably obtained; so
that patience, a virtue generally considered absolutely necessary in the
angler, is scarcely required here, and fishing is actually a pastime of
the _beau sexe_.

Well do I remember the astonishment, the pleasure, the delicious joy of
a young English lady we had the good fortune to have with us at Vezelay,
some few years since (where, by-the-bye, she made quite a sensation),
when for the first time, and seated comfortably upon the soft turf by
the river side, she gracefully threw her line into the great _Gour_ of
Akin; the bait had scarcely sunk, when the float was dancing about like
a dervish, and finally disappeared; the lady pulled, the fish resisted;
excited beyond measure, she redoubled her efforts, and tugging away with
both hands, at length drew from his watery home a large carp, which
flying through the air, described a splendid parabola, and landed in the
adjoining field, to the great joy of the young lady, who showed her
white teeth and laughed with might and main. But the poor devil of a
servant to whom was confided the delicate task of impaling the bait,
disentangling the line, and searching for the fish, when thus projected
over the lady's head into the long grass behind her, had plenty to do I
can aver, and did anything but laugh.

Near the forests and the hills the rivers are much more shallow, more
clear and limpid, and flow, dance, and bubble over a gravelly bottom or
golden sands. In these the voracious trout abounds; he may be seen
allowing himself to be lazily rocked by the eddy, by the twirling
current, or reposing under the shadow of the large rocks, which,
detached from the adjacent mountains, have fallen into the river, and
been arrested in their course; here he waits for the delicious May-fly,
and the fisherman's basket is soon filled--so soon that a celebrated
doctor in our neighbourhood, whose house is situated near one of these
streams, used to send his servant every morning to take a fresh dish for
his breakfast. The largest and the best trout are found near Chatelux,
in the heart of the Morvan,--an old _château_, on the summit of a high
rock, ornamented with towers and turrets, and surrounded by thick and
solitary woods, in itself a lion worth seeing.

The present Count de Chatelux was aide-de-camp to Louis Phillipe, and a
great friend of that sovereign. The river Cure flows at the foot of the
hill on which the castle is situated, and its bed at this part is
frequently divided, and forms many little islets, full of flowering
shrubs and forest trees, which give the landscape a pleasing and
picturesque appearance. From hence, for nearly twelve miles, roach,
dace, chub, and trout are numerous, and take the fly well.

Besides the _Gours_ we have mentioned, there are three spots in the
Morvan that deserve attention in connection with fishing. These are
Sermiselle, Pierre Pertuis, and the Château des Panolas. Sermiselle, at
the junction of the Cure and the Cousin, at which point the road from
Paris to Lyons passes, is a charming village, full of life and gaiety.
At this spot the river begins to make a respectable figure; deep,
solemn, and silent, it seems proud of its boats and ferries; but its
waters have not that transparent appearance, that vivacious, laughing,
and brawling character which distinguished them some miles further up.
The fish in like manner resemble the stream; there are in this part
monstrous carp, majestic eels, and solemn pike; and the line should be
doubly strong if the angler is desirous of ever seeing a fish, or his
hooks again.

At some distance above Sermiselle, where the silence and solitude of the
country still reign, a very curious mode of fishing is adopted during
the burning heat of the summer months. About mid-day, when the sun in
all its power shoots his golden rays perpendicularly on the waters,
illuminating every large hole even in the profoundest depths, the large
fish leave them, and, ascending to the surface, remain under the cool
shade of the trees, watching for whatever tit-bit or delicacy the stream
may bring with it, while others prefer a quiet saunter, or, with the
dorsal fin above the water, lie so still and stationary near some lily
or other aquatic plant, that they seem perfectly asleep.

The enthusiastic sportsman, who fears neither storms nor a
_coup-de-soleil_, makes his appearance about this time, without, it is
true, either fishing-rod, lines, worms, flies, or bait of any
description, but having under his left arm a double-barrel gun, in his
right hand a large cabbage, and at his heels a clever poodle. The
fisherman, or the huntsman, I scarcely know which to call him, now duly
reconnoitres the river, fixes upon some tree, the large and lower
branches of which spread over it, ascends with his gun and his cabbage,
and having taken up an equestrian position upon one of the projecting
arms, examines the surface of the deep stream below him. He has not been
long on his perch when he perceives a stately pike paddling up the
river; a leaf is instantly broken off the cabbage, and when the
Branchiostagous has approached sufficiently near, is thrown into the
water; frightened, the voracious fish at once disappears, but shortly
after rises, and grateful to the unknown and kind friend who has sent
him this admirable parasol, he goes towards it, and after pushing it
about for a few seconds with his nose, finally places himself
comfortably under its protecting shade. The sportsman, watching the
animated gyrations of his cabbage-leaf, immediately fires, when the
poodle, whose sagacity is quite equal to that of his master, plunges
into the water, and if the fish is either dead or severely wounded fails
not to bring out with him the scaly morsel; thus so long as the heavens
are bright and blue, the water is warm, the large fish choose to
promenade in the sun, and the sportsman's powers of climbing hold out,
the sport continues. Sometimes the poodle and the fish have a very sharp
struggle, and then the fun is great indeed, unless by chance the
sportsman should unfortunately miss his hold in the midst of his
laughter, and drop head-foremost into the water with his cabbage and his
double-barrel.

Pierre Pertuis on the Cure, is also a famous place for fishing, and an
extraordinary spot, and the Morvinian peasant, a highly
poetically-flavoured individual, has made it the theatre of some very
fantastic scenes. Imagine a yellow rock, of gigantic height, terminating
in a point, with its sides full of fissures, holes, and crevices,
inhabited by crows, owls, and bats, having its base in the river and its
summit crowned with a rough _chevelure_ of brambles and large creeping
plants. The lower part of this rock is intersected by holes, through
which the water rushes, tumbles, and whirls. The peasants pretend that
the river near the rock cannot be fathomed, and that this particular
spot is inhabited by fairies, nymphs, syrens, and other amiable ladies
of this description, who have superb voices, and sing from the interior
of their grottos delicious melodies of the other world, with the
charitable intention of attracting the passing traveller or fisherman,
and drowning him in the whirlpool beneath--a fate that would certainly
be inevitable, if the attraction in question could bring them within
its vortex, for certain it is that neither sheep-dogs or cattle which
have fallen in, or been drawn within reach of its power, have ever been
seen again. When the tempest rages here, the wind, rushing into the
holes and fissures, produces a kind of moaning Æolian noise, and this
with the cries of the owls and the rooks when the _mistral_ blows and
they have the rheumatism, produces, and no wonder, a superstitious
feeling of awe in the mind of the ignorant peasant.

On the Cousin, which flows majestically through some of the most
magnificent pastures in the world, and on the summit of a large hill,
stands the charming Château des Panolas, the towers and walls of which,
covered with pointed roofs and weather-cocks, and surrounded by domes,
belvederes, and old-fashioned dovecots, give it at a distance the
appearance of some oriental building. The weather-cocks in particular
are of the most fanciful and grotesque designs, and it is said, and I
should think there can be no doubt of the fact, that in no other
structure have so many been seen together: it is calculated there are no
less than three hundred. In going and returning from the forest, many a
time have I and my friends, in the hey-day of youthful iniquities,
knocked one of them off with a ball from our guns, to the great anger
of the proprietor, who threatened us with his mahogany crutch from the
hall door.

In the great ponds of Marot, and in the lakes of Lomervo--immense liquid
plains, deep and surrounded in their whole circumference by a forest of
green rushes, water-lilies, flags, and many other aquatic plants,
forming a wall of verdure--the enormous quantity of fish of every kind
is almost incredible. Nor is this extraordinary, for the waters of at
least a dozen streams from the mountains, which swarm with life, fall
into these vast reservoirs, and they are only fished once in every five
years. This is a delectable spot for fishermen; but, on the other hand,
as the value of these sheets of water is well understood by their
proprietors, they are sharply looked after by them and their keepers,
and it is almost as difficult to find an opportunity of throwing a line
during the day, as it is for a poacher to throw a casting net on a
moonlight night.

Nevertheless, as the appropriation of other people's property has an
exquisite charm for some temperaments,--as a stolen apple to a child's
palate is much more delightful than one that is not--the demon of
acquisitiveness is always leaning over a man's shoulder,--that is to
say, a poacher's shoulder, or even that of a gentleman with poaching
tastes and inclinations,--to breathe in his ear bad advice. As to the
peasants in the neighbourhood, they are always consulting together, or
inventing some method by which they may circumvent the proprietors and
appropriate their fish to themselves.

One of the happiest discoveries of the kind I ever heard of,--not the
most recent but the best,--is the following. Every person in the
possession of a cottage, possesses also a few ducks and geese, which
paddle about their humble habitations. A man who has an itching for the
thing, and who desires to become a pond-skimmer, as they are called,
carefully selects from his squadron of _palmipedes_, the strongest, the
most intelligent duck or goose of the party; his choice made, he
immediately sets to work to give him the education befitting a bird
destined for so honourable and diplomatic an employment.

After very many trials, lessons, and lectures, more or less difficult
and tedious, the bird is taught to swim to a distance right ahead--to
turn to one side when his master sings, and return to him when he
whistles. These two primary and elementary movements, which appear so
very natural, demand, nevertheless, wonderful patience, and no little
cleverness and tact in the professor to instil--for his pupils, be it
remembered, are ducks and geese--and furnishes an example of how the
hope and love of gain has its effect on mankind. These very peasants,
who never would take the trouble to learn their letters--only
twenty-four--who would not many of them go two miles to learn how to
sign their own names, pass whole days in the gray waters of these
marshes, more often than not up to their waists in mud, whistling and
singing and twitching the legs of their unfortunate birds, and nearly
pulling them off with a string, when they either do not comprehend, or
obey as quickly as they might, the orders they receive.

Dozens of ducks and geese that would in London or Paris be considered
highly curious and infinitely wiser than any of their species--even
those of the Capitol--are thus trained every year in Le Morvan, without
any one giving them a thought, and may be purchased, education included,
for two shillings a piece. When these winged students are so thoroughly
qualified for their duties, that they can go through their exercise
without a mistake, and are considered worthy of taking the field, the
peasant puts them into his bag, and setting off very early in the
morning to one of the great ponds I have mentioned, conceals himself
behind a thick tufty curtain of flags, from whence he can see without
being seen.

Here, opening his bag, he takes out the half suffocated ducks or geese,
which are glad enough to find themselves once more on their favourite
element; and the intelligent birds have scarcely regained their liberty
when the peasant commences his ballad, and immediately the anchor is
apeak and they are off; he sings, he whistles, and they turn, like two
well-manned frigates, and come back to him without a moment's delay. The
act is so natural, so simple, that no one can be attracted by it; nor is
it possible to suspect a goose or a duck with its head down searching
for food, that paddles about in the weeds or on the shore, or dabbles
amongst the rushes. Should the keeper appear, the peasant is sure to be
found lying on his back half asleep, or singing or whistling, as if
mocking the lark in the clear blue sky above him.

Nevertheless, this goose, this duck, and this man are first-rate
thieves,--cracksmen of their class; for the peasant, before he confides
his poultry to the waves, makes their toilette; sliding under the left
wing and over the right, across the body, like a soldier's belt, a
strong and well-baited pike-hook. Thus equipped and ready for the start,
the pirate birds leave on their buccaneering expedition; but they are
scarcely a stone's throw from the shore, and well clear of the little
islands of flags, when a hungry pike, observing the delicious frog
towing in the rear, seizes it, and makes off to his hole, to gorge the
bait at his leisure. More easily thought than done;--the goose stoutly
resists, and refuses to accompany the fresh-water shark to his weedy
home. A warm and obstinate engagement is the result; the peasant
watches, with approving eye, the embarassment of his feathered
accomplice, until he thinks it time to put an end to the scrimmage, when
he whistles like an easterly wind in a passion. The goose, rather
encumbered by the carnivorous gentleman below him, endeavours for some
time but in vain to obey the signal; he flaps his wings, works away with
his legs, and cackles without ceasing. The poacher encourages him with
another whistle, and at length the bird, in spite of all his adversary's
attempts to the contrary, leads the "greedy game of the deep" to the
shore, and delivers it to his master. This is, certainly, a very curious
mode of taking pike, and the live trimmer looks very puzzled when the
voracious fish is hooked; but the following anecdote, taken from the
scrap-book of Mr. M'Diarmid, shows that a Scotchman once adopted the
same method, though for a different reason. "Several years ago," he
writes, "a farmer, living in the immediate neighbourhood of Lochmaben,
Dumfriesshire, kept a gander, who not only had a great trick of
wandering himself, but also delighted in piloting forth his cackling
harem, to weary themselves in circumnavigating their native lake, or in
straying amidst forbidden fields on the opposite shore. Wishing to check
this flagrant habit, the farmer one day seized the gander just as he was
about to spring upon the blue bosom of his favourite element, and tying
a large fish-hook to his leg, to which was attached part of a dead frog,
he suffered him to proceed upon his voyage of discovery. As had been
anticipated, this bait soon caught the eye of a ravenous pike, which
swallowing the deadly hook, not only arrested the progress of the
astonished gander, but forced him to perform half-a-dozen summersets on
the surface of the water! For some time, the struggle was most
amusing--the fish pulling, and the bird screaming with all its
might,--the one attempting to fly, and the other to swim, from the
invisible enemy--the gander one moment losing and the next regaining his
centre of gravity, and casting between whiles many a rueful look at his
snow-white fleet of geese and goslings, who cackled out their sympathy
for their afflicted commodore. At length Victory declared in favour of
the feathered angler, who, bearing away for the nearest shore, landed on
the smooth green grass one of the finest pike ever caught in the Castle
Loch."

This adventure is said to have cured the gander of his desperate
propensity for wandering.



CHAPTER XXII.

     Village _fêtes_--The first of May--The religious festivals--The
     _Fête Dieu_--Appearance of the streets--The altars erected in
     them--Procession from the church--Country fairs--The book-stalls at
     them--Pictures of the Roman Catholic Church--Before the
     _Vendange_--Proprietors' hopes and fears--Shooting in the
     vineyards--The first day of the _Vendange_--Appearance of the
     country--Influx of visitors at this season--The
     consequences--Herminie--Her sad history--Le Morvan--Recommended to
     the English traveller--Lord Brougham and Cannes--Contrast between
     it and Le Morvan.


One of the happiest and most useful customs established by our
ancestors, was, without doubt, the village _fête_--the periodical
festival that takes place in every hamlet, and at which the inhabitants
of the adjoining _communes_ assemble on a specified day to foot it gaily
in the dance and drink each other's health glass to glass in brimming
bumpers. These joyous _fêtes_, a kind of fraternal and social
invitation, which are given and accepted by the rural population when
spring and verdure made their appearance, are held all over France, and
rejoice every heart. In our day, though much shorn of its ancient
revelry, and neglected, _la fête du village_ is still kept up, for it
is, so to speak, indigenous,--a part of our social habits, and like
everything which carries within it a generous sentiment, is loved and
cherished by the people. As the day approaches every village is suitably
decorated, the women are all on the tip toe of excitement to see and be
seen, the peasant throws dull care behind him, and the artizans in the
nearest town work with renewed energy in order that they may do honour
to the occasion. Every one, in short, makes his way to the rendezvous, a
merry laugh on his lip and joy in his heart, and, lost in the tumult and
general gaiety that prevail, all forget, for some few hours, their hard
work and privations.

These festivals offer to each either profit or amusement; the peasants
find in them a refreshing and salutary rest from toil, the tradesman
fails not to fill his pockets with their hard earnings, the clown shows
off his summersets, the young men are touched with the tender passion,
and the young girls, with their white teeth and sparkling eyes, await
with feigned indifference the proposals of their admirers. The village
_fête_ forms a bright epoch in rustic life, and the gay hours passed at
them are the happiest, the most joyous, and the most enchanting of the
year.

Our ancestors, who knew and more thoroughly understood these matters
than we do, who loved a laugh, the dance, and the merry outpourings of
the heart, endeavoured by every means in their power to multiply them,
and, after having seized upon the name of every saint in paradise, they
managed to appropriate, and always for the same motive, all the various
occupations known in the cultivation of the fields as a good excuse for
holding more of these saturnalia. The season for sowing was one, the
hay-harvest another, the wheat-harvest, the period of felling the oaks
in the forest were excellent opportunities for establishing a new
_fête_, and consequently buying a new coat, singing a carol, drinking to
France, and skipping _des Rigodons_. For, be it said, one really does
amuse oneself in my beautiful country; yes, one amuses oneself, perhaps,
much more than one works; there are more Casinos built than acres
grubbed up, and is not this partly the reason why the land is so badly
tilled and produces only one half of what it should. But what signifies
it, after all, if this half is sufficient for us. England, they say, is
more opulent and better cultivated; be it so,--she is richer, she
manufactures more; but is she happier?

Independently of these _fêtes_, the number of which is infinite, but
which occur only, in each locality, once a year, there exist also those
merry meetings, which, like the Sunday, are understood by the peasantry
as a general holiday. Amongst these, the most animated and attractive,
and more usually marked by happy incidents, is that of the first of May.
At the earliest dawn of day, the tones of the bagpipe may be
distinguished in the distance, coming up the principal street of the
village. He who has heard this rustic sound in the happy days of his
childhood, under the shade of the elms, will always love the unmusical
and melancholy wailing of the bagpipe. The strain has scarcely died away
when all the village is alive, every one is up and dressed in his
best--the children, with enormous nosegays in each little hand, go and
present them to their delighted parents, and wish them "_un doux mois de
Mai_."

Each house, perfumed like a parterre of flowers, opens its doors, and,
during the live long day, it is between friends and acquaintance a
series of happy smiles, and a mutual exchange of nosegays and hearty
shaking of hands. Then in the evening, when the moon has risen in the
west over the fir woods, the young lads and lasses, with their fathers
and mothers, saunter along the streets arm in arm. At short distances,
on the roofs of the houses, are seen, elevated in the air, gigantic
chaplets of flowers, illuminated by large torches of rosin. Within these
chaplets are others of smaller size. A dance, _grand rond_, is formed by
the young lovers that have carried the May to their sweethearts, who,
rising before the dawn, had already gathered the mysterious declaration
of love, perfumed and still covered with the tears of night. In this
large circle is formed another of children, about ten years of age, and
within this again, a third of quite little things; small human garlands
within the greater one. And the bagpipe plays, and all the world dance,
and every one is happy, and the evening breeze shaking the large
chaplets above showers of lilac and hawthorn bloom fall on the dancers
and rustic ballroom beneath.

To these village _fêtes_ must be added, to complete the list of our
popular holidays--the religious festivals, established by the Roman
Catholic church, which, in the eyes of our rural population, are the
most imposing and magnificent ceremonies of the year. These _fêtes_ are
very little known in Protestant countries; a few details, therefore, of
one of them, taken at hazard, may please, or at least offer some point
of interest to the reader.

In the month of June, when the heavens are all azure, when the sun
smiles on us here below, and the summer flowers are all in bloom, the
long-expected _fête_, the _Fête Dieu_, _la fête des Roses_, the feast of
Corpus Christi, one of the most brilliant festivals of the Roman
Catholic church takes place.

Several days before, all the houses appear in a new toilette, decked out
with evergreens and branches of the vine and tamarisk, festoons of which
are suspended from window to window. All the streets of the village are
washed and swept, like a drawing-room. On the preceding evening every
garden is opened, the borders are ravaged, baskets-full of roses,
armfulls of jasmine, bunches of gilly-flowers and sweet-pea fall under a
little army of scissars and white hands. The camellias complain, the
heliotropes murmur, all the tribe of tulips are in low spirits, for each
family gathers in a perfect harvest of flowers--every one remarks to the
other--"To-morrow is the _fête Dieu_, the feast of roses--the favourite
festival of the year." And when aurora, pale with watching, rises in the
cloudless sky, when the cock, herald of the morn, proclaims the birth of
another day, when the first golden ray, traversing space, lights the
eastern casement, behind which many a lovely bosom heaves, with
anticipated conquest and excitement, the bells of the village church
are heard, and at this merry signal every one is up and soon busily
engaged superintending the preparations for the day.

The streets, as if by enchantment, are carpeted with verdure; the pine,
the oak, and the birch, from the neighbouring forest, contribute their
young shoots and leaves; the prickly broom its yellow flowers. The
façades of the houses are hidden under their various hangings, the rich
suspend from their windows their splendid carpets; the poor, sheets as
white as driven snow. All ornament them, here and there, with roses,
pinks, and carnations. Then, at short distances down the principal
street, the young _demoiselles_ of the village erect what are termed
_reposoirs_, a kind of chapel or altar, improvised for the occasion,
which lead to an emulation and an animated rivalry perfectly terrible.
It is whose shall be the largest, best, and most elegantly decorated,
and these young nymphs, usually so reserved and so easily frightened,
become, for this week, as bold and free as so many dragoons. They enter
the house, without being announced, open the drawers, visit the
secretaries, ransack the cupboards. Pirates, with taper fingers, they
put into their baskets and reticules all the valuables they can lay
their hands on. Objects of art they are sure to seize, more especially
if they are made of the precious metals. It is who shall adorn her
_reposoir_ with gold and bronze vases, with enamelled cups, pictures,
and rich crucifixes. Important meetings are held, in some secret spot,
to determine of what form the altar shall be; if the dominating colour
shall be blue, purple, or lilac. Then there is a consultation whether
the drapery, that is to cover this temporary chapel, shall be with or
without a fringe,--a discussion which becomes more entangled with
difficulties than those in the Parliamentary Club of the Rue des
Pyramides, as to the continued existence or demise of our poor
constitution. Silk, satin, and velvet ornament the interior of the
elegant edifice; the most delicate perfumes burn in each of its corners,
and, in order further to embellish the altar on which the Holy Eucharist
is to rest for a few minutes, there is a perfect coquetting with
chaplets, festoons of gauze, crystal lamps of various colours, and
transparencies through which the subdued rays of the sun shed their
softened light.

And, when everything is ready, when the mass has been said, when the
moment has arrived for the procession to move through the streets, the
bells ring a still merrier peal, the great folding-doors of the
principal entrance of the church are thrown open, and emerging from
thence one sees beneath the vaulted arch, first, the great silver
cross, then the banner of the blessed Virgin, carried by a beautiful
young girl, dressed in a robe of spotless white; after her come several
little children with flaxen heads, their hair parted and flowing on
their shoulders, carrying in their hands baskets ornamented with lace,
and full of poppies and corn-flowers; behind them are the children of
the choir, with their silver-chased incense burners; then two deacons,
one carrying on a silver plate the bloom of the vine, the other a head
of corn; then four men supporting a large shield, on which are twelve
loaves and a lamb, symbolical of the day; and lastly, under a canopy
enriched with gold lace and fringe, the old priest, calm and grave, who
carries in his hands the Holy Eucharist, followed by a long line of his
faithful parishioners, with the mammas and young girls two and two,
singing psalms and canticles. In this order they move along the crowded
streets, which are strewn with fennel, green branches, and leaves.

From time to time the whole procession halts before some _reposoir_--the
little girls drop three curtsies before the beautiful altar, and scatter
high in the air handfuls of broken flowers, which shed a delicious
fragrance around; the children of the choir wave their censers to and
fro, the old priest blesses the crowd who kneel before him, and the
smoke of the incense, and the perfume of the roses, ascend towards
heaven as the adorations and prayers of all present ascend to God. This,
the holiest and most imposing _fête_ of our rural districts, is also the
one the most loved. Pity not the peasant, pity not those who are from
necessity obliged to live in these retired spots. They have their
_fêtes_ as well as the rich, happier and much more magnificent, at which
they can be present and form part without paying anything. Nature, too,
source of so many marvels, whether she covers the earth with a robe of
verdure, or fields of golden corn, or that she shelters it under a
mantle of snow, presents to the husbandman some interesting scene. Have
they not also the shade and silence of the forest, the eternal freshness
of the fountains?

It is true the peasants know nothing of Beethoven's symphony in C, they
are not familiar with the melodies of Rossini, Madame Grisi has never in
her terrible finale "_Qual cor tradisti_" made them weep, nor has the
orchestra of Monsieur Jullien made them deaf. But what are these
splendid wonders of the town to them? Have they not a melodious choir of
birds to arouse them each morning from their slumbers? have they not as
scenes, the woods, the bubbling waters, verdant valleys, real sunrises
and sunsets? Can they not, seated on the summit of some hill, round
which the breeze of evening plays, gaze upon the glorious sky above them
spangled with stars, those unfading flowers of Heaven? Say, reader, is
not this hill a charming pit-stall, and much preferable to the narrow
crimson section of the bench at the Opera? These are some of their
enjoyments; then how could they with any degree of pleasure stick
themselves up like logs of wood or trusses of hay before a row of lurid
lamps, to admire some painted men and women mincing up and down the
stage, or peer through two telescopes at forests of painted calico and
moons cut out of pasteboard, or listen to hackneyed airs which have been
sung and resung a hundred times--worn up, in short, like an old rope?

The peasant farmer or yeoman of France, who in the midst of the most
pleasing circumstances, never forgets his own interests, has also found
it desirable for the advancement of his worldly prosperity, to establish
fairs, at which he can sell his hemp and beasts, his wine and his crops;
purchase clothes for his family, and coulters for his ploughs.

These fairs, which are held once in each month in all the towns of
Burgundy and large villages of Le Morvan, attract a great concourse of
people, and as there is much variety in the costumes, head-dresses and
colours, the effect is highly picturesque. The mountaineer brings with
him for sale wild boar and venison, wood and wild fruits of the forest;
the inhabitant of the plain, the thousand productions of the
neighbouring manufactories. Second-rate jewellers arrive with their
boxes full of gold crosses and buckles, holy chaplets blessed at some
favourite shrine, and silver rings.

Book-stalls are also to be seen, kept by Jesuits in disguise, the
shelves of which are loaded with inferior literature, with a perfect
deluge of breviaries, almanacks, abridgments of the Lives of the Saints,
with "Letters fallen from Heaven," in which, "Ladies and gentlemen,"
shouts the proprietor, "you will read the details, truthful and
historical, of the last miracle at Rimini; also a new and marvellous
account, equally authentic, of several pictures of Christ that have shed
tears of blood. Buy, ladies and gentlemen, buy the history of these
astonishing miracles--only a penny, ladies, for which you will have into
the bargain the invaluable signature of our Holy Father the Pope, and
the benediction of our Lord the Bishop."

But ought one to be surprised at such announcements, at such a traffic,
or that in these so-called enlightened days, not only auditors but
purchasers should be found?--that there should, in fact, be a sale for
these printed mystifications, when officers of the government and
officers of the armed force, attest on their honour the truth of these
impudent impositions upon the credulity of mankind, affirm the accuracy
and _bonâ fide_ character of these winking, blinking, blasphemous,
lachrymal representations?

Yes--a sub-prefect, a mayor, and an officer of the _gendarmerie_, have
signed a document stating that they had seen a picture of Christ
shedding tears of blood!

When archbishops order public prayers and thanksgivings for the renewal
of these pasquinades, this ridiculous mockery, can one be astonished, I
say, at the state of religious ignorance and blindness of our peasantry?
Such, with a few wretched prints representing Napoleon passing the Alps
seated on an eagle; Poniatowsky and his white horse attempting to cross
the Oder; Cambronne, with imperial moustachios, on his knees repeating
the celebrated _mot_ which he never said: "_La garde meurt et ne se rend
pas_," &c.,--such, I am grieved to confess, is the miserable
intellectual food, the wretched mental and moral stock of human and
religious knowledge that supplies the literary and artistic wants of
the greater portion of the peasants of our departments.

At these fairs all the farm servants are engaged; those who wish to try
a change of masters, or hire themselves merely for the harvest, assemble
in the open space near the church, and then offer to those who require
them, their brawny arms, and their farming acquirements. The most
celebrated of these fairs is that held on the First of September, to
which whole hamlets send all their able-bodied men and women, who hire
themselves to the great proprietors for the _vendange_--for this in
Burgundy and Le Morvan is the great work, the chief event of the year;
it is on the _vendange_ that depend the commerce, the tranquillity and
happiness of the country.

Monsieur B.... is ruined if the sun is obscured by clouds. Monsieur
D.... who has cunningly laid his hands upon all the barrels within
thirty miles round, will put a pistol to his head if he cannot sell his
army of hogsheads. This one relies upon his vineyard for paying his
debts--another cannot marry unless he makes three hundred tierces of
wine. Eight out of twelve, in short, reckon upon the produce of their
vines to buy a new carriage or to be saved from prison; and the agonised
mariners of the wrecked _Medusa_ never cast their eyes with more
intense anxiety towards the horizon than do these proprietors of our
vineyards every morning before the vintage.

If it looks like rain no sunflower is more yellow than their
countenances; if the cold is unusual every face is pale, and should a
frost appear imminent, those whose affairs are the most compromised,
pack up their effects and make ready for a start. But on the other hand,
if the sky is serene and the wind warm, husbands are actually seen
embracing their wives, and promising them any toilette they may fancy.
Should the heat become Bengalic and insupportable oh! then all Burgundy
is dancing and running to the vineyards,--all the Morvinians fly to the
hills to enjoy the cool breezes and admire the luxuriant panorama
beneath and around them.

But for some months previous to the _vendange_, no one but a proprietor
has the right to enter a vineyard; at this period a perfect calm and
silence reigns, and they become an asylum, a veritable land of Goshen,
an oasis for all the partridges, hares, and rabbits of the
neighbourhood. In order to prevent gentlemen and professional poachers
from cruising in these delightful latitudes, killing the game and
injuring the vines, a number of _gardes champêtres_, generally old
soldiers, are chosen, who armed with an old sabre, post themselves on
some height which commands the vineyard, ready to lay violent hands on
any delinquent that may make his appearance. But in spite of the _garde
champêtre_, his long sabre, their interminable cut and thrust, and his
eternal _de par la loi, arretez!_ there is a sport in the early morning,
called _à la traulée_, which is not without its charms.

The vineyards of Burgundy are for the most part divided into sections,
that is to say, at from two to three hundred paces the contiguity of the
vines is interrupted, and a small road, which serves during the
_vendange_ to facilitate the communication and transport of the grapes,
is cut in the vineyard. At daylight, therefore, before the sun is above
the horizon, or the white fog hanging in the valleys has been dispersed
by his rays, and the fashionable gentleman of the town is on the point
of going to bed, the sportsman, always keen and on the alert, arrives,
walks slowly and carefully along the roads I have just mentioned,
looking cautiously right and left, and between the intervals of the
vines on either side of him.

The rabbits hopping under the leaves, the covey of partridges bathing
amidst the dew, the hares gravely discussing among themselves the
respective merits of the heath and wild thyme, are thus surprised in
their matutinal occupations, and become the prey of the delighted
sportsman. But the moment approaches when the comparative calm and
protection which the poor animals enjoy will cease--their days of fun
and festival are numbered; their enemies up to this period have been
few--the rich proprietors, the privileged, but now the masses are
preparing, they are cleaning up their clumsy blunderbusses, and
to-morrow "the million" will take the field and assail and pop at them
from every road and pathway--for the mayor, after due consultation with
the principal personages in the village, has sent his drummer, his
Mercury, his crier, to beat a tattoo in all the public places, and
crossways, and announce in front of the _cabarets_ that the grapes being
ripe the _vendange_ is opened.

The following day, when the last star in the heavens is disappearing,
when the doors of morning are scarcely opened, every road is covered
with long lines of waggons drawn by oxen, and a cavalcade of horses and
mules, and great asses carrying panniers may be seen galloping along in
all directions. Voices, shouts, squeaking wheels, and neighing horses
are also heard on every side, and parties of _vendangeurs_ and
_vendangeuses_, arm in arm, with baskets on their backs, and grape
knives in their belts, their broad-brimmed hats encircled with ribbons
and flowers, are seen marching along, singing many a Bacchanalian chorus
in honour of the occasion. They are on their way to the vineyards, and
like so many fauns and Bacchantes, only well draped, are with joyous
hearts ready to gather in the harvest of the ruby grape.

In advance of this delighted and merry crowd, and always like the lark,
the first on the wing, the sportsman is already at his post,--for the
first day of the _vendange_ is, as Navarre used to say, a day of powder,
the _fête du fusil_. And now is formed a line of sometimes three hundred
_vendangeurs_ and _vendangeuses_ who starting at the same moment, ascend
the hill-side cutting the grapes, filling and emptying their baskets.
The young men strike up some jovial song in praise of wine, the girls
reply; and before this soul-stirring chorus, this burst of gay and
animated feeling, the game, astounded at the concert, break and retire
before them. Then is the moment for the sportsman, who, concealed in a
large thicket and comfortably seated at the summit of the hill, listens
and laughs in his sleeve as he hears the affrighted partridge call, and
the timid hare rushing through the vines towards him; they approach, are
within range of his gun, and ere long the shot-bag is emptied, and the
sportsman is in that rare but agreeable dilemma of not knowing what to
do with his game or his gun.

In a wine country the _vendange_ is certainly the most exciting and
merriest season of the year--it is a succession of delightful _fêtes_ in
the open air, of repasts amongst the vines and under the shade of the
peach-trees, riding-parties in the forest, whose echoes are awakened by
the melancholy notes of the horn, water-parties on the lakes, dances in
the field and round the wine-press, &c.

Every _château_ is full to overflowing in Le Morvan during the month of
August,--bands of Parisians, Picards, and Normans, acquaintances
scarcely made, friends, friends'-friends, with their wives, children,
dogs, nurses, and luggage arrive each hour and by every road. Every
family is invaded, beds are doubled, plates are not to be found,--there
is only one glass for two, one knife for three; the servants, stupified
and astonished, know not how to reply or which way to turn themselves;
the cooks, half-roasted and lost amidst an army of sauce-pans, know not
what they are doing; they put mustard into the _méringues_, cruets of
vinegar in the soup--every one is on the laugh, except however the heads
of families, who rendered almost crazy by this tide of human beings
always rising, by the bell of the _porte cochère_ always ringing, pass
on from one to the other the new arrivals, with a note as follows:

"Mons. de G.... presents his compliments to Mons. de V...., and has the
honour to inform him that not possessing in his house one bed or one
arm-chair that is not occupied, he has the pleasure of sending him two
Normans and three Parisians."

P.S. "The two Normans are first-rate waltzers, the Parisians perfect
singers." The reply will perhaps be couched in the following strain:

"Mons. de V.... presents his compliments to Mons. de G...., and has the
honour to inform him that being himself under the necessity of sleeping
in his cellar, he cannot, though most anxious to oblige him, receive the
two Norman dancers and the three Parisian warblers." Thus it sometimes
happens that very charming, elegant, and sensitive gentlemen, who under
ordinary circumstances would be very difficult to please, are obliged
to sleep in a barn or loft, on a very nice bed of clean straw, with a
dark lantern to light them there, and the luxury of a truss of hay for a
pillow.

The peasants, generally speaking, do not witness the arrival of these
visitors with much pleasure,--the dandies more especially, who shod in
varnished leather, always over-dressed, musked, and starched, attract,
so they think, too much the attention of the young girls. Fathers,
mothers, and, above all, lovers, are at once on the look out. They
mistrust these fine gentlemen, whom they always designate by the
appellation of "gilded serpents."

My friends from other departments often remarked the looks of aversion
with which the natives sometimes met them; and not comprehending the
reason, have asked me for an explanation. Do you observe, I said, that
little white house, half-hidden yonder in the poplars--there, on the
banks of the Cure? That house, a few years ago, was the abiding-place of
a happy and honest family,--a father, and his three daughters.

The father, who in his youth was in very good circumstances, was ruined
by bad harvests, an epidemic disease in his cattle, and by other
disasters that cause the downfall of many farmers. Nevertheless, and
though his losses were great, he lived happy and even contented with his
children, who, all three of irreproachable conduct and character, and
excellent needlewomen, did their utmost to ameliorate his position. They
made dresses for the ladies in the town, worked by the day, and
sometimes, when they found their earnings during the summer months fall
short of what they thought sufficient to meet the expenses of the coming
winter, they hired themselves to some proprietor during the period of
the _vendange_.

The youngest of the three,--Herminie, she might be about sixteen,--was a
charming girl, a true child of Nature, fresh as a wild flower, awaking
and rising every day of the year from her peaceful happy couch with the
birds of heaven, always smiling and singing. Herminie was the joy, the
favourite of the old man,--she was the linnet, the darling, and the life
of the house. One autumnal day, (the period at which, as I have before
remarked, our province abounds with strangers,) her figure attracted the
attention of one of those cursed beings, with a false heart and lying
lips, that the great cities send into our rural districts, carrying with
them desolation and mourning. I know not in what manner it occurred,
what falsehoods, what arts he used, or what traps he laid,--but he
succeeded too well in his base purpose. The poor girl was deceived.
Easily convinced,--she was too pure, too young to doubt; and her mother,
who would have been there to watch over her, was alas! sleeping in the
very churchyard in which, in the shade of the evening, she first met her
seducer. Enough,--the heartless man of the world obtained the love of
the poor and simple Herminie,--and his whim, his heartless selfish whim
gratified,--he disappeared.

The fault, the fault of confiding woman, soon became public. Abandoned
and betrayed, the poor girl sought death as a refuge in her distress,
and threw herself into the river; but her father, who watched every
action of his daughter, was near, and saved her. A man of unusual
intelligence, and an excellent heart, his maledictions fell entirely
upon the head of him who had wronged her; for his child he had only
tears and consolation. Herminie became a mother; her sisters and friends
were earnest and devoted in their attentions, and anticipated her every
thought; but broken-hearted, she bent her head like some beautiful lily,
which has at the parent root some corroding worm. Her gaiety fled, her
songs ceased; pale and silent, she might be seen standing on some rock,
listening to the howling of the storm, or, her little boy on her lap,
seated for hours at her father's cottage door, picking some faded rose
to pieces leaf by leaf, and looking vacantly on the fragments as they
lay at her feet.

But at the bottom of her cup of grief was still one more bitter
drop,--oh! how much more bitter than the rest! Her child, as if
inheriting the melancholy of its mother, ceased to prattle, to smile; it
did not thrive, it sickened; and in spite of all her care and watchings,
of whole nights passed in prayers to the Virgin, to her patron Saint,
and God, in spite of many an hour of repentant and sorrowing tears,--it
died! Bowed to the earth by this fresh, this overwhelming misfortune,
Herminie complained not, but she became more pale: she was sometimes
found plunged in silent but profound grief, looking towards heaven as if
seeking there the little precious being the Almighty had taken from her;
as if she was anxious to follow,--to be at rest, united with her baby
boy again.

The _vendange_ returned once more; but the perfumed gentleman, the
villain from the capital, came not again. Herminie was desirous of
assisting in the labours of the season. "I am," said she, "strong
enough;" and though her sisters endeavoured to dissuade her, she
persisted in accompanying them to the vineyard, but there she found her
strength was unequal to the task, a smile to one, and a kind answer to
another, was all that she could give,--nevertheless it was remarked,
during the course of the day that she spoke several times out loud, as
if conversing with some invisible being. Evening arrived, and the
waggons carried off their ripe and luscious loads, leaving the young men
and girls racing up and down the pathways, and amongst the vines,
endeavouring to smear each other's faces with the purple fruit.

Behind these laughing groups came Herminie, the expression of her dark
blue eye floating in space, and, like the flight of the swallow, resting
on nothing. Onward she slowly stepped, idly pushing before her the first
faded leaves of autumn, withered by the hoar frost; and, instead of the
intoxicating grape, she carried in her hand a _bouquet_ of the arbutus
and the _alize_, fruits without perfume, like her own heart, now without
hope or love. Night came: every eye weary with toil was closed,--the
chimes alone telling the hours of the night vibrated on the air. Towards
morning a startling cry of horror was heard from a cottage on the banks
of the Cure--Herminie was dead! that is to say, her face was paler than
usual in her sleep; but she awoke no more! I shall ever remember that
beautiful face, for I had never till then contemplated the countenance
of one whose spirit had taken its way to that country from which no
traveller returns.

A few days, and the withered rose-leaves which the poor girl had pulled
at the cottage door were scattered by the wind; a few more, and the poor
old father followed his favourite child; and his surviving daughters,
half-crazed with grief and sorrow, left the neighbourhood. As to him who
was the original cause of this domestic tragedy,--rich, happy, perhaps a
deputy and making laws himself,--he lives, and is probably respected. We
call ourselves a civilized people; we throw into prison a man who
strikes another,--and we do not punish, we do not cast from society, we
do not even reproach the base hypocrite, who, with a smile on his lips,
and for the infamous gratification of his bad, ungovernable, selfish
passions, becomes the murderer of a whole family. Bad and rotten are the
laws which permit such infamous practices. Unworthy of trust are the
legislators who dream not--who never think of preventing these impure
and festering diseases of our social system. My friends, who had
listened attentively to the sad tale, turned from me to inspect more
closely the white cottage by the Cure, and no longer expressed any
astonishment at the severe countenances of the peasants.

But how does it happen, will the reader say, that so delightful a
province of France as that of Le Morvan should have remained for
nineteen centuries unknown to England,--that nation of travellers who
are to be found in every corner of the globe inhabitable and
uninhabitable? How is it that such a pearl,--a sporting country
too,--should have remained buried for so long a period as it were under
the dark mantle of indifference? And is it to be credited that in a
district in which are to be found simultaneously wolves and health, wild
boar and simplicity, the best wines in the world, and all the
theological virtues, should have remained up to this day hidden--lost in
the deep shadows of its woods and the solitude of its mountains?

In the first place, then, I must remind you that in order to reach Le
Morvan it is not necessary to traverse either the Indian Archipelago or
the Cordilleras, or black or ferocious populations. Those who have by
accident passed through it, have not been induced by its appearance to
inscribe its name in their note-books. But Le Morvan is close at hand;
Le Morvan, so to speak, touches England,--a sufficient reason, as every
one knows, for taking no interest in it.

Every year caravans of tourists leave for Italy and the East; they go to
gaze upon the remains of what was once the palace of the famous Zenobia,
Queen of Palmyra, or to kill the lizards on the steps of the mouldering
Coliseum; one invites the scorpions of Greece to bite his leg; another
seeks the yellow fever in the Brazils; a third prefers being robbed in
Calabria, or dying of thirst in the Deserts of Lybia;--the more distant
and perilous the journey, the greater the pleasure of accomplishing it.
Such is English taste.

Yet Le Morvan is a charming and picturesque country--a lovely region,
clad with verdure, flowers, and forest-trees, and watered by fresh,
sparkling, and silvery streams, which every one can reach without
fatigue, much expense, and without the slightest chance of danger, but
perhaps, as I have before said, its proximity is its misfortune.

Should any one after perusing this volume desire to visit Le Morvan, he
should be aware that to do so with any degree of pleasure or profit it
is absolutely necessary to speak French fluently,--for half our
peasants are not in the least aware the earth is round, and that on it
there are other nations besides their own. To see its thousand beauties,
to fish its rivers and enter into its delightful, exciting and perilous
sports, to plunge without hesitation into the depths of its forests, the
traveller should also be accompanied by an experienced guide, and
piloted by a friendly hand.

Le Morvan, unknown to all to-day, would come forth quickly from the
shell of obscurity in which it lies concealed, if some man of rank in
England, led thither by hazard or caprice, were to spend a few weeks
amidst its glades and vineyards, its mountains and its streams.

What was Cannes twenty years since? who ever mentioned it in England,
who knew its beauties? Nobody. Lord Brougham passes there, stops,
selects a hill, crowns its top with a white _château_, scatters the gold
from his purse, and sheds over the little town the lustre of the renown
won by his versatile genius--Cannes immediately becomes the
vogue--Cannes is charming, magnificent! Cannes, certainly, with her
fields of jasmine and roses, her groves of orange-trees, her burning
sun, blue skies and sea, and her warm pine-woods, is a delightful
spot;--but Cannes is also a place of languor and sloth, a lavender-water
country. If you have the gout, if you are old and rich, if you have
delicate lungs, go to Cannes, your life will be agreeable but
enervating.

But Le Morvan is certainly not a country for a _petit-mâitre_ or a
delicate lady to live in; to enjoy yourself there you must have the fire
and energy of youth in your veins, a stout heart, the lungs of a
mountaineer, and a sinewy frame. You must love a forester's life, the
hound and the rifle; you must be a Gordon Cumming in a small way. To the
English invalid, I would recommend the ex-Chancellor's retreat; but to
him who in the full sense of the term is a sporting man, or a lover of
nature, I would say: Go--explore Le Morvan!



  LIFE OF BEAU BRUMMELL.

  A FEW COPIES OF THIS WORK ARE STILL ON HAND.

  Price 10s.; Published at £1 8s.

  SAUNDERS AND OTLEY; or CAWTHORNE'S LIBRARY,
  Cockspur-street.


  SHORTLY WILL BE PUBLISHED,

  A NEW AND VERY EASY METHOD

  OF ASCERTAINING

  THE GENDER OF FRENCH NOUNS,

  Translated from the Manuscript in French

  OF THE

  LATE MONS. FOUCAULT,
  MEMBER OF THE INSTITUTE OF FRANCE,

  BY

  CAPTAIN JESSE,
  AUTHOR OF "NOTES OF A HALFPAY;" "LIFE OF BRUMMELL;"
  "MURRAY'S HAND-BOOK FOR RUSSIA," ETC., ETC.





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