Part 4 out of 5
descriptions of places upon the grand routes, Quebec and Montreal have
been done by them to a hair; Kingston and another wicked place made
notorious for bad manners; Toronto, Hamilton, and London of the West
photographed with a camera of maximum dimensions. Upon the two great
railroad-lines by which Canada is now traversed,--the Grand Trunk
and the Great Western,--there is hardly a station which has not been
mentioned by the reporters, either for the loyal manner in which it
was decorated to do honor to the youthful Prince, or for the rather
inhospitable display of certain objectionable symbols by the people
But neither in Canada nor elsewhere is it upon the grand routes that
glimpses can be had of interior life and character. Primitive simplicity
is altogether incompatible with railroads. The boy who resides near a
station is quite an old man, compared with any average boy taken from
the sequestered clearings ten miles back: he may be a worse kind of boy,
or he may be a better, but he isn't the same kind, at any rate. Of
girls it is more difficult to speak with confidence in the present
era,--hooped skirts having pretty nearly assimilated them everywhere;
but I have noticed that they are less ingenuous along railroads than in
secluded districts, and their parents more suspicious,--a fact which
makes railroad-vicinities inferior places to dwell in, compared to those
that are rural and remote from the demoralizing influences of up and
I do not aver that the railroad is devoid of a kind of poetry of its
own,--the same kind of sentiment, nearly, that resides about anvils
and smelting-furnaces in the Hartz Mountains and in the great
coal-districts: an infernal kind of sentiment, for the most part, being
inseparable from burning fiery furnaces and grime; as in "Fridolin," and
in the "Song of the Bell," and in the "Forging of the Anchor." Once,
particularly, in travelling by rail, did I experience the mysterious
glamour that seems to hang round iron more than about any other metal.
It was past midnight; and on waking up after a sleep of some hours, I
found myself alone in the long car, which had come to a stand-still
while I slept. The stillness of the night was broken at intervals by a
short, loud boom, as of an iron bell ringing up some terrible domestic
from the incomprehensible unseen. On looking out of the window, I saw by
some dim lamp-light that we were alone in an immense iron hall; _we_, I
say, for there was a ponderous, grimy being darkly visible to me, whose
gigantic shadow made terrible gestures upon the walls and among the
great iron girders of the roof, as he moved slowly along the train,
striking the wheels with a heavy sledge-hammer as he went. Of course
there was nothing unusual in such a proceeding, the object of which was,
probably, to ascertain something connected with the condition of the
rolling stock; but there was a kind of awful poetry in the toll of the
iron bell, which ran, and reverberated, and tingled among the iron ribs
in the building, making them all sing as if they were things of flesh
and blood, with plenty of iron in the latter, which is reckoned to be
conducive to robust health.
But the romance of rolling stock has yet to be disengaged, and the
inspired conductor or bardic baggage-master destined to do that is yet
in the shell. May he long remain there!
Off the track some ten or twenty miles, though, almost anywhere, some of
the materials, at least, for good, regular poetry of the old-fashioned
kind are to be found. A mill, for instance, with a wooden wheel,--no
demoralizing iron about it, in fact, except what cannot well be
dispensed with, in view of wear and tear. A white cottage, where
the miller dwells serene; mossy roof, red brick chimney, and no
lightning-rod or any other iron, being the principal features of the
serene miller's abode. Cherries, in that tranquil person's garden, that
are nearly ripe, and roses of a delicate red,--but none so ripe or so
red as the lips and cheeks of the serene miller's daughter, who trips
across the little wooden foot-bridge over the mill-stream, singing a
birdy kind of song as she goes. She is clad in a black velvet bodice
and russet skirt, and has no iron about her of any description, unless,
indeed, it is in her blood,--where it ought to be. The breath of kine
waiting to be relieved of their honest milk, which is a good, solid kind
of fluid in such places, and meanders about the land with great freedom
in company with honey. All these things will be very scarce in the world
by-and-by, on which account it seems to be a judicious thing to go off
the track a little, now and then, if only to "say that we have seen
In following the graphic narratives of the Prince of Wales's tour, the
mind naturally wandered away to places _not_ visited by him, although
within easy distance of his fore-ordered course. It is well that there
are places left to talk about! Let us conjure up a few old reminiscences
of one,--a silent, primitive little nook of the North, within an hour's
ride of Quebec, but too insignificant a spot for the coveted distinction
of a royal visit. Crowned heads, then, will have the goodness to
transfer their attention, and skip to the next article.
The nook to which I refer is Lorette, in Lower or French Canada, where
it is commonly called _Jeune Lorette_, to distinguish it from _Ancienne
Lorette_,--a less interesting place, distant from it about four miles.
Jeune Lorette is situated about eight miles north-west of Quebec, upon
the beautiful, romantic stream called the St. Charles, which rushes down
many a picturesque gorge, and winds through many pleasant meadows, in
its course of some twenty miles from Lake St. Charles away up in the
hills to the St. Roch suburb of Quebec. Here it assumes the character of
a deep, tortuous dock, incumbered with the _debris_ of many ship-yards,
and reflecting the skeleton shapes of big-ribbed merchantmen on the
stocks. Here, too, it is generally called the Little River; probably to
distinguish it from the great River St. Lawrence, into which it oozes at
But higher up, as I have said, the St. Charles is romantic and rushes
on its fate. At Lorette, it divides the village in twain: a western
section, for the most part peopled by French-Canadian _habitans_; an
eastern one, inhabited by half-breed Indians, a remnant of the once
powerful Hurons of old.
These Canadian Hurons are not, in their present condition, corroborative
of the Cooper specifications of Indian life: rather the contrary, in
fact. There is a wing of them--a wing without feathers, indeed--settled
down at Amherstburgh, on the far western marge of Lake Erie, in Canada,
quite six hundred miles away from their brethren of Lorette. When
shooting woodcock once in that district, I entered the comfortable log
farm-house of the chief of the settlement, whose name was Martin. He
was a fat, rather Dutch-looking Indian, but still active and
industrious,--for a man who is an Indian and fat. I asked Mr. Martin if
he hunted much; to which he replied, No, he did not,--adding, that he
never was far into the woods but once in his life, and that was on
his own lot of a hundred acres of bush, in which he was lost, on that
occasion, for two days.
Among the Hurons of Lorette there are a few young men who hunt moose and
caribou in the proper season; but the men, generally speaking, as
well as the women, are engaged in the manufacture of snow-shoes and
moccasons,--articles for which there is a great demand in Lower Canada.
Philippe Vincent, a chieftain and shoemaker of the tribe, told me that
he had disposed of twelve hundred dollars' worth of these articles, on
a trip to Montreal, from which he had just returned. Many articles of
Indian fancy-work are also manufactured by them: beaded pouches for
tobacco, bark-work knick-knacks, and curious racks made of the hoofs of
the moose, and hung upon the wall to stick small articles into.
On the profits of this work many of them live in comfort,--nay, in
luxury. Paul Vincent, a cousin of Philippe mentioned above, and, like
him, a chief of the tribe and a renowned builder of snow-shoes, paid two
hundred and seventy-five dollars for a piano for his daughter, when I
was at Quebec, five or six years ago. Whenever I visited Philippe, that
stately man of the Hurons would usher me into a little parlor with a
sofa in it and a carpet on the floor; he would produce brandy in a cut
decanter, and cake upon a good porcelain plate, and would be merry in
French and expansive on the subject of trade.
Most of these hybrid Hurons are quite as white as their Canadian
neighbors; but they generally have the horse-tail hair, and black, beady
eye of the aborigines. The ordinary dress of the men, in winter, is a
blue blanket-coat, made with a _capuchon_, or hood, which latter is
generally trimmed with bright-colored ribbon and ornamented with beads.
Epaulettes, fashioned out of pieces of red and blue cloth, somewhat
after the pattern of a pen-wiper, impart a distinguished appearance
to the shoulders of these garments, which are rendered still more
picturesque by being tucked round the body with heavy woollen sashes,
variegated in red, blue, and yellow. Some of these sashes are heavily
beaded, and worth from five to ten dollars each; and they, as well
as the Indian blanket-coats, are to be had at the furriers' shops in
Quebec, where there is a considerable demand for them by members of
snow-shoe clubs, and others whose occupations or amusements render that
style of costume appropriate for their wear. The older women dress
in the ordinary squaw costume, with short, narrow petticoats, and
embroidered _metasses_, or leggings. When going out, they fold a blue
blanket over all, and put on a regular, unpicturesque, stove-pipe hat,
with a band of tin-foil around it,--which makes them look like one of
those mulatto coachmen one sees now and then on the box of a _bonton_
barouche, with his silver-mounted hat and double-caped blue box-coat.
The young girls are disposed to innovations upon the petticoats, and
modifications of the _metasses_. Once I saw one standing on a great gray
crag at the foot of the fall. She looked extremely picturesque at a
little distance, giving a nice bit of local color to the scene with her
scarlet legs; but on a nearer approach, much of the value of the color
disappeared before the unromantic facts of a pale-face petticoat and
patent-leather gaiter-boots. I have noticed several of the younger
people here with brown hair and blue or gray eyes, significant that the
aboriginal blood is being gradually diluted. In another generation or
two, there will be little of it left among them. But the correspondents
of the press, who described some of these Indians seen by them at
Quebec, are mistaken in attributing to them an admixture of Irish blood.
Until within eight years past, there were few, if any, Irish to be found
in the neighborhood of Lorette. Since that time, the construction of the
Quebec water-works, which are supplied from Lake St. Charles, has given
employment to hundreds of the Hibernian stock in that neighborhood;
and I know not whether their influence as regards race may not be now
discernible in the features of many pugnacious Huronites of tender
years: but the white element traceable in the lineaments of the present
and passing generations of the settlement is distinctly attributable to
the proximity of the French-Canadian, whose language has been transfused
into them with the blood.
Few, if any, of the older people of Lorette speak English,--Huron and
French being the only languages at their command. Since the building of
the great reservoir, however, many of the rising generation are picking
up the English tongue in its roundest Irish form. Previously, matters
were the reverse. I once noticed a handsome, brown-faced boy there, who
used to come about with a bow and arrows, soliciting coppers, which were
placed one by one in a split stick, shot at, and pocketed by the archer,
if hit,--as they almost always were. He spoke Indian and French, and I
took him for an olive-branch of the tribe; but, on questioning him, he
told me that his name was Bill Coogan, and that he first saw the light,
I think, in Cork, Ireland.
There is one charming feature at Lorette,--a winding, dashing cascade,
which boils and creams down with splendid fury through a deep gorge
fenced with pied and tumbled rocks, and overhung by gnarly-boughed
cedars, pines, and birches. There is, or at least there was, a crumbling
old saw-mill on a ledge of rock nearly half-way up the torrent. It was
in keeping with the scene, and I hope it is there still; but it was very
shaky when I last saw it, and has probably made an _eboulement_ down to
the foot of the fall before now. Some short distance above the head of
the fall, near the bridge by which the two villages are connected,
the scene is pictorially damaged by a stark, staring paper-mill, the
dominant colors of which are Solferino-red and pea-green. This, a
comparatively new feature in the landscape, is not visible from below,
however, and it is from there that the fall is seen to best advantage.
To the eye of the experienced fisherman, it is obvious that the St.
Charles, with its sparkling rapids, and the deep, swirling pools formed
by its numerous "elbows," must erstwhile have been a chosen, retreat of
the noble salmon. Even now, notwithstanding the obstructions caused by
the immense deposits of ship-yard refuse at its mouth, a few of these
fine fish are caught every season by one or two persevering anglers
from Quebec,--men who thrive on disappointment,--whose fish-hooks are
miniature anchors of Hope. Lake St. Charles, from which the river
derives its existence and its name, is a wild, beautiful tarn, about
five miles above Lorette, embosomed in hills and woods. There are good
bass in that lake, by whose shores there dwells--or dwelt--an ancient
fisherman called Gabriel, who supplied anglers with canoes, and paddled
them about the waters.
Lorette, although undistinguished by a glance from the mild blue eyes of
the Premier Prince of England, was flashed upon, years ago, by the awful
light that gleamed from the dark, fierce ones of Hamlet, Prince of
Denmark. This is how I came to know it.
Fifteen years ago,--it was on the seventeenth of August, 1845,--I made
my first pilgrimage to Lorette, in company with a friend. We wandered at
large through the village, talking _patois_ to the swarthy damsels, and
picking up Indian knick-knacks, as we went. At last, fired with the
ambition of doing a distinguished thing, we proposed calling upon the
head chief of the village, whose name, I think, was Simon, but might
possibly have been Peter,--for I regret to say that my memory is rather
misty upon that important point. That personage was absent from home;
but we were hospitably received by his father, who also appeared to be
his butler, as he was engaged in bottling off some root-beer into stone
blacking-jars, when we entered. I suppose the chief's father must once
have been a chief himself, and that his menial position arose from the
fact of his appearance being rather disreputable. He was a decrepit and
very dirty old man, in a tight blue frock-coat, and swathed as to his
spindle shanks with scarlet leggings. Sitting by a small window at the
farther end of the large, bare room, was the prettiest little Huronite
damsel I ever saw, rather fair than dark, and very neatly attired in a
costume partly Indian. This little girl--a granddaughter of the dirty
old man, as that person informed us--was occupied in tying up some small
bundles of what the Canadians call _racine_--a sweet-smelling kind of
rush-grass, sold by them in the Quebec market, and used like _sachets_,
for imparting a pleasant odor to linen garments. After some conversation
of a general character, the old man requested us to write our names in
his visitors' book, which was a long, dirty volume, similar in form to
those usually seen upon bar-counters. In this book we were delighted to
find the autographs of many dear friends, of whom we little expected
to meet with traces in this nook of the North. Mark Tapley and Oliver
Twist, for instance, had visited the place in company some two years
before. There could be no mistake about it; for there were the two
names, in characteristic, but different manuscript, bound together
by the mystic circumflex that indicated them to be friends and
travelling-companions. The record covered a period of ten years; but
was that sufficient to account for the appearance of Shakspeare on its
pages? And yet there he was; and in merry mood he must have been, when
he came to Lorette,--for he wrote himself down "Bill," and dashed off
a little picture of himself after the signature, in a bold, if not
artistic manner. Our friend Titmouse was there, too, represented by
his famous declaration commencing, "Tittlebat Titmouse is my name." He
seemed to have taken particularly fast hold of the memory of the old
Huron, who described him as a tremendous-looking, big person, with
large black whiskers, and remembered having enjoyed a long pull at a
brandy-flask carried by him. Of course there can be no doubt about that
man being the real Tittlebat of our affections. Of the other signatures
in the Huronite album, I chiefly remember that of M.F. Tupper, which I
looked upon at the time as a base forgery, and do aver my belief now
that it was nothing else: for the aged sagamore described the writer of
that signature as a young, cheerful, and communicative man, who smoked a
short, black pipe, and had spaniels with him. Could my friend, could I,
venture to inscribe our humble names among this galaxy of the good and
great? Not so: and yet, to pacify the Huronite patriarch's thirst for
autographs, we wrote signatures in his brown old book; and if that
curious volume is still in existence, the names of Don Caesar de Bazan
and Sir Lucius O'Trigger, Bart., will be found closely linked together
on a particular page with the circumflex of friendship.
And now the old man, delighted with the addition to his autographs,
proposed to treat us to an exhibition of several medals gained by him
for deeds of valor when he was a warrior, and previously to his having
entered upon the career of a bottler of root-beverages. He had silver
disks presented to him by at least two of Thackeray's Georges, a couple
from William IV., and I think one from her present Majesty, Queen
Victoria. All of these he touched with reverence, and not until he had
purified his hands upon a dirty towel. After we had duly admired these
decorations, and listened with patience to the old man's garrulous talk
about them, he told us that he had yet another to show,--one presented
to him many years ago by a great man of that day,--a man embalmed
for all posterity on account of his unrivalled performances upon the
tight-rope,--a man of whom he reduced all description to mendicancy in
designating him as _un danseur tres-renomme sur la corde tendue_. The
medal was a small silver one, and it bore the following inscription:--
FROM EDMUND KEAN, THE BRITISH ACTOR,
TO TOUSSAHISSA, CHIEF OF THE HURON INDIANS. 1826.
And such is fame! It appears that Kean, always fond of excitement, had
organized a tremendous _pow-wow_ among these poor specimens of the red
man, on his visit to Quebec. They adopted him,--constituted him a chief
of their tribe. It would be interesting to have a full account of the
great passionist's demeanor upon that solemn occasion. Did he harrow
up his hearers with a burst from "Othello" or a deep-sea groan from
"Hamlet," and then create a revulsion of feeling by somersaulting over
the centre-fire of the circle and standing on his head before it,
grinning diabolically at the incensed pot? Or did he, foreshadowing the
coming Blondin, then unplanned, stretch his tight-rope across the small
Niagara that flashes down into the chasm of the St. Charles, and,
kicking his boots off, carry some "mute, inglorious" Colcord over in an
Indian bark basket? If he did such things, the old Huronite was foggy
upon the subject and reserved, limiting his assertions to the statement,
that "the British actor" was a _farceur_, and likewise _un danseur
tres-renomme sur la corde tendue_.
Long afterwards, when I resided at Quebec, my visits to Lorette were
very frequent. Once, as I passed along the street, or road, between the
straggling log-houses, I was accosted, in good English, by a fat and
very jovial old squaw, who was attired in a green silk dress, sported
a turban, and appeared to be altogether a superior kind of person. On
inquiry, I learned from her that she was the widow of a former chief of
the tribe, and came originally from Upper Canada, where she learned to
speak English. Her husband had been presented with many medals, she
said;--would I like to see them? I followed the old lady into her
dwelling, where she showed me several silver medals, which I thought I
recognized as the same exhibited by the aged Huronite with the red legs.
But the Kean medal was not among them; nor could I, by any system of
description in my power, recall the features of the relic to the memory
of the old squaw.
Subsequently, I tried many times to trace it, but without success. Many
strangers visit Lorette during the summer season, and it is possible
that some virtuoso, struck by the associative value of the relic, may
have prevailed on its owner to part with it for a consideration. There
are people who would have possessed themselves of it without the
exchange of a consideration. Should this meet the eye of its present
possessor, and if so be that the medal came into his hands on the
consideration principle, so that he need not be ashamed of it, he will
confer a favor by giving the correct reading of the Indian name. For
"Toussahissa," as I have rendered it, is not exact, but only as near
as I can make it out from my pencil-memoranda, which, written in a
note-book that did occasional duty as a fly-book, have been partially
obliterated in that spot by the contact of a large and remarkably gaudy
salmon-fly, whose repose between the leaves is disturbed, perhaps, by
aquatic nightmares of salmon gaping at him from whirling eddies.
Between Lorette and the unexplored wilderness that stretches away to
polar desolation there is but a narrow selvage of civilization. Looking
toward it from my windows at Quebec, I could see the blue, serrated
ridge of highlands beyond which the surveyor has never yet run his
lines,--beyond which the surveyor's lines would be superfluous, indeed,
and futile; for the soil is of the barren, rocky kind, and the timber of
the scrubby. Not quite so savage is this frontier, indeed, as the wild
precincts described by the Nebraska editor, whose meditations for a
leader used to be cut short, occasionally, by the bellowing of the
shaggy bison at his window, or the incursion of the redoubtable
"grizzly" into his wood-shed where the elk-meat hung. But, in the clear,
cold nights that precede the punctual and distinct winter of these
regions, the black bears often come down from their fastnesses amid the
wild ridges, and astonish the drowsy _habitant_ and his household by
their pranks among his pigs and calves: also in the spring.
In a small settlement of this wild tract, a few miles to the north-east
of Lorette, there dwelt, some six or seven years ago, a poor farmer
named Cantin, who added to the meagre fare afforded by his sterile acres
such stray birds and hares as he could get within range of his old
musket, without risking himself very far away from the isolated
clearing. One night in the early part of May, when the snow had
disappeared from the open grounds, but lingered yet in the ravines and
rocky thickets, a dreadful tumult among the cattle of the settlement
indicated the presence of bear. Cantin had the old firelock ready, but
the night was dark and unfavorable for active measures. At gray morning,
traces of the nocturnal intruder were visible, and that close by the
_cabane_ in which Cantin lived, in the little inclosure near which a
struggle had evidently taken place, resulting in the discomfiture of a
yearling calf, portions of which were discovered in the thickets a short
distance from the clearing. Here the patches of snow gave ample evidence
of the passage of a very large bear. When the sun was well up,
Cantin sallied forth alone, with his gun and a small supply of
ammunition,--unluckily for him, a very small supply. He did not return
to dinner. Shots were heard in the course of the day, at a considerable
distance in the hills; and when the afternoon was far advanced, and
Cantin had not made his appearance, several of his neighbors--all the
men of the settlement, indeed, and they made but a small party--set out
in search of him. The snow-patches facilitated their search; and, having
tracked him a good way, they suddenly saw him kneeling by a tree at the
end of an open glade, with his hands clasped in an attitude of prayer.
He was a frightful spectacle when they raised his _bonnet-bleu_, which
had fallen down over his face. The entire facial mask had been torn
clean from the skull by a fearful sweep of the bear's paw, and hung from
his collar-bone by a strip of skin. He must have been dead for some
hours. Fifty yards from where he knelt, the bear was found lying under
some bushes, quite dead, and with two bullet-holes through its carcass.
Cantin, it appeared, had expended all his ammunition, and the wounded
beast had executed a terrible vengeance on him while the life-blood
was welling through the last bullet-hole. I saw this bear brought into
Quebec, in a cart, on the following day; and it is to be seen yet, I
believe, or at least the taxidermal presentment of it is, in the shop of
a furrier in John Street of that city. An enterprising druggist bought
up the little fat left in the animal after its long winter's fast; and
such was the demand among sensational people for gallipots of "grease of
the bear that killed Cantin," that it seemed as if fashion had ordained
the wearing of hair "on end."
Of the other wild beasts of this hill-district, the commonest is that
known to the inhabitants as the _loup-cervier_,--a name oddly enough
misconstructed by a writer on Canadian sports into "Lucifer." This is
the true lynx,--a huge cat with long and remarkably thick legs, paws in
which dangerous claws are sheathed, and short tail. Its principal prey
is the common or Northern hare, which abounds in these regions: but at
times the _loup-cervier_ will invade the poultry-yards; and he is even
held to account, now and then, for the murder of innocent lambs, and the
disappearance of tender piglings whose mothers were so negligent as to
let them stray alone into the brushwood. These fierce cats have been
killed, occasionally, quite close to Quebec. When thus driven to
approach populous districts, it must be from scarcity of their
accustomed food; for they are usually very savage and ravenous, when
found in such places. I know an instance, myself, in which a gentleman
of Quebec, riding a little way from the town, was suddenly pounced upon
and attacked by a _loup-cervier_, near the Plains of Abraham. He struck
the animal with his whip several times, but it persisted in following
him, and he got rid of it only by putting spurs to his horse and beating
it in speed. The animal was killed soon afterwards, near the same place.
I had heard of another variety of wildcat, seen at rare intervals in the
same districts. The _habitant_ is rather foggy on the subject of zoology
in general, and my attempts to obtain a satisfactory description of this
animal were futile. Some of the definitions of this rare _chat-sauvage,_
indeed, might have answered for specifications of a griffin, or of a
vampire-bat. At last, one day, when walking about in the market-place
at Quebec, I saw a crowd assembled round a gray-clad countryman, who
presided over a small box on which the words _Chat-Sauvage_ were
painted. Now was my time to set the question at rest. I invested
sixpence in the show. When a good number of sixpences had been paid in,
the proprietor opened his box, out from which crawled a fat, familiar
raccoon, apparently as much at home in the market-place as he could have
been in the middle of his native swamp. And this was the mysterious
"wild-cat" about which I had asked so many questions and heard so many
It is noticeable that thunder-storms, travelling from the westward
toward Quebec, usually diverge across the valley of the St. Charles in
the direction of Lorette, and coast along the ridge of ground on which
that place is situated to Charlesbourg, a small village lying about four
miles to the east of it, upon the ridge. There the storms appear to
culminate, pouring out the full vials of their wrath upon the devoted
_habitans_ of white-cotted Charlesbourg. The wayfarer who wends through
this rustical district will hardly fail to observe the prevailing taste
for lightning-rods. The smallest cottage has at least two of these
fire-irons, one upon each gable; houses of more pretensions are provided
with an indefinite number; and the big white church has its purple roof
so bristled with them, that the pause which a flash of lightning must
necessarily make before deciding by which of them to come down must
enable any tolerably active person to get out of the way in good time.
And yet, with all these defenders of the faithful, I remember how the
steeple was taken clean off the big white church, in splinters, one wild
night after I had watched a long array of cloud-chariots rolling heavily
away eastward along the ridge: also, how a farmer's handsome daughter,
the belle of the village, sat upright and dead upon a sofa when people
came again to their eyesight after a blinding flash. So much for
lightning-rods!--so much for the mystic iron!
When the day of the _Fete Dieu_ comes round, Quebec and its neighboring
villages are all alive for the celebration of the _fete_, which takes
place on the following Sunday. Then the great suburb of St. Roch is
a sight to see. Every street of it is converted into a green alley,
embowered with young pine-trees, and flaunting with banners temporarily
constructed out of all available pieces of dry-goods, lent by the
devoted shop-keepers of the olden Church. Most extraordinary lithographs
of holy personages are hung out upon the door-posts and walls of every
house. Bowers shading curious little shrines meet the eye everywhere.
The white tables of the little shrines are loaded with gilt and
tinselled offerings in immense variety. Curious bosses, like
lace-pillows got up for church, swing pendent from the verdant
pine-branches. The vast parish-church, of sombre gray masonry, flashing
carnival-fires from the tin-plated pepper-boxes and slopes of its acre
of roof, is receiving or disgorging a variegated multitude of good
Catholics. Within, it is a mass of foliage, a wilderness of shrines, a
cloud-land of incense. Long processions of maidens all in white, and
others of maidens all in pale watchet-blue, are threading the principal
streets. They are not _all_ very religious maidens, I am afraid;
because, as sure as fate, one very young one of those robed in pure
white "made eyes" at me as she passed. Now all this display in Quebec
and its suburbs is set forth on a great scale and with bewildering
turmoil; but if you want to see it in miniature presentment, you must
pass down through St. Roch, and take the road to Lorette. Arrived among
the _sauvages_,--for so the Canadian _habitant_ invariably calls
his Indian brother, who is often as like him as one pea is like
another,--you will there see the little old Huron church decked out in
humble imitation of its younger, but bigger brothers in the city. The
lanes between the log-houses are embowered in a modest way, and the
drapery is eked out by many a yellow flannel petticoat and pair of
scarlet leggings that dally riotously with each other in the breeze. The
shrines are certainly less magnificent than those fairy bowers of
the elf-land St. Roch, but there is a good deal of beaded peltry and
bark-work about them, giving them, in a small way, the character of
aboriginal bazaars. The Hurons are _bons Catholiques_, and everything
connected with the _fete_ is conducted with a solemnity becoming the
character of the Christian red man. So decorous, indeed, are the little
_sauvagesses_ forming the miniature processions, that I do not remember
ever detecting the eyes of any of them wandering and wantoning around,
like those of the naughty little processional in white about whose
conduct I just now complained.
The instinct of the French-Canadian for Indian trading has led one of
that race to establish a general store close by the Huron village,
though on the _habitant_ side of the stream. The gay printed cottons
indispensable to the _belle sauvagesse_ are here to be found, as well as
the blue blankets and the white, of so much account in the wardrobe of
the women as well as of the men. Here, too, are to be had the assorted
beads and silks and worsteds used in the embroidery of moccasons,
epaulettes, and such articles; nor is the quality of the Cognac kept on
hand by Joe for his customers to be characterized as despicable. Indeed,
it would be hazardous to aver that anything is _not_ to be had, for the
proper compensation, in Joe's establishment,--that is, anything
that could possibly be required by the most exacting _sauvage_
or _sauvagesse_, from a strap of sleigh-bells to a red-framed
looking-glass. Out of that store, too, comes a deal of the vivid drapery
displayed upon the _Fete Dieu_, and much of the art-union resource
combined in the attractive cheap lithograph element so edifying to the
I think it was one of those _fetes_--if not, another bright summer
holiday--that I once saw darkly disturbed in this quiet little hamlet.
Standing upon the table-rock that juts out at the foot of the fall so
as to half-bridge over the lower-most eddy, I saw a small object topple
over the summit of the cascade. It was nothing but a common pail or
stable-bucket, as I perceived, when it glided past, almost within arm's
length of me, and disappeared down the winding gorge. When I went up
again to the road, I saw a crowd of holiday people standing near the
little inn. They were solemn and speechless, and, on approaching, I saw
that they were gazing upon the body of a man, dead and sadly crushed
and mutilated. He was a _caleche_-driver from Quebec, well known to the
small community; and although it does not seem any great height from the
roadway near the inn to the tumbled rocks by the river's edge just
above the fall, yet it was a drop to mash and kill the poor fellow dead
enough, when his foot slipped, as he descended the unsafe path to get
water for his horse. A dweller in great cities--say, for instance, one
who lives within decent distance of such a charming locality as that
called the Five Points in New York--could hardly realize the amount of
awe that an event so trifling as a sudden and violent death will spread
over a primitive village community. This happened in the French division
of the place, which, of course, was decorated to the utmost ability of
the people in honor of the _fete_: and so palpable was the gloom cast
over all by the circumstance, that the bright flannels flaunting from
the _cordons_ stretched across the way seemed to darken into palls, and
the gay red streamers must have appeared to the subdued carnival spirits
as warning crape-knots on the door-handle of death.
I believe it is a maxim with the Italian connoisseur of art, that no
landscape is perfect without one red spot to give value to its varieties
of green. On this principle, let me break the monotony of this little
rural sketch with the one touch of genuine American character that
belonged to it at the time of which I speak. Let William Button be the
one red spot that predominated vastly over the green influences by which
he was surrounded. The little inn at Lorette was then kept by a worthy
host bearing the above-mentioned name, which was dingily lettered out
upon a swinging sign, dingily representing a trotting horse,--emblem
as dear to the slow Canadian as to the fast American mind. William
Button--known as Billy Button to hosts of familiar friends--was, I
think, a Kentuckian by birth; a fact which might honestly account for
his having come by the loss of an eye through some operation by which
marks of violence had been left upon the surrounding tracts of his
rugged countenance. He was a short, thick-set man, with bow-legs like
those of a bull-terrier, and walked with a heavy lurch in his gait.
William's head was of immense size in proportion to his stature. Indeed,
that important joint of his person must have been a division by about
two of what artists term heroic proportions, or eight heads to a
height,--a standard by which Button was barred from being a hero, for
his head could hardly have been much less than a fourth of his entire
length. The expression of his face was remarkably typical of American
humor and shrewdness, an effect much aided by the chronic wink afforded
by his closed eye. How Button found his way to this remote spot would
have been a puzzle to any person unfamiliar with American character. How
he managed to live among and deal with and very considerably master a
community speaking no language with which he was acquainted was more
unaccountable still. The inn could not have been a very profitable
speculation, in itself; but there was one room in it fitted out with a
display of Indian manufactures,--some of the articles reposing in
glass cases to protect them from hands and dust, others arranged with
negligent regularity upon the walls. Out of these the landlord made a
good penny, as he charged an extensive percentage upon the original
cost,--that is, to strangers; but if you were in Button's confidence,
then was there no better fellow to intrust with a negotiation for a
pair of snow-shoes, or moose-horns, or anything else in that line
of business. In the winter season he was a great instigator of
moose- and caribou-expeditions to the districts where these animals
abound, assembling for this purpose the best Indian hunters to be found
in the neighborhood, and accompanying the party himself. Out of the spoils
of these expeditions he sometimes made a handsome profit: a good pair of
moose-horns, for instance, used to fetch from six to ten dollars; and
there is always a demand for the venison in the Quebec market. The skins
were manufactured into moccason-leather by Indian adepts whom Button had
in his pay, and who worked for a very low rate of remuneration,--quite
disproportioned, indeed, to the fancy prices always paid by strangers
for the articles turned out by their hands.
The name "Billy Button" carries with it an association oddly
corroborated by a story narrated of himself by the man of whom I am
speaking. Of all the reminiscences connected with the illegitimate drama
that have dwelt with me from my early childhood until now, not one is
more vividly impressed upon my memory than that standard old comedy
on horseback performed by circus-riders long since gone to rest, and
entitled "Billy Button's Journey to Brentford." The hero of this
pleasant horse-play was a tailor,--men following that useful trade being
considered capable of affording more amusement in connection with horses
than any others, excepting, perhaps, jolly mariners on a spree. The plot
of the drama used to strike my young mind as being a "crib" from "John
Gilpin"; but I forgave that, in consideration of the skilful manner in
which the story was wrought out. With what withering contempt used
I, brought up among horses and their riders, to jeer at the wretched
attempts of the tailor to remain permanently upon any central point of
the horse's spinal ridge! How cheerful my feelings, when that man
of shreds and patches fell prostrate in the sawdust, where he lay
grovelling until the next revolution of his noble steed, when the animal
caught him up by the baggiest portion of the trousers and carried him
round the arena as a terrier might a rat! But, oh, what mingled joy and
admiration, when out from the worried mass of coats leaped the nimble
rider, now no longer a miserable tailor, but a roseate young man in
tights and spangles, featly posturing over all the available area of his
steed, and "witching the world with noble horsemanship"!
All these memories crowded upon me with a tremendous shock the very
first time I saw the name of William Button upon the dingy swinging
sign. Afterwards, when I became intimate with that curious person, I
discovered that he was a capital "whip,"--first-rate, indeed, as a
driver of the fast trotting horse, as well as a good judge of that
superior article. With respect to his experiences as a rider he was more
reserved; and it was not until after I had known him a long time that he
confided to me the particulars of a ride once taken by him, which bore,
in its principal features, a singular resemblance to the one performed
by his great name-sake of the sawdust-ring.
There is a pack of fox-hounds kept at Montreal, maintained chiefly by
officers of the garrison, as a shadowy reminiscence, perhaps, of the
real thing, which is essentially of insular Britain and of nowhere else.
Button happened to go to Montreal, on one occasion, for the purpose of
picking up a race-horse, I think, for the Quebec market. Somebody who
used to ride with the hounds had a horse which he wanted to get rid
of, on account of headstrong tendencies in general and inability to
appreciate the advantages of a bit. I remember the animal well. He was
a fiery chestnut, with white about the legs, and very good across a
country so long as he was wanted to go; but no common power could stop
him when once he began to do that. On this animal--"The Buffer," he was
called--Button was persuaded to mount, "just to try him a little,"
his owner said; and by way of doing that with perfect freedom from
restraint, they rode out to where the hounds were to throw off, a couple
of miles from the city. Button used to say that the term "throw off,"
which was new to him in that application, haunted him all the way out,
like a bad dream. It was a bag-fox day, I believe: that is, the hunt was
provided with a trapped animal, brought upon the ground in a sack and
let out when the proper time came,--a process known in sporting parlance
as "shaking a fox." The usual amount of "law" having been conceded, the
hounds were laid on, and went away, as Button said, like a fire-flake
over a prairie. No sooner did "The Buffer" hear the cry of the pack,
than he started forward with a suddenness and force by which his
wretched rider was jerked back at least a foot behind the saddle,
into which place of rest he never once again fell during his many
vicissitudes of position in that ride. I have said that Button was
bow-legged; and to that providential fact did he attribute the power by
which he clung on to various parts of the steed during his wild career
of perhaps a mile, but which seemed to the troubled senses of the rider
not much less than fifty. It was providential for him, too, that the
country was but sparsely intersected by fences, and those not of a very
formidable character: nevertheless, at each of these the too confiding
Button experienced a change of position, being, as he used to express
it, "interjuiced forrard o' the saddle or back'ard o' the saddle,
accordin' to the kind o' thing the hoss flew over, and one time
booleyvusted right under the hoss, whar he hung on by the girth ontil
another buck-jump sent him right side on ag'in; but never, on no
account, did he touch leather ag'in in all that ride." And thus Billy
Button might have ridden farther and fared worse, had he not seen a
terrible fate staring him imminently in the face. The hounds had just
entered a little grove of young pine-trees, which stood very close
together, and bristled with sharp, jagged branches nearly to the root,
after the manner of these children of the wood. At this place of torture
"The Buffer" was rushing with all his might, Button being then situated
upon his neck, in a position most convenient for being "skinned alive"
by the trees, as he said, when a plunge made by the animal over a plashy
pool transferred the rider to his tail, from which he "collapsed right
down in a kind o' swoon, and when he come to, found himself settin' up
to his elbows in muddy water, very solitary-like, and with a terrible
stillness all around."--What became of "The Buffer" I forget, and also
how Button got home; but he certainly did not ride. And he always wound
up the narrative of his first and last fox-hunt by invoking terrible
ends to himself, if ever he "threw leg over dog-hoss ag'in, to see a
Button left Lorette about two years after I first became acquainted with
him, and I next heard of him down at the rock-walled Saguenay, where he
had gone into a speculation for supplying the Boston market with salmon.
But horse-flesh seemed to be more palatable to him than fish; for, later
still, I met him at Toronto, in Upper Canada, mounted upon a powerful
dark brown stallion, and leading another, its exact counterpart.
"Hollo, Button!" said I, in response to his cheery, "How de dew?"--"On
horseback again, I see; have you forgotten the Buffer-business, then?"
"Forgot the yaller cuss!" replied he. "No, Sir-ree! He hangs round me
yet, like fever 'n' agur upon a ma'sh. But the critter I'm onto a'n't no
dog-hoss, you may believe; he don't 'throw off' nor nothin', _he_ don't.
Him and his mate here a'n't easy matched. I fetched 'em up from below on
spec, and you can hev the span for a cool thousand on ice."
And this was the last I saw of Button, who was one of the strangest
combinations of hotel-keeper, horse-jockey, Indian-trader, fish-monger,
and alligator, I ever met.
Tradition still retains a hold upon the Hurons of Lorette, little as
remains to them of the character and lineaments of the red man. A
pitiable procession of their diluted "braves" may sometimes be seen in
the streets of Quebec, on such distinguished occasions as the Prince's
visit. But it is with a manifest consciousness of the ludicrous that
these industrials now do their little drama of the war-dance and the
oration and the council-smoke. That drama has degenerated into a very
feeble farce now, and the actors in it would be quite outdone in their
travesty by any average corps of "supes" at one of our theatres.
By-and-by all this will have died out, and the "Indian side" of the
stream at Lorette will be assimilated in all its features to the other.
The moccason is already typifying the decadence of aboriginal things
there. That article is now fitted with India-rubber soles for the Quebec
demand,--a continuation of the sole running in a low strip round the
edge of the foot. With the gradual widening of that strip, until the
moccason of the red man has been clean obliterated from things that are
by the India-rubber of the white, will the remnant of the Hurons have
passed away with things that were. Verdict on the "poor Indian":--"Wiped
out with an India-rubber shoe."
And then, in future generations, the tradition of Indian blood among
Canadian families of dark complexion, along these ridges, will be about
as vague as that of Spanish descent in the case of certain tribes of
fishermen on the western coast of Ireland. From the assimilation already
going on, however, it may be argued that the physical character of the
Indian will be gradually merged and lost in that of the French colonist.
The Hurons are described as having formerly been a people of large
stature, while those of the present day in Lower Canada are usually
rather undersized than otherwise, like their _habitant_ neighbors. As
a race, the latter are below the middle stature, although generally of
great bodily strength and endurance.
Physical size and grand proportions are looked upon by the
French-Canadian with great respect. In all the cases of popular
_emeutes_ that have from time to time broken out in Lower Canada, the
fighting leaders of the people were exceptional men, standing head
and shoulders over their confiding followers. Where gangs of raftsmen
congregate, their "captains" may be known by superior stature. The
doings of their "big men" are treasured by the French-Canadians in
traditionary lore. One famous fellow of this governing class is known
by his deeds and words to every lumberer and stevedore and timber-tower
about Montreal and Quebec. This man, whose name was Joe Monfaron, was
the bully of the Ottawa raftsmen. He was about six feet six inches high
and proportionably broad and deep; and I remember how people would turn
round to look after him, as he came pounding along Notre-Dame Street, in
Montreal, in his red shirt and tan-colored _shupac_ boots, all dripping
wet after mooring an acre or two of raft, and now bent for his
ashore-haunts in the Ste.-Marie suburb, to indemnify himself with
bacchanalian and other consolations for long-endured hardship. Among
other feats of strength attributed to him, I remember the following,
which has an old, familiar taste, but was related to me as a fact.
There was a fighting stevedore or timber-tower, I forget which, at
Quebec, who never had seen Joe Monfaron, as the latter seldom came
farther down the river than Montreal. This fighting character, however,
made a custom of laughing to scorn all the rumors that came down on
rafts, every now and then, about terrible chastisements inflicted by Joe
upon several hostile persons at once. He, the fighting timber-tower,
hadn't found his match yet about the lumber-coves at Quebec, and he only
wanted to see Joe Monfaron once, when he would settle the question as to
the championship of the rafts on sight. One day, a giant in a red shirt
stood suddenly before him, saying,--
"You're Dick Dempsey, eh?"
"That's me," replied the timber-tower; "and who are you?"
"Joe Monfaron. I heard you wanted me,--here I am," was the Caesarean
response of the great captain of rafts.
"Ah! you're Joe Monfaron!" said the bully, a little staggered at the
sort of customer he saw before him. "I said I'd like to see you, for
sure; but how am I to know you're the right man?"
"Shake hands, first," replied Joe, "and then you'll find out, may be."
They shook hands,--rather warmly, perhaps, for the timber-tower, whose
features wore an uncertain expression during the operation, and who at
last broke out into a yell of pain, as Joe cast him off with a defiant
laugh. Nor did the bully wait for any further explanations; for, whether
the man who had just brought the blood spouting out at the tips of his
fingers was Joe Monfaron or not, he was clearly an ugly customer and had
better be left alone.
There are several roads from Quebec to Lorette, all of them good for
carriages except one, which, from its extreme destitution of every
condition essential to easy locomotion on wheels, is called, in the
expressive language of the French colonists, _La Misere_. And yet this
is the only road which, from touching various points of the River St.
Charles, affords the traveller compensating glimpses of the picturesque
windings of that stream. The pedestrian, however, is the only kind of
explorer who really sees a country and its people; and for him who is
not too proud to walk, _La Misere_ is not so hard to bear as its name
If iron takes the romance out of things, in a general way, as I
mentioned at the beginning of this article my impression that it
rather does, I know not whether primitive Lorette has not become sadly
vulcanized into prosaic progress by the grand system of water-works
established there for the benefit of Quebec. Connected as it is, now,
with the latter place, by seven miles of iron pipes, I would not
undertake to say that it retains aught of the rustic simplicity of its
greener days. Had the pipes been of wood, indeed, the place might
yet have had a chance. To understand this, one should hear the
French-Canadian expatiate upon the superiority of the wooden to the
metal bridge. Five years ago, the road-trustees of Quebec undertook to
span the Montmorency River, just above the great fall, with an iron
suspension-bridge. This would shorten the road, they said, by some two
or three hundred yards of divergence from the old wooden bridge higher
up. They built their bridge, which looked like a spider's web spanning
the verge of the stupendous cataract, when seen from the St. Lawrence
below. It was opened to the public in April, 1856, but was little used
for some days, as the conservative _habitans_, who had gone the crooked
road over the wooden bridge all their lives, declined to see what
advantage could be gained by taking to a straight one pontificed with
iron. It had not been open a week, however, when, as two or three
hurrying peasants were venturing it with their carts, it fell with a
crash, and all were washed headlong in an instant over the precipice
and into the boiling abyss below, from which not one vestige of their
remains was ever returned for a sign to their awe-stricken friends.
Supposing this bridge to be rebuilt,--which is not likely,--I do not
believe that a _habitant_ of all that region could be got to cross it,
even under the malediction, with bell, book, and candle, of his priest.
And so the old wooden bridge flourishes, and the crooked road is
travelled by gray-coated _cultivateurs_, whose forefathers went crooked
in the same direction for several generations, mounted upon persevering
ponies which wouldn't upon any account be persuaded into going straight.
A gleam of hope for Lorette flashes upon me since the above was written.
On looking over a provincial paper, I find astounding rumors of ghosts
appearing upon the track of a western railroad. Things clothed in the
traditional white appear before the impartial cow-catcher, which divides
them for the passage of the train, in the wake of which they immediately
reappear in a full state of repair and posture of contempt. If this
sort of thing goes on, what a splendid new field will be opened for the
writer of romance!
Certainly, I do not yet see what antidote there is for the primitive and
pastoral against seven miles of iron pipe; but it is cheerful to know
that ghosts are beginning to come about railroads, and all may yet be
well with Lorette.
BEHIND THE MASK.
It was an old, distorted face,--
An uncouth visage, rough and wild;
Yet from behind, with laughing grace,
Peeped the fresh beauty of a child.
And so contrasting, fair and bright,
It made me of my fancy ask
If half earth's wrinkled grimness might
Be but the baby in the mask.
Behind gray hairs and furrowed brow
And withered look that life puts on,
Each, as he wears it, comes to know
How the child hides, and is not gone.
For, while the inexorable years
To saddened features fit their mould,
Beneath the work of time and tears
Waits something that will not grow old!
And pain and petulance and care
And wasted hope and sinful stain
Shape the strange guise the soul doth wear,
Till her young life look forth again.
The beauty of his boyhood's smile,--
What human faith could find it now
In yonder man of grief and guile,--
A very Cain, with branded brow?
Yet, overlaid and hidden, still
It lingers,--of his life a part;
As the scathed pine upon the hill
Holds the young fibres at its heart.
And, haply, round the Eternal Throne,
Heaven's pitying angels shall not ask
For that last look the world hath known,
But for the face behind the mask!
DIAMONDS AND PEARLS.
We were lately lounging away a Roman morning among the gems in
Castellani's sparkling rooms in the Via Poli. One of the treasures
handed out for rapturous examination was a diamond necklace, just
finished for a Russian princess, at the cost of sixty thousand dollars,
and a set of pearls for an English lady, who must pay, before she bears
her prize homeward, the sum of ten thousand dollars. Castellani junior,
a fine, patriotic young fellow, who has since been banished for his
liberal ideas of government, smiled as he read astonishment in our eyes,
and proceeded forthwith to dazzle us still further with more gems of
rarest beauty, till then hidden away in his strong iron boxes.
Castellani, father and son, are princes among jewellers, and deserve to
be ranked as artists of a superior order. Do not fail to visit their
charming apartments, as among the most attractive lesser glories, when
you go to Rome. They have a grand way of doing things, right good to
look upon; and we once saw a countrywoman of ours, who has written
immortal words in the cause of freedom, made the recipient of a gem at
their hands, which she cannot but prize as among the chief tributes so
numerously bestowed in all parts of the Christian world where her feet
Castellani's jeweller's shop has existed in Rome since the year 1814.
At that time all the efforts of this artist (Castellani the elder) were
directed to the imitation of the newest English and French fashions, and
particularly to the setting of diamonds. This he continued till 1823.
From 1823 to 1827 he sought aid for his art in the study of Technology.
And not in vain; for in 1826 he read before the _Accademia dei Lincei_
of Rome, (founded by Federico Cesi,) a paper on the chemical process of
coloring _a giallone_ (yellow) in the manufacture of gold, in which he
announced some facts in the action of electricity, long before Delarive
and other chemists, as noticed in the "Quarterly Journal of Science,"
Dec., 1828, No. 6, and the "Bibliotheque Universelle de Geneve," 1829,
Tom. xi. p. 84.
At this period Etruria began to lay open the treasures of her art.
All were struck by the beauty of the jewels found in the tombs; but
Castellani was the first who thought of reproducing some of them; and he
did it to the great admiration of the amateurs, foremost among whom may
be mentioned the Duke Don Michelangelo Caetani, a man of great artistic
feeling, who aided by his counsels and his designs the _renaissance_ of
The discovery of the celebrated tomb Regulini-Galassi at Cervetri was
an event in jewelry. The articles of gold found in it (all now in the
Vatican) were diligently studied by Castellani, when called upon to
appraise them. Comprehending the methods and the character of the work,
he boldly followed tradition.
The discoveries of Campanari of Toscanella, and of the Marquis Campana
of Rome, gave valuable aid to this new branch of art.
Thus it went on improving; and Castellani produced very expert pupils,
all of them Italians. Fashion, if not public feeling, came to aid the
_renaissance_, and others, in Rome and elsewhere, undertook similar work
after the models of Castellani. It may be asserted that the triumph of
the classic jewelry is now complete. Castellani renounced the modern
methods of chasing and engraving, and adhered only to the antique
fashion of overlaying with cords, grains, and finest threads of
gold. From the Etruscan style he passed to the Greek, the Roman, the
Christian. In this last he introduced the rough mosaics, such as were
used by the Byzantines with much effect and variety of tint and of
The work of Castellani is dear; but that results from his method of
execution, and from the perfect finish of all the details. He does not
seek for cheapness, but for the perfection of art: this is the only
thing he has in view. As he is a man of genius, we have devoted
considerable space to his admirable productions.
The Talmud informs us that Noah had no other light in the ark than that
which came from precious stones. Why do not our modern jewellers take a
hint from the ancient safety-boat, and light up accordingly? We dare
say old Tavernier, that knowing French gem-trader of the seventeenth
century, had the art of illuminating his chateau at Aubonne in a way
wondrous to the beholder. Among all the jewellers, ancient or modern,
Jean Baptiste Tavernier seems to us the most interesting character. His
great knowledge of precious stones, his acute observation and unfailing
judgment, stamp him as one of the remarkable men of his day. Forty years
of his life he passed in travelling through Turkey, Persia, and the
East Indies, trading in gems of the richest and rarest lustre. A great
fortune was amassed, and a barony in the Canton of Berne, on the Lake of
Geneva, was purchased as no bad harbor for the rest of his days. There
he hoped to enjoy the vast wealth he had so industriously acquired. But,
alas! stupid nephews abound everywhere; and one of his, to whom he had
intrusted a freight worth two hundred and twenty thousand livres, caused
him so great a loss, that, at the age of eighty-four, he felt obliged to
sail again for the East in order to retrieve his fortune, or at least
repair the ill-luck arising from his unfortunate speculation. He forgot,
poor old man! that youth and strength are necessary to fight against
reverses; and he died at Moscow, on his way, in 1689. When you visit the
great Library in Paris, you will find his "Travels," in three volumes,
published in 1677-79, on a shelf among the quartos. Take them down, and
spend a pleasant hour in looking through the pages of the enthusiastic
old merchant-jeweller. His adventures in search of diamonds and other
precious commodities are well told; and although he makes the mistakes
incident to many other early travellers, he never wilfully romances.
He supposed he was the first European that had explored the mines of
Golconda; but an Englishman of the name of Methold visited them as early
as 1622, and found thirty thousand laborers working away for the rich
Marcandar, who paid three hundred thousand pagodas annually to the king
for the privilege of digging in a single mine. The first mine visited by
Tavernier was that of Raolconda, a five-days' journey from Golconda. The
manner of trading there he thus describes:--
"A very pretty sight is that presented every morning by the children of
the master-miners and of other inhabitants of the district. The boys,
the eldest of which is not over sixteen or the youngest under ten,
assemble and sit under a large tree in the public square of the village.
Each has his diamond weight in a bag hung on one side of his girdle, and
on the other a purse containing sometimes as much as five or six hundred
pagodas. Here they wait for such persons as have diamonds to sell,
either from the vicinity or from any other mine. When a diamond is
brought to them, it is immediately handed to the eldest boy, who is
tacitly acknowledged as the head of this little band. By him it is
carefully examined, and then passed to his neighbor, who, having also
inspected it, transmits it to the next boy. The stone is thus passed
from hand to hand, amid unbroken silence, until it returns to that of
the eldest, who then asks the price and makes the bargain. If the little
man is thought by his comrades to have given too high a price, he must
keep the stone on his own account. In the evening the children take
account of stock, examine their purchases, and class them according to
their water, size, and purity, putting on each stone the price they
expect to get for it; they then carry the stones to the masters, who
have always assortments to complete, and the profits are divided among
the young traders, with this difference in favor of the head of the
firm, that he receives one-fourth per cent. more than the others. These
children are so perfectly acquainted with the value of all sorts of
gems, that, if one of them, after buying a stone, is willing to lose
one-half per cent. on it, a companion is always ready to take it."
Master Tavernier discourses at some length on the ingenious methods
adopted by the laborers to conceal diamonds which they have found,
sometimes swallowing them,--and he tells of one miner who hid in the
corner of his eye a stone of two carats! Altogether, his work is one
worthy to be turned over, even in that vast collection, the Imperial
Library, for its graphic pictures of gem-hunting two hundred years ago.
Professor Tennant says, "One of the common marks of opulence and taste
in all countries is the selection, preservation, and ornamental use of
gems and precious stones." Diamonds, from the time Alexander ordered
pieces of flesh to be thrown into the inaccessible valley of Zulmeah,
that the vultures might bring up with them the precious stones which
attached themselves, have everywhere ranked among the luxuries of a
refined cultivation. It is the most brilliant of stones, and the hardest
known body. Pliny says it is so hard a substance, that, if one should
be laid on an anvil and struck with a hammer, look out for the hammer!
[_Mem_. If the reader have a particularly fine diamond, never mind
Pliny's story: the risk is something, and Pliny cannot be reached for an
explanation, should his experiment fail.] By its own dust only can
the diamond be cut and polished; and its great lustre challenges
the admiration of the world. Ordinary individuals, with nothing to
distinguish them from the common herd, have "got diamonds," and
straightway became ever afterwards famous. An uncommon-sized brilliant,
stuck into the front linen of a foolish fellow, will set him up as
a marked man, and point him out as something worth looking at. The
announcement in the papers of the day, that "Mademoiselle Mars would
wear all her diamonds," never failed to stimulate the sale of tickets
on all such occasions. As it may interest our readers to know what
treasures an actress of 1828 possessed, we copy from the catalogue of
her effects a few items.
"Two rows of brilliants set _en chatons_, one row composed of forty-six
brilliants, the other of forty-four; eight sprigs of wheat in
brilliants, composed of about five hundred brilliants, weighing
fifty-seven carats; a garland of brilliants that may be taken to pieces
and worn as three distinct ornaments, three large brilliants forming the
centre of the principal flowers, the whole comprising seven hundred and
nine brilliants, weighing eighty-five carats three-quarters; a Sevigne
mounted in colored gold, in the centre of which is a burnt topaz
surrounded by diamonds weighing about three grains each, the drops
consisting of three opals similarly surrounded by diamonds; one of
the three opals is of very large size, in shape oblong, with rounded
corners; the whole set in gold studded with rubies and pearls.
"A _parure_ of opals, consisting of a necklace and Sevigne, two
bracelets, ear-rings the studs of which are emeralds, comb, belt-plate
set with an opal in the shape of a triangle; the whole mounted in
wrought gold, studded with small emeralds.
"A Gothic bracelet of enamelled gold, in the centre a burnt topaz
surrounded by three large brilliants; in each link composing the
bracelet is a square emerald; at each extremity of the topaz forming
the centre ornament are two balls of burnished gold, and two of wrought
"A pair of girandole ear-rings of brilliants, each consisting of a large
stud brilliant and of three pear-shaped brilliants united by four small
ones; another pair of ear-rings composed of fourteen small brilliants
forming a clustre of grapes, each stud of a single brilliant.
"A diamond cross composed of eleven brilliants, the ring being also of
"A bracelet with a gold chain, the centre-piece of which is a fine opal
surrounded with brilliants; the opal is oblong and mounted in the Gothic
style; the clasp is an opal.
"A gold bracelet, with a _grecque_ surrounded by six angel heads graven
on turkoises, and a head of Augustus.
"A serpent bracelet _a la Cleopatre_, enamelled black, with a turkois on
"A bracelet with wrought links burnished on a dead ground; the clasp a
heart of burnished gold with a turkois in the centre, graven with Hebrew
"A bracelet with a row of Mexican chain, and a gold ring set with a
turkois and fastened to the bracelet by a Venetian chain.
"A ring, the hoop encircled with small diamonds.
"A ring, _a la chevaliere_, set with a square emerald between two
"A gold _chevaliere_ ring, on which is engraved a small head of
"Two belt-buckles, Gothic style, one of burnished gold, the other set
with emeralds, opals, and pearls.
"A necklace of two rows coral; a small bracelet of engraved carnelians.
"A comb of rose diamonds, form D 5, surmounted by a large rose
surrounded by smaller ones, and a cinque-foil in roses, the _chatons_
alternated, below a band of roses."
The weight of the diamond, as every one knows, is estimated in _carats_
all over the world. And what is a carat, pray? and whence its name? It
is of Indian origin, a _kirat_ being a small seed that was used in India
to weigh diamonds with. Four grains are equal to one carat, and six
carats make one pennyweight. But there is no standard weight fixed for
the finest diamonds. Competition alone among purchasers must arrange
their price. The commercial value of gems is rarely affected, and
among all articles of commerce the diamond is the least liable to
depreciation. Panics that shake empires and topple trade into the dust
seldom lower the cost of this king of precious stones; and there is no
personal property that is so apt to remain unchanged in money-value.
Diamond anecdotes abound, the world over; but we have lately met with
two brief ones that ought to be preserved.
"Carlier, a bookseller in the reign of Louis XIV., left, at his death,
to each of his children,--one a girl of fifteen, the other a captain in
the guards,--a sum of five hundred thousand francs, then an enormous
fortune. Mademoiselle Carlier, young, handsome, and wealthy, had
numerous suitors. One of these, a M. Tiquet, a Councillor of the
Parliament, sent her on her fete-day a bouquet, in which the calices of
the roses were of large diamonds. The magnificence of this gift gave so
good an opinion of the wealth, taste, and liberality of the donor, that
the lady gave him the preference over all his competitors. But sad was
the disappointment that followed the bridal! The husband was rather poor
than rich; and the bouquet, that had cost forty-five thousand francs,
(nine thousand dollars,) had been bought on credit, and was paid out of
the bride's fortune."
"The gallants of the Court of Louis XV. carried extravagance as far
as the famous Egyptian queen. She melted a pearl,--they pulverized
diamonds, to prove their insane magnificence. A lady having expressed a
desire to have the portrait of her canary in a ring, the last Prince de
Conti requested she would allow him to give it to her; she accepted, on
condition that no precious gems should be set in it. When the ring was
brought to her, however, a diamond covered the painting. The lady had
the brilliant taken out of the setting, and sent it back to the giver.
The Prince, determined not to be gainsaid, caused the stone to be ground
to dust, which he used to dry the ink of the letter he wrote to her on
Let us mention some of the most noted diamonds in the world. The largest
one known, that of the Rajah of Matan, in Borneo, weighs three hundred
and sixty-seven carats. It is egg-shaped and is of the finest water.
Two large war-vessels, with all their guns, powder, and shot, and one
hundred and fifty thousand dollars in money, were once refused for it.
And yet its weight is only about three ounces!
The second in size is the _Orloff_, or _Grand Russian_, sometimes called
the _Moon of the Mountain_, of one hundred and ninety-three carats.
The Great Mogul once owned it. Then it passed by conquest into the
possession of Nadir the Shah of Persia. In 1747 he was assassinated, and
all the crown-jewels slipped out of the dead man's fingers,--a common
incident to mortality. What became of the great diamond no one at that
time knew, till one day a chief of the Anganians walked, mole-footed,
into the presence of a rich Armenian gentleman in Balsora, and proposed
to sell him (no lisping,--not a word to betray him) a large emerald, a
splendid ruby, and the great Orloff diamond. Mr. Shafrass counted out
fifty thousand piastres for the lot; and the chief folded up his robes
and silently departed. Ten years afterwards the people of Amsterdam were
apprised that a great treasure had arrived in their city, and could
be bought, too. Nobody there felt rich enough to buy the great Orloff
sparkler. So the English and Russian governments sent bidders to compete
for the gem. The Empress Catharine offered the highest sum; and her
agent, the Count Orloff, paid for it in her name four hundred and fifty
thousand roubles, cash down, and a grant of Russian nobility! The size
of this diamond is that of a pigeon's egg, and its lustre and water are
of the finest: its shape is not perfect.
The _Grand Tuscan_ is next in order,--for many years held by the Medici
family. It is now owned by the Austrian Emperor, and is the pride of
the Imperial Court. It is cut as a rose, nine-sided, and is of a yellow
tint, lessening somewhat its value. Its weight is one hundred and
thirty-nine and a half carats; and its value is estimated at one hundred
and fifty-five thousand, six hundred and eighty-eight pounds.
The most perfect, though not the largest, diamond in Europe is the
_Regent_, which belongs to the Imperial diadem of France. Napoleon the
First used to wear it in the hilt of his state-sword. Its original
weight was four hundred and ten carats; but after it was cut as a
brilliant, (a labor of two years, at a cost of three thousand pounds
sterling,) it was reduced to one hundred and thirty-seven carats. It
came from the mines of Golconda; and the thief who stole it therefrom
sold it to the grandfather of the Earl of Chatham, when he was governor
of a fort in the East Indies. Lucky Mr. Pitt pocketed one hundred and
thirty-five thousand pounds for his treasure, the purchaser being Louis
XV. This amount, it is said, is only half its real value. However, as it
cost the Governor, according to his own statement, some years after
the sale, only twenty thousand pounds, his speculation was "something
handsome." Pope had a fling at Pitt, in his poetical way, intimating a
wrong with regard to the possession of the diamond; but we believe the
transaction was an honest one. In the inventory of the crown-jewels, the
Regent diamond is set down at twelve million francs!
The _Star of the South_ comes next in point of celebrity. It is the
largest diamond yet obtained from Brazil; and it is owned by the King of
Portugal. It weighed originally two hundred and fifty-four carats, but
was trimmed down to one hundred and twenty-five. The grandfather of
the present king had a hole bored in it, and liked to strut about on
gala-days with the gem suspended around his neck. This magnificent jewel
was found by three banished miners, who were seeking for gold during
their exile. A great drought had laid dry the bed of a river, and there
they discovered this lustrous wonder. Of course, on promulgating their
great luck, their sentence was revoked immediately.
The world-renowned _Koh-i-noor_ next claims our attention.
A Venetian diamond-cutter (wretched, bungling Hortensio Borgis!)
reduced the great _Koh-i-noor_ from its primitive weight--nine hundred
carats--to two hundred and eighty. Tavernier saw this celebrated jewel
two hundred years ago, not long after its discovery. It came into the
possession of Queen Victoria in 1849, _three thousand years_, say the
Eastern sages, after it belonged to Karna, the King of Anga! On the 16th
of July, 1852, the Duke of Wellington superintended the commencement
of the re-cutting of the famous gem, and for thirty-eight days the
operation went on. Eight thousand pounds were expended in the cutting
and polishing. When it was finished and ready to be restored to the
royal keeping, the person (a celebrated jeweller) to whom the whole
care of the work had been intrusted, allowed a friend to take it in his
fingers for examination. While he was feasting his eyes over it, and
turning it to the light in order to get the full force of its marvellous
beauty, down it slipped from his grasp and fell upon the ground. The
jeweller nearly fainted with alarm, and poor "Butterfingers" was
completely jellified with fear. Had the stone struck the ground at a
particular angle, it would have split in two, and been ruined forever.
Innumerable anecdotes cluster about this fine diamond. Having passed
through the hands of various Indian princes, violence and fraud are
copiously mingled up with its history. We quote one of Madame de
Barrera's stories concerning it:----
"The King of Lahore having heard that the King of Cabul possessed a
diamond that had belonged to the Great Mogul, the largest and purest
known, he invited the fortunate owner to his court, and there, having
him in his power, demanded his diamond. The guest, however, had provided
himself against such a contingency with a perfect imitation of the
coveted jewel. After some show of resistance, he reluctantly acceded to
the wishes of his powerful host. The delight of Runjeet was extreme, but
of short duration,--the lapidary to whom he gave orders to mount his
new acquisition pronouncing it to be merely a bit of crystal. The
mortification and rage of the despot were unbounded. He immediately
caused the palace of the King of Cabul to be invested, and ransacked
from top to bottom. But for a long while all search was vain; at last a
slave betrayed the secret;--the diamond was found concealed beneath
a heap of ashes. Runjeet Singh had it set in an armlet, between two
diamonds, each the size of a sparrow's egg."
The _Shah of Persia_, presented to the Emperor Nicholas by the Persian
monarch, is a very beautiful stone, irregularly shaped. Its weight is
eighty-six carats, and its water and lustre are superb.
The various stories attached to the _Sancy_ diamond, the next in point
of value, would occupy many pages. During four centuries it has been
accumulating romantic circumstances, until it is now very difficult to
give its true narrative. If Charles the Bold, the last Duke of Burgundy,
ever wore it suspended round his neck, he sported a magnificent jewel.
If the Curate of Montagny bought it for a crown of a soldier who picked
it up after the defeat of Granson, not knowing its value, the soldier
was unconsciously cheated by the Curate. If a citizen of Berne got it
out of the Curate's fingers for three crowns, he was a shrewd knave. De
Barante says, that in 1492 (Columbus was then about making land in this
hemisphere) this diamond was sold in Lucerne for five thousand ducats.
After that, all sorts of incidents are related to have befallen it. Here
is one of them.--Henry IV. was once in a strait for money. The Sieur
de Sancy (who gave his name to the gem) wished to send the monarch his
diamond, that he might raise funds upon it from the Jews of Metz. A
trusty servant sets off with it, to brave the perils of travel, by no
means slight in those rough days, and is told, in case of danger from
brigands, to swallow the precious trust. The messenger is found dead on
the road, and is buried by peasants. De Sancy, impatient that his man
does not arrive, seeks for his body, takes it from the ground where it
is buried, opens it, and recovers his gem! In some way not now known,
Louis XV. got the diamond into his possession, and wore it at his
coronation. In 1789, it disappeared from the crown-treasures, and no
trace of it was discovered till 1830, when it was offered for sale by a
merchant in Paris. Count Demidoff had a lawsuit over it in 1832; and as
it is valued at a million of francs, it was worth quarrelling about.
The _Nassuck Diamond_, valued at thirty thousand pounds, is a
magnificent jewel, nearly as large as a common walnut. Pure as a drop of
dew, it ranked among the richest treasures in the British conquest of
What has become of the great triangular _Blue Diamond_, weighing
sixty-seven carats, stolen from the French Court at the time of the
great robbery of the crown-jewels? Alas! it has never been heard from.
Three millions of francs represented its value; and no one, to this day,
knows its hiding-place. What a pleasant morning's work it would be to
unearth this gem from its dark corner, where it has lain _perdu_ so many
years! The bells of Notre Dame should proclaim such good-fortune to all
But enough of these individual magnificos. Their beauty and rarity have
attracted sufficient attention in their day. Yet we should like to
handle a few of those Spanish splendors which Queen Isabel II. wore at
the reception of the ambassadors from Morocco. That day she shone in
diamonds alone to the amount of two million dollars! We once saw a
monarch's sword, of which
"The jewelled hilt,
Whose diamonds lit the passage of his blade,"
was valued at one hundred thousand dollars! But one of the pleasantest
of our personal remembrances, connected with diamonds, is the picking up
of a fine, lustrous gem which fell from O.B.'s violin-bow, (the gift of
the Duke of Devonshire,) one night, after he had been playing his magic
instrument for the special delight of a few friends. The tall Norwegian
wrapped it in a bit of newspaper, when it was restored to him, and
thrust it into his cigar-box! [O.B. sometimes carried his treasures in
strange places. One day he was lamenting the loss of a large sum of
money which he had received as the proceeds of a concert in New York. A
week afterwards he found his missing nine hundred dollars stuffed away
in a dark corner of one of his violin-cases.]
There is a very pretty diamond-story current in connection with the good
Empress Eugenie. Madame de Barrera relates it in this wise.
"When the sovereign of France marries, by virtue of an ancient custom
kept up to the present day, the bride is presented by the city of Paris
with a valuable gift. Another is also offered at the birth of the
"In 1853, when the choice of His Majesty Napoleon III. raised the
Empress Eugenie to the throne, the city of Paris, represented by the
Municipal Commission, voted the sum of six hundred thousand francs for
the purchase of a diamond necklace to be presented to Her Majesty.
"The news caused quite a sensation among the jewellers. Each was eager
to contribute his finest gems to form the Empress's necklace,--a
necklace which was to make its appearance under auspices as favorable as
those of the famous _Queen's Necklace_ had been unpropitious. But on the
28th of January, two days after the vote of the Municipal Commission,
all this zeal was disappointed; the young Empress having expressed
a wish that the six hundred thousand francs should be used for the
foundation of an educational institution for poor young girls of the
Faubourg St. Antoine.
"The wish has been realized, and, thanks to the beneficent fairy in
whose compassionate heart it had its origin, the diamond necklace has
been metamorphosed into an elegant edifice, with charming gardens. Here
a hundred and fifty young girls, at first, but now as many as four
hundred, have been placed, and receive, under the management of those
angels of charity called the _Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul_, an
excellent education proportioned to their station, and fitting them to
be useful members of society.
"The solemn opening of the Maison-Eugenie-Napoleon took place on the
1st of January, 1857.
"M. Veron, the _journaliste_, now deputy of the Seine, has given, in the
'Moniteur,' a very circumstantial account of this establishment. From it
we borrow the following:--
"'The girls admitted are usually wretchedly clad; on their entrance,
they receive a full suit of clothes. Almost all are pale, thin, weak
children, to whom melancholy and suffering have imparted an old and
careworn expression. But, thanks to cleanliness, to wholesome and
sufficient food, to a calm and well-regulated life, to the pure, healthy
air they breathe, the natural hues and the joyousness of youth soon
reanimate the little faces; and with lithe, invigorated limbs, and happy
hearts, these young creatures join merrily in the games of their new
companions. They have entered the institution old; they will leave it
"The Empress Eugenie delights in visiting the institution of the
Faubourg St. Antoine. This is natural. Her Majesty cannot but feel
pleasure in the contemplation of all she has accomplished by sacrificing
a magnificent, but idle ornament to the welfare of so many beings
rescued from misery and ignorance. These four hundred young girls will
be so many animated, happy, and grateful jewels, constituting for Her
Majesty in the present, and for her memory in the future, an ever new
set of jewels, an immortal ornament, a truly celestial talisman.
"A fresco painting represents, in a hemicycle, the Empress in her bridal
dress, offering to the Virgin a diamond necklace; young girls are
kneeling around her in prayer; admiration and fervent faith are depicted
on their brows."
A very large amount of the world's capital is represented in precious
stones, and ninety per cent of that capital so invested is in diamonds.
This was not always the case. Ancient millionnaires held their
enormous jewelry-riches more in colored stones than is the custom now.
Crystallized carbon has risen in the estimation of capitalists, and
crystallized clay has gone down in the scale of value. If the diamond be
the hardest known substance in the world's jewel-box, the pearl is by no
means its near relation in that particular. The daughters of Stilicho
slept undisturbed eleven hundred and eighteen years, with all their
riches in sound condition, except the pearls that were found with their
splendid ornaments. The other decorations sparkled in the light as
brilliantly as ever; but the pearls crumbled into dust, as their owners
had done centuries before. Eight hundred years before these ladies lived
and wore pearls, a queen with "swarthy cheeks and bold black eyes" tried
a beverage which cost, exclusive of the vinegar which partly composed
it, the handsome little sum of something over eighty thousand pounds.
Diamond and vinegar would not have mixed so prettily.
Pearls are perishable beauties, exquisite in their perfect state, but
liable to accident from the nature of their delicate composition. Remote
antiquity chronicles their existence, and immemorial potentates eagerly
sought for them to adorn their persons. Pearl-fisheries in the Persian
Gulf are older than the reign of Alexander; and the Indian Ocean, the
Red Sea, and the Coast of Coromandel yielded their white wonders ages
ago. Under the Ptolemies, in the time of the Caliphs, the pearl-merchant
flourished, grew rich, and went to Paradise. To-day the pearl-diver is
grubbing under the waves that are lapping the Sooloo Islands, the coast
of Coromandel, and the shores of Algiers. In Ceylon he is busiest, and
you may find him from the first of February to the middle of April
risking his life in the perilous seas. His boat is from eight to ten
tons burden, and without a deck. At ten o'clock at night, when the
cannon fires, it is his signal to put off for the bank opposite
Condatchy, which he will reach by daylight, if the weather be fair.
Unless it is calm, he cannot follow his trade. As soon as light dawns,
he prepares to descend. His diving-stone, to keep him at the bottom,
is got ready, and, after offering up his devotions, he leaps into the
water. Two minutes are considered a long time to be submerged, but
some divers can hold out four or five minutes. When his strength is
exhausted, he gives a signal by pulling the rope, and is drawn up with
his bag of oysters. Appalling dangers compass him about. Sharks watch
for him as he dives, and not infrequently he comes up maimed for life.
It is recorded of a pearl-diver, that he died from over-exertion
immediately after he reached land, having brought up with him a shell
that contained a pearl of great size and beauty. Barry Cornwall has
remembered the poor follow in song so full of humanity, that we quote
his pearl-strung lyric entire.
"Within the midnight of her hair,
Half hidden in its deepest deeps,
A single, peerless, priceless pearl
(All filmy-eyed) forever sleeps.
Without the diamond's sparkling eyes,
The ruby's blushes, there it lies,
Modest as the tender dawn,
When her purple veil's withdrawn,--
The flower of gems, a lily cold and pale!
Yet what doth all avail,--
All its beauty, all its grace,
All the honors of its place?
He who plucked it from its bed,
In the far blue Indian ocean,
Lieth, without life or motion,
In his earthy dwelling,--dead!
And his children, one by one,
When they look upon the sun,
Curse the toil by which he drew
The treasure from its bed of blue.
"Gentle Bride, no longer wear,
In thy night-black, odorous hair,
Such a spoil! It is not fit
That a tender soul should sit
Under such accursed gem!
What need'st _thou_ a diadem,--
Thou, within whose Eastern eyes
Thought (a starry Genius) lies,--
Thou, whom Beauty has arrayed,--
Thou, whom Love and Truth have made
Beautiful,--in whom we trace
Woman's softness, angel's grace,
All we hope for, all that streams
Upon us in our haunted dreams?
"O sweet Lady! cast aside,
With a gentle, noble pride,
All to sin or pain allied!
Let the wild-eyed conqueror wear
The bloody laurel in his hair!
Let the black and snaky vine
Round the drinker's temples twine!
Let the slave-begotten gold
Weigh on bosoms hard and cold!
But be THOU forever known
By thy natural light alone!"
One of the best judges of pearls that ever lived, out of the regular
trade, was no less a person than Caesar. He was a great connoisseur, and
could tell at once, when he took a pearl in his hand, its weight and
value. He gave one away worth a quarter of a million dollars. Servilia,
the mother of Brutus, was the lady to whom he made the regal present.
Caligula, not satisfied with building ships of cedar with sterns inlaid
with gems, had a pearl-collar made for a favorite horse! Pliny grows
indignant as he chronicles the luxury of this Emperor.
"I have seen," says he, "Lollia Paulina, who was the wife of the
Emperor Caligula,--and this not on the occasion of a solemn festival or
ceremony, but merely at a supper of ordinary betrothals,--I have seen
Lollia Paulina covered with emeralds and pearls, arranged alternately,
so as to give each other additional brilliancy, on her head, neck, arms,
hands, and girdle, to the amount of forty thousand sesterces, [L336,000
sterling,] the which value she was prepared to prove on the instant by
producing the receipts. And these pearls came, not from the prodigal
generosity of an imperial husband, but from treasures which had been the
spoils of provinces. Marcus Lollius, her grandfather, was dishonored
in all the East on account of the gifts he had extorted from kings,
disgraced by Tiberius, and obliged to poison himself, that his
grand-daughter might exhibit herself by the light of the _lucernae_
blazing with jewels."
Nero offered to Jupiter Capitolinus the first trimmings of his beard in
a magnificent vase enriched with the costliest pearls.
Catherine de Medicis and Diane de Poitiers almost floated in pearls,
their dresses being literally covered with them. The wedding-robe of
Anne of Cleves was a rich cloth-of-gold, thickly embroidered with
great flowers of large Orient pearls. Poor Mary, Queen of Scots, had a
wonderful lot of pearls among her jewels; and the sneaking manner in
which Elizabeth got possession of them we will leave Miss Strickland,
the biographer of Queens, to relate.
"If anything farther than the letters of Drury and Throgmorton be
required to prove the confederacy between the English Government and the
Earl of Moray, it will only be necessary to expose the disgraceful
fact of the traffic of Queen Mary's costly _parure_ of pearls, her own
personal property, which she had brought with her from France. A few
days before she effected her escape from Lochleven Castle, the righteous
Regent sent these, with a choice collection of her jewels, very secretly
to London, by his trusty agent, Sir Nicholas Elphinstone, who undertook
to negotiate their sale, with the assistance of Throgmorton, to whom he
was directed for that purpose. As these pearls were considered the most
magnificent in Europe, Queen Elizabeth was complimented with the first
offer of them. 'She saw them yesterday, May 2nd,' writes Bodutel La
Forrest, the French ambassador at the Court of England, 'in the presence
of the Earls of Pembroke and Leicester, and pronounced them to be of
unparalleled beauty.' He thus describes them: 'There are six cordons
of large pearls, strung as paternosters; but there are five-and-twenty
separate from the rest, much finer and larger than those which are
strung; these are for the most part like black _muscades_. They had not
been here more than three days, when they were appraised by various
merchants; this Queen wishing to have them at the sum named by the
jeweller, who could have made his profit by selling them again. They
were at first shown to three or four working jewellers and lapidaries,
by whom they were estimated at three thousand pounds sterling, (about
ten thousand crowns,) and who offered to give that sum for them. Several
Italian merchants came after them, who valued them at twelve thousand
crowns, which is the price, as I am told, this Queen Elizabeth will take
them at. There is a Genoese who saw them after the others, and said they
were worth sixteen thousand crowns; but I think they will allow her to
have them for twelve thousand.' 'In the mean time,' continues he, in his
letter to Catherine of Medicis, 'I have not delayed giving your Majesty
timely notice of what was going on, though I doubt she will not allow
them to escape her. The rest of the jewels are not near so valuable as
the pearls. The only thing I have heard particularly described is
a piece of unicorn richly carved and decorated.' Mary's royal
mother-in-law of France, no whit more scrupulous than her good cousin of
England, was eager to compete with the latter for the purchase of the
pearls, knowing that they were worth nearly double the sum at which they
had been valued in London. Some of them she had herself presented to
Mary, and especially wished to recover; but the ambassador wrote to her
in reply, that 'he had found it impossible to accomplish her desire of
obtaining the Queen of Scots' pearls, for, as he had told her from the
first, they were intended for the gratification of the Queen of England,
who had been allowed to purchase them at her own price, and they were
now in her hands.'
"Inadequate though the sum for which her pearls were sold was to their
real value, it assisted to turn the scale against their real owner.
"In one of her letters to Elizabeth, supplicating her to procure some
amelioration of the rigorous confinement of her captive friends, Mary
alludes to her stolen jewels:--'I beg also,' says she, 'that you will
prohibit the sale of the rest of my jewels, which the rebels have
ordered in their Parliament, for you have promised that nothing should
be done in it to my prejudice. I should be very glad, if they were in
safer custody, for they are not meat proper for traitors. Between you
and me it would make little difference, and I should be rejoiced, if any
of them happened to be to your taste, that you would accept them from me
as offerings of my good-will.'
"From this frank offer it is apparent that Mary was not aware of the
base part Elizabeth had acted, in purchasing her magnificent _parure_ of
pearls of Moray, for a third part of their value."
One of the most famous pearls yet discovered (there may be shells down
below that hide a finer specimen) is the beautiful _Peregrina_. It was
fished up by a little negro boy in 1560, who obtained his liberty by
opening an oyster. The modest bivalve was so small that the boy in
disgust was about to pitch it back into the sea. But he thought better
of his rash determination, pulled the shells asunder, and, lo, the
rarest of priceless pearls! [_Moral._ Don't despise little oysters.] La
Peregrina is shaped like a pear, and is of the size of a pigeon's egg.
It was presented to Philip II. by the finder's master, and is still in
Spain. No sum has ever determined its value. The King's jeweller named
five hundred thousand dollars, but that paltry amount was scouted as
There is a Rabbinical story which aptly shows the high estimate of
pearls in early ages, only one object in Nature being held worthy to be
placed above them:--
"On approaching Egypt, Abraham locked Sarah in a chest, that none might
behold her dangerous beauty. But when he was come to the place of paying
custom, the collectors said, 'Pay us the custom': and he said, 'I will
pay the custom.' They said to him, 'Thou carriest clothes': and he said,
'I will pay for clothes.' Then they said to him, 'Thou carriest gold':
and he answered them, 'I will pay for my gold.' On this they further
said to him, 'Surely thou bearest the finest silk': he replied, 'I will
pay custom for the finest silk.' Then said they, 'Surely it must be
pearls that thou takest with thee': and he only answered, 'I will pay
for pearls.' Seeing that they could name nothing of value for which the
patriarch was not willing to pay custom, they said, 'It cannot be but
thou open the box, and let us see what is within.' So they opened the
box, and the whole land of Egypt was illumined by the lustre of Sarah's
beauty,--far exceeding even that of pearls."
Shakspeare, who loved all things beautiful, and embalmed them so that
their lustre could lose nothing at his hands, was never tired of
introducing the diamond and the pearl. They were his favorite ornaments;
and we intended to point out some of the splendid passages in which he
has used them. But we have room now for only one of those priceless
sentences in which he has set the diamond and the pearl as they were
never set before. No kingly diadem can boast such jewels as glow along
these lines from "Lear":--
"You have seen
Sunshine and rain at one: her smiles and tears
Were like a better day: Those happy smiles
That played on her ripe lip seemed not to know
What guests were in her eyes; which parted thence,
_As pearls from diamonds dropp'd._"
REVIEWS AND LITERARY NOTICES.
1. _Lis Oubreto_ de ROUMANILLE. Avignon. 1860. 12mo.
2. T. AUBANEL. _La Miougrano Entreduberto._ Avec Traduction litterale en
regard. Avignon: J. Roumanille. 1860. 12mo.
3. _Mireio._ Pouemo Prouvencau de FREDERI MISTRAL. Avec la Traduction
litterale en regard. Avignon: J. Roumanille. 1859. 8vo.
4. _Las Papillotos_ de JACQUES JASMIN, de l'Academie d'Agen, Maitre es
Jeux-Floraux, Grand Prix de l'Academie Francaise. Edition populaire,
avec le Francais en regard, et ornee d'un Portrait. De 1822 a 1858.
Paris: Firmin Didot, Freres & Cie. 1860. 12mo.
5. _Les Piaoulats d'un Reipetit._ Recueil de Poesies Patoises. Par J.B.
Veyre, Instituteur a Saint-Simon (Cantal). Aurillac: Imprimerie de L.
Bonnet-Picut. 1860. 8vo.
Few persons, when they consider the present greatness and prosperity of
the French Empire, bear in mind the heterogeneous elements of which it
is composed. For us, Paris is France, and the literature of the realm
is comprised in the words, "Paris publications." We think not of the
millions of Frenchmen to whom the language of the capital is a sealed
letter,--of the Germans of Alsatia, the Flemings of the extreme
North-East, the Bretons of the peninsula of Finisterre, the Basques, the
Catalans of the mountains of Roussillon, and, more numerous than all
these, the fourteen millions of the thirty-seven departments south of
the Loire. These speak, to this day, with fewer modifications than have
taken place in any other of the European languages during the same lapse
of time, the very tongue in which wrote Bertran de Born and Pierre
Vidal, the idiom in which Dante and Petrarca found some of their
happiest inspirations, and which, we are told, Tasso envied for its
True, the Provinces of Gascony, Provence, Auvergne may be traversed by
the stranger almost without his suspecting that other than the French,
more or less badly spoken, is in common use. In hotels and shops he will
hear nothing else.
The larger towns in direct communication with the capital, and all that
is purely exterior in the people, are becoming more and more French
every day. But in the family interior, far from the noise of affairs,
the bustle of towns, in hamlets, among the vine-growers and tenders of
the silk-worm, in the mountains and retired valleys, the home-tongue is
again at ease. Simple, ingenuous, amber-like in its sunny tints, it is a
reflection of that ardent poetical imagination which made the courts of
the Counts of Toulouse the nurseries of modern poesy, when the rest of
Europe was little else than one wrangling battle-field. Neither the
exterminating crusade against the Albigenses, after which the idiom
of Provence was wellnigh stigmatized as heretical, nor the civil and
religious wars of the seventeenth century, nor even the _dragonnades_ of
Louis XIV., have been able to outroot it. The levelling edicts of the
first French Revolution were powerless against it. The Provencal, or
Langue d'Oc, if you will, the Gascon, the Auvergnat, are spoken to this
day in their respective provinces, universally spoken by the people, who
in many instances do not understand French at all. They must be preached
to in their own dialect. They have their songs, their theatre even.
Nor must this be understood as referring only to the lower strata
of society. The better classes, even, retain a fondness for their
mother-tongue which years of residence in Paris will not obliterate. In
their very French, they still retain the inflections, the tones of the
South,--a measured cadence in the phrase, which the Parisian uniformly
styles _gasconner_. They feel ill at ease in what they call the
cold-mannered speech of the _Franchiman_. In the words of one of their
poets, Mistral, who has proved that he was no less a master of the
academic forms and rules than of the riches and power of his own
Avignonais:--"Those who have not lived at the South, and especially
in the midst of our rural population, can have no idea of the
incompatibility, the insufficiency, the poverty of the language of the
North in regard to our manners, our needs, our organization. The French
language, transplanted to Provence, seems like the cast-off clothes of a
Parisian dandy adapted to the robust shoulders of a harvester bronzed by
the Southern sun."
The Provencal, in its two principal divisions, the Gascon and Langue
d'Oc, is the current idiom south of the Loire. The South-West Provinces
had, in the seventeenth century, no mean poet in Godelin; and in our
own day, Jasmin has found a host of followers. The inhabitants of the
South-East, however, the more immediate retainers of the language of
the Troubadours, save in a few drinking-songs and Christmas carols, had
forgotten the strains that once resounded beyond the limits of Provence
and had first awaked the poetic emulation of Spain and Italy. The
princess of song, stung by the envious spirit of persecution in the
Albigensian wars, had slept for centuries, and the thick hedge of
forgetfulness had grown rank about the language and its treasures. What
Raynouard, Diez, Mahn, Fauriel, and others have done to bring to light
again the unedited texts was little better than an autopsy. A living,
breathing poet was wanting to reanimate by his touch the poesy that had
slept so long. That poet was Roumanille.
The Minnesingers have found heirs and continuators in the modern writers
of Germany. Side by side with the increasing tendency to unity in all
national literature is working the force of races confounded under one
political banner, to assert their existence as such. Congresses have
shaped new kingdoms; but they have not reached or removed the limits
of nationalities that have each their expression in song, whether in
Moldavia or among the Czechs of Bohemia. The regeneration of local
idioms, which is fast working its way from the Bosphorus to the
Atlantic, was first undertaken in Provence, at the instigation of
Roumanille. The son of a gardener of St. Remy, he was first struck with
the insufficiency of French literature for his immediate countrymen,
when, on his return from college, seeking to recite some of his earlier
poems in the language of Racine to his aged mother, she failed to
understand them. For her he translated, and found that his own Provencal
was richer, more copious and melodious than the French itself, and, if
less finical and restrained by grammatical forms, more pliant for the
poet, and better answering the exigencies of primitive, spontaneous
expression of feeling. From that moment his efforts were unceasingly
directed towards the reintegration of his mother-tongue, which had so
long played but the part of a Cinderella among the Romanic nations.
His poems, collected in 1847, under the title of "Margarideto,"
(Daisies,) were hailed by his countrymen with their habitual national
enthusiasm. Nor did he remain inactive during the Revolution of 1848,
addressing the people in home-phrase in several small volumes of prose.
In 1852, he sent forth a call to his brother-writers, the _felibre_, who
had joined with him in his efforts. The result was the publication of
"Li Prouvencalo," a charming selection from those modern Troubadours
who in all ranks of society sing, because sing they must, in bright and
sunny Provence, and who in very deed find poetry
"In the forge's dust and ashes, in the tissues
of the loom."
The call of Roumanille was the signal for a revival. Since that time, he
himself, now a publisher in Avignon, has steadily watched and
fostered the movement. The new literature has rapidly gone beyond its
home-limits. Within the present year, Paris has republished several of
the most noted works.
The volume which has called forth these remarks, "Lis Oubreto,"
comprises the poems of M. Roumanille,--"Li Margarideto," "Li Nouve,"
"Li Sounjarello," "La Part de Dieu," "Li Flour de Sauvi." They are
characterized by an elevation in the thoughts and a religious purity
of sentiment, qualities which, it has been urged, and justly too, were
lacking in many of the former productions in various dialects of France.
We call the poetry of Roumanille elevated, yet it always addresses
itself to the people of Provence, and borrows its images from the
many-colored life of those to whom it speaks; religious, but simple and
ingenuous, with a tinge of mysticism,--not the mysticism that seeks the
good in dreamy inaction, as in some of the Spanish authors, nor has it
the obscure tinge of the transcendental English school. The religion
of Roumanille is active, not dogmatic; he incites to _do_, rather than
discuss or dream the good. There is a health, a vigor, an earnestness,
in this spontaneous poesy of an idiom which six centuries ago was the
language of courts, and now sings the song of toil. Side by side with
the over-cultured language of the Parisian, it seems so free and frank!
Where the one is hampered for fear of sinning, the other, buoyant and
elastic, treads freely and fears not to be too ingenuous.
Roumanille's poems have not been translated; it is hardly likely they
ever will be,--at least, the greater number. They were not made for
Paris. They are not at ease in a French garb,--nor, for that matter,
in any other than their own diaphanous, sun-tinted, vowelly Provencal,
unless they could find their expression in some _folk-speech_, as the
Germans say, that could utter things of daily life without euphuistic
windings, without fear of ridicule for things of home expressed in
As characterizing the nature and tendency of the new poetry, we subjoin
a translation of "Li Crecho," (The Infant Asylums,) of which M.
Sainte-Beuve, of the French Academy, one whose judgment as literary
critic could be little biased in favor of the _naive_ graces of the
original, said,--"The piece is worthy of the ancient Troubadours. The
angel of the asylums and of little children in his celestial sadness
could not be disavowed by the angels of Klopstock, nor by that of Alfred
"Li Crecho" was recited by the author at the inauguration of the Infant
Asylum of Avignon, the 20th of November, 1851, and forms part of the
sheaf of poems entitled "Li Flour de Sauvi."
"Among the choirs of Seraphim, whom God has created to sing eternally,
transported with love, 'Glory, glory to the Father!'--among the joys of
Paradise, one oftentimes, far from the happy singers, went thoughtful
"And his snow-white forehead inclined towards our world, as droops a
flower that has no moisture in summer. Day by day he grew more dreamy.
If sadness, when in God's glory, could torment the heart, I should say
that this fair angel was pining with sorrow.
"Of what did he dream thus, and in secret? Why was he not of the feast?
Why, alone among angels, as one that had sinned, did he bow the head?"
"Lo! he has just knelt at the feet of God. What will he say? What will
he do? To see and hear him, his brethren interrupt their song of praise."
"'When Jesus, thy child, wept,--when he shivered with cold in the
manger of Bethlehem,--it was my smile that consoled him, my wings that
sheltered him, with my warm breath did I comfort him.
"'And since then, O God, when a child weeps, in my pitying heart his
voice resounds. Therefore forever now am I sick at heart,--therefore, O
Lord, am I ever thoughtful.
"'On earth, O God, I have something to do. Let me descend there. There
are so many babes, poor milk-lambs, who, shivering with cold, weep and
wail far from the breasts, far from the kisses of their mothers! In warm
rooms will I shelter them,--will cover and tend them,--will nurse and
caress them,--will lull them to rest. Instead of one mother, they shall
each have twenty that shall give them suck and soothe them to sleep.'"
"And with heart and hand did the angels applaud,--a tremor of joy shot
through the stars of heaven,--and, unfolding his pinions, with the
rapidity of lightning the angel descended. The road-side smiled with
flowers, as he passed,--and mothers trembled for joy; for infant-asylums
arose wherever the child-angel trod."
One of the first to respond to the call of Roumanille for the
composition of the selection "Li Prouvencalo" was Th. Aubanel, also of
Avignon. The "Segaire" (Mowers) and "Lou 9 Thermidor" made it plain,
that, of the thirty names, that of the young printer would soon take a
prominent place among the revivers of Southern letters. And now, eight
years later, the promise of M. Rene Taillandier, in his introduction to
the selection, has become reality.
"La Miougrano Entreduberto" (The Opened Pomegranate) is printed with an
accompanying French translation. Mistral, the brother-poet and friend of
the author, thus announces the poems:--
"The pomegranate is of its nature wilder than other trees. It loves to
grow in pebbly elevations (_clapeirolo_) in the full sun-rays, far from
man and nearer to God. There alone, in the scorching summer-beams, it
expands in secret its blood-red flowers. Love and the sun fecundate
its bloom. In the crimson chalices thousands of coral-grains germ
spontaneously, like a thousand fair sisters all under the same roof.
"The swollen pomegranate holds imprisoned as long as it can the roseate
seeds, the thousand blushing sisters. But the birds of the moor speak to
the solitary tree, saying,--'What wilt thou do with the seeds? Even now
comes the autumn, even now comes the winter, that chases us beyond the
hills, beyond the seas.....And shall it be said, O wild pomegranate,
that we have left Provence without seeing thy beautiful coral-grains,
without having a glimpse of thy thousand virgin daughters?'
"Then, to satisfy the envious birdlings of the moor, the pomegranate
slowly half-opens its fruit; the thousand vermeil seeds glitter in the
sun; the thousand timorous sisters with rosy cheeks peep through the
arched window: and the roguish birds come in flocks and feast at ease on
the beautiful coral-grains; the roguish lovers devour with kisses the
fair blushing sisters.
"Aubanel--and you will say as I do, when you have read his book--is a
wild pomegranate-tree. The Provencal public, whom his first poems had
pleased so much, was beginning to say,--'But what is our Aubanel doing,
that we no longer hear him sing?'"
Then follows an exposition of the hopeless passion of the poet,--how he
took for motto,
Soun mau encanto."
Hence the three books of poems now before us,--"The Book of Love,"
"Twilight," and "The Book of Death." "The Book of Love," "a thing
excessively rare," as we are told in the Preface, "but this one written
in good faith," opens with a couplet that is a key to the whole
"I am sick at heart,
And _will_ not be cured."
We subjoin a literal translation of the eleventh song, line for line:--
De-la-man-d'eila de la mar,
Dins mis ouro de pantaiage,
Souventi-fes ieu fau un viage,
Ieu fau souvent un viage amar,
De-la-man-d'eila, de la mar."
"Far away, beyond the seas,
In my hours of reverie,
Oftentimes I make a voyage,
I often make a bitter voyage,
Far away, beyond the seas.
"Yonder far, towards the Dardanelles,
With the ships I glide away,
Whose long masts pierce the sky;
Towards my loved one do I go,
Yonder far, towards the Dardanelles.
"With the great white clouds sailing on,
Driven by the wind, their master-shepherd,
The great clouds which before the stars
Pass onwards like white flocks,
With the clouds I go sailing on.
"With the swallows I take my flight,
The swallows returning to the sun;
Towards fair days do they go, quick, quick;
And I, quick, quick, towards my love,
With the swallows take my flight.
"Oh, I am very sick for home,
Sick for the home that my love haunts!
Far from that foreign country,
As the bird far from its nest,
I am very sick for home.
"From wave to wave, o'er the bitter waters,
Like a corse thrown to the seas,
In dreams am I borne onward
To the feet of her that's dear,
From wave to wave, o'er the bitter waters.
"On the shores I am there, dead!
My love in her arms supports me;
Speechless she gazes and weeps,
Lays her hand upon my heart,
And suddenly I live again!
"Then I clasp her, then I fold her
In my arms: 'I have suffered enough!
Stay, stay! I _will_ not die!'
And as a drowning one I seize her,
And fold her in my arms.
"Far away, beyond the seas,
In my hours of reverie,
Oftentimes I make a voyage,
I often make a bitter voyage,
Far away, beyond the seas."
As may easily be seen, Aubanel writes not, like Roumanille, for his
own people alone. His Muse is more ambitious, and seeks to interest by
appealing to the sentiments in a language polished with all the art
of its sister, the French. There are innumerable exquisite passages